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Guest Posts, Relationships, Sexuality

Terminus

April 24, 2015

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By Jennifer Berney

According to the subway map, the Red Line ends in Alewife. Until today, you’ve always gone in the opposite direction, riding from Harvard Square to Newbury Street, or Park Street, sometimes catching the Green Line to Copley or the Orange Line to Chinatown.

But today is January 8, 1995, and you are riding to Alewife.  It is your eighteenth birthday and the day of your first lesbian date. You woke up this morning with a fever, but Tylenol masks it now.  Your stomach feels heavy, like you are trying to digest stone. You are sick enough that you should have canceled, but how could you be sure that there would ever be another date?

Since you were seven, you’ve dreamed of someone rescuing you, of pulling you from a car wreck and carrying you into a different world, a world where you weren’t the designated reject. In the fantasies you were never yourself; you were a double-D woman with blonde ringlets and, not, of course, a dippy brunette with crooked teeth. Who would rescue you? Even now that you’ve grown into yourself a bit, now that your teeth are straight, your favorite song goes like this: If you don’t think I’m pretty/ I understand. Lately, you’ve been lonely because half your friends have left for college and the other half have paired off, rescued each other.

Your date is five years older than you and wears black leather.  She has a half-inch of hair which she peroxides. She works full time at a franchise bagel shop spreading strawberry cream cheese on banana walnut bagels for Harvard students. You’re not sure what she sees in you: high school girl with a ponytail, President of the National Honors Society.

She meets you at the terminus, which is nothing but an expanse of parking lots. It’s dark already, and frozen.  The trees are bare, gray in the streetlights. Your coat is open and the wind cuts through your shirt. She walks you to the bowling alley.  As a first date gesture, she buys you nachos, and you pick at them. She teases you about not liking orange cheese. You don’t say much; it embarrasses you to bowl, to wear the rented shoes and watch your ball veer towards the gutter.

On your second date, you walk across the Harvard Bridge which brings you to Allston, land of low rents and twenty-somethings, land of dog shit and unshoveled sidewalks. She lives on the third floor of a triplex with six other friends. The ground outside smells like onions. She makes you dinner, kisses you at the kitchen table, and asks if you’ll sleep over. You call your mom to tell her you won’t be coming home.  She knows the situation, but can’t find words to protest. She says: Oh, and Okay.

The door to her bedroom bears a sign made of construction paper; it says Grit City with a picture of a bat. A sheet divides the room in half. The other side belongs to another couple. She lights candles and you quietly make out beneath her sheets. The couple comes to bed while you’re awake. They mumble and bicker and laugh.

In the morning, some of the housemates are watching TV in the common space, smoking, wearing hipster morning hair.  Their smoke gets tangled in the sunlight, which is so bright that you can barely see what’s on the TV.  You sit on her lap in an armchair. The housemates don’t acknowledge you. She whispers in your ear, I love you. You blush and you’re wet. You know she’s not supposed to say that yet, but you like it.

You walk home across the bridge again, alone. Your body feels different, stretched and touched. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, motherhood

The Growing Threat.

January 19, 2015

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By Morgan Baker.

As I got ready for an evening out, my cell phone rang. It was my youngest daughter, Ellie, a freshman at Emerson. “I’m having an allergic reaction.”

A year earlier, she had joined her older sister, Maggie, and her father, Matt, in the food allergy club. Maggie has been allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and legumes since she was a baby and always carries an EpiPen, a shot of epinephrine. Matt is allergic to many foods and combinations of allergens, including exercise after he’s eaten, and is idiopathic – they can’t always figure out what triggers his shock.

Through constant vigilance, Maggie has had only a few incidents. She went to birthday parties with her own cake when she was little and her elementary school and high school provided safe spaces for her in their cafeterias.

Matt has had more than 40 reactions when using an EpiPen and rushing to the hospital to be observed has been enough. But, he’s also had episodes where I watched as paramedics worked on him when I wasn’t sure an Epi, or two, would be sufficient, when his blood pressure dropped so low his skin turned gray.

But Ellie had escaped this horror. The only terror she lived with was worrying about her sister and dad like I did. I didn’t just live with the “what ifs” most parents live with that are real and scary enough. The “what ifs” that keep you awake in the middle of the night when your kid hasn’t come home yet. Or when you let your child walk to school for the first time.

I wondered if she had read the packaging?  Had the tabletops been wiped down? Had he remembered his EpiPens?

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts

Thank you for Listening.

December 27, 2014

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By Amy Yelin.

My father listened. That was his job. He was a psychiatrist, like Bob Newhart on TV, and as a child I thought this made him an important man. A celebrity even. Why else would he have his own parking spot?  Two spots, actually, both with signs that read: Reserved for Gershon Yelin, MD. Violaters Towed at Their Own Expense.

Sometimes we’d visit his office after a shopping trip or picking up books at the library in Port Chester, New York. My mother would park in one of those special spots, right next to his car, and then I’d feel important, too, like a regular Amy Carter.

My father’s office was in a typical 1970’s brick office building, with a dark hallway that smelled like menthol. I noted the numbers as we walked down the hall until we reached the door labeled 2G. Then, despite my mother’s insistence to only ring it once, I’d push the buzzer repeatedly,

My father opened the door just a tiny bit, the chain still on. “Who is it?” He’d say, pretending to be suspicious.

“It’s me…Amy!”

“And me,” my mother said, playing along.

“Whaddya want?”

After I rang the buzzer a few more times, the door flew open and my father greeted us with a happy but subdued, “Well hellooooo’

No one was ever there when we visited. No patients in the giant waiting room. No receptionist at the reception desk.  My father’s actual office, with nothing more than a desk light on, was a stark contrast to the fluorescently lit waiting room. The window blinds were always drawn almost to the bottom, resembling two sleepy eyelids, letting in only the tiniest slivers of light. Several pipes waited in an ashtray on his desk, and a standing globe, possibly the only fun thing in the room, beckoned me every time. I’d make myself at home in my father’s black leather chair, close my eyes and then spin that globe hard and see where my finger would land.

“Here’s where I’m going to move,” I’d announce upon opening my eyes. “New Zealand!”

“Bon voyage,” my father would say.

My father is 86 now. We talk on the phone at least once a week, but only see each other around Thanksgiving, when my dad and his second wife Terri fly up to New York from North Carolina for their annual medical appointments. We drive down from Boston and meet them at their favorite hotel, The Renaissance, not far from where I grew up. It’s a bizarre sort of family reunion, but it’s ours. Continue Reading…

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