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i’m eating rice at my kitchen counter while the ceiling fan whips a too-cold breeze around the room. every seven minutes, the horrible creak of a construction crane splits the silence, nearly hitting our window every time it tries to reach the roof. the clock on the stove is blinking blinking blinking and i haven’t cleaned the French press yet. let’s start that differently: i’m sitting at my kitchen counter mesmerized by a 21 year old TikTok star trying on a bikini haul. her fingernails are dirty and somehow it makes me feel that she’s sad. despite her big pink…


the sky is just beginning to blink its eyes blue, and a lawnmower is vibrating itself awake. a tangle of branches shivers — it hasn’t begun to sprout leaves yet…


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the bed was an island we’d trek across daily. together, we unearthed thousands of patches of cool sheet and fourteen million stonehenges made of pillows. we rushed to show each other every time. on saturdays, we’d make out for an audience of screens. when i was bored of the plot, i liked to imagine we were everyone’s favorite characters beyond the fourth wall. everything was quiet yet loud in that way it can be. just a bedroom, but also a moonbounce. or the moon. a solar eclipse. Miami for the first time. at night, i was obsessed with the sound…


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I’m leaving you, she announces over breakfast, and he asks her to pass the toast. Later that morning, the pill bottle is empty, but he’s still on his way to work. By noon, she’s fingering cucumbers at the supermarket, her nails shredding the slick skin, and he’s reminding himself not to discuss things with the watercooler. As he signs all his emails with the key to his apartment, she’s making the checkout guy believe in God. At home, the carpet clings to the floor, sizzling with their footprints. …


every morning i light all six candles and obsessively check the plants. tongue extended, the flame tries to lick the driest leaf but misses every time. is that what you call a ritual? there’s something that makes you hope it’ll catch. the air conditioner coughs out dust and heat all day, and i can never figure out how to fix it. my hair sticks to the back of my neck and the houseflies slide down the walls into sweaty little heaps. once an hour, an exotic bird screams for help from my landlord’s apartment two stories below. i long for…


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every morning my roommate turns the bathroom light on and i turn it off. it’s the routine we comfort ourselves with before we waste time brewing coffee and agonizing over how orange the egg yolks are. then it’s my job to close the curtains before we remember the world has been flicked off its axis. that easy. nobody wants to see the happy arms carrying groceries as if all is well. sometimes she cries or i do but neither of us look. i think we wish the air tasted like something other than summer. fear, or dread, or at least…


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every morning, the two birds on the branch outside my window glance down at the empty avenue below. they seem to recognize the desolation, and speak a little more quietly as a result. or maybe they’re gossiping about the man who’s always sweeping his stoop as the sun rises, brushing invisible dust with the precision of a calligrapher. he hasn’t had a visitor in months, of course. but he’s always ready. i, too, think it’s ridiculous until i’m bleaching the surface of my desk just to sit there. just in case. we’re all just scrubbing our walls pretending we’re waiting…


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The smell of disinfectant seeps through my scarf as the grocery doors whir open. I immediately think of a million bus rides up and down the East Coast, when the fumes from whatever cleaner they’d spray onto the seats would always choke me into nausea by the second hour. I pull my scarf tighter around my face and wonder if the disinfectant could be worse for you than the virus it’s trying to kill. Then I swipe my phone open with a gloved hand. Almonds, Ice Cream. I’d tried to think of a more complete list of things to outfit…


I kept having the same dream of myself, arms outstretched, grasping — but for what?

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When I described our California apartment, I tried to convey both luxury and bohemia. Dressed in a long pink caftan shipped straight from India, I brought you to our salt-rimmed porch; showcased the length of our ivy. I had painted the windows as portals to a waterfront paradise I’d built all my own — the bed, a womb; me, born again.

I didn’t mention that, for my birthday, I asked for bigger pillows and a warmer blanket, hoping that soft nights and slow mornings would finally bring me home. I didn’t explain that I kept buying candles and plants and…


It was as though he were lying on top of her, slowly pressing all the air out of her body.

Photo by Terry Boynton on Unsplash

What the fuck is wrong with you? She knew he must have been thinking it — and it was a fair question. He had reached for her knee and she’d jerked away, as she always did lately.

She felt bad, again, but something about his fingers made her stomach lurch. It was as though he were lying on top of her, slowly pressing all the air out of her body. She wanted to push him off but didn’t have the strength.

Instead of confronting her, he offered an earbud, his eyes still closed. …

Abby Kloppenburg

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