I have no photographs from that time. Perhaps even then I knew it was a relationship I didn’t want to chronicle.
But there are memories nonetheless. In my mind’s eye there is a picture of you with your guitar, the blond Les Paul, the one with a hairline crack in the neck. I am so sure that I did not make that crack. That was all you.
You’d stand in the dining room, in the apartment when we still had furniture. You paced as you played. “Noodling,” you called it. I didn’t think, “When is he ever going to get a job?” Not then.
In this memory you are standing over the stove. You had learned how to make stir fry from a cookbook.
“The hot oil is what cooks the food,” you said.
And it seems like a miracle. We now know how to make something other than tuna fish and hot dogs. You were so proud of yourself.
“You chop zucchini too slowly,” you said.
And I thought, is that a thing? Being a slow chopper? Then I thought, this is how I will remember this relationship: you criticizing the speed with which I cut vegetables, totally ignoring how perfectly even each zucchini slice is. I could win a contest for how evenly sliced my vegetables are.
I don’t remember how you cut vegetables. All I remember is how you cut the limes for the tequila shots, sawing each fruit in to wedges with a dull steak knife, probably taken from the drawers of our parents’ kitchens as we were leaving home.
You always arranged the limes with ceremony. You’d put them on a plate, your favorite plate, the one with the mustard yellow swirls on the edges. The one I threw against the wall, missing your head, not because you ducked, but because I had bad aim, after we’d eaten all the limes and drunk all the tequila.
I’m not sorry I broke your favorite plate.
Janine Kovac is a writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area where she teaches writing workshops and curates literary events. Her memoir Spinning: Choreography for Coming Home was a semifinalist for Publishers Weekly’s BookLife Prize and the memoir winner of the 2019 National Indie Excellence Awards. An alumna of Hedgebrook and the Community of Writers, Janine was the 2016 recipient of the Elizabeth George Foundation Fellowship. Her current project is a collection of essays about a family of five that dances in the Nutcracker.
Ten inches of snow accumulate
with low temperatures like
some Arctic escapade the night
before Ken is scheduled to have
his catheter removed.
The flight of the dutiful son
who had arranged to accompany
him has been cancelled due to
the snowstorm so Neil is stuck
at home in Texas, and there are
no Australian relatives in Chicago
to drive Ken to his appointment
carrying his urine drainage bag.
Then a deus ex machina
from the seventeenth floor
of our apartment building:
the nice Irish guy e-mails,
If I can do anything to help
after the operation…
Ken is at the curb at nine
the next morning as his neighbor
suggests, to drive together
the few blocks from Lake Shore
Drive to Northwestern Hospital
where the snow has been removed
for personnel as well as for patients
who are scheduled to have
their catheters removed.
Jan’s three chapbooks and first full-length poetry book, I Wanted To Dance With My Father, were published by Finishing Line Press. Besides the books, Jan has had 325 poems published or accepted in journals in the U.S., Australia, UK, Canada, Czech Republic, India and Ireland in journals like; Atlanta Review, Chiron, Main Street Rag, and Phoebe. Her poem, “Not Sharing at Yoshu” has just been nominated for the Pushcart by Orbis, Great Britain, 2020. Jan and her husband travel a lot but like to cook for friends when they are home in Chicago.
Grace has a bedroom that we admire. Lotions and potions and when Grace comes out of her bedroom she looks like one of those girls who is a majorette. We hate Grace because of her pink bedroom. Pink covers, pink chair and pink sheets. We hate pink. We hate Grace for her pink bedroom.
Grace is medium height like us, but we don’t have pink bedrooms. She has a good figure just like us, but we have a better ass.
Grace goes to school just like us. We ignore her, we hate her. She’s too pretty for us to like her. She gets good grades like us, but we are better at math than she is. We might become a mathematician or a chemical engineer. Who knows what we will become. One of us is related to Grace, which makes one of us dislike her intensely.
Grace takes pills. We don’t. We are free to dislike Grace. Maybe Grace is Anne? We don’t know. One of us asks her parents. They say her name is Grace Anne. We hate that name. We hate everything about Grace because she has a pink bedroom with lotions and potions.
We get married but Grace doesn’t get married. She has become a teacher at a private school. We go to the private school and mock Grace. The kids mock her too. She is now heavy and we are thin.
We are so thin our men can’t see us. We run and we bike, we walk so our bodies are thin. Grace doesn’t do anything but teach and eat. We hate Grace for teaching and eating.
When we get older, we lose track of Grace. We may be dead. Or married. Or single. Who knows? Grace Anne is our cousin. We hate our cousin. We hate Grace.
Sue Powers’ fictions have appeared in numerous publications, including Saturday Evening Post, New Millenniums Writings, Blue Earth Review, Micro Monday, R-KV-R-Y, Funny in Five Hundred, Blue Lake Magazine, Adanna Literary, Dying Dahlia Review, Off the Rocks, and others. The News was on stage at a Chicago Theater. She was a recipient of a fellowship and grant from the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, and two of stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. A book of her stories was published by Atmosphere Press.