Lost: the hot-pink bullet from the spent cartridge of lip gloss he’s found lodged between gearbox and seat. And the beat she always caught, chasing from station to station as they raced between red lights. The scent of summer evaporating at noon—coconut, sweat, the salt lick of her skin scorched against turquoise vinyl. Evening’s perfume of broken heat, a tide of lawn sprinklers whipping through the dark as moons emerge: each neighborhood, each roof, each windowpane sending up its own. In the smaze of foundry chimneys, a tarnished spoon bent by telekinesis into a wedding band. Over a steeple, a halo missing a saint. Above the shimmering sweet-water sea, a tragic mask with a comic reflection. Or is it vice versa? There’s one un-self-conscious about its pitted face; one with its own star in Hollywood; and another aloof, back turned as if boycotting tomorrow, the way that Miles Davis, circa Kind of Blue, would turn his back on the audience when he’d solo. And in the rearview mirror where it’s always October, leaves blowing off like pages from an unfinished memoir …
“So, where to?” he’d ask.
“Baby, just drive.”

Stuart Dybek, Ecstatic Cahoots: Fifty Short Stories, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (June 3, 2014)

Will not talk on cell phone; will not eat smelly food

At the start of a train trip, people search for a good seat, and some of them take a careful look at the people nearby who have already chosen their seats, to see if they will make good neighbors. 

It might help if we each wore a little sign saying in what ways we will and will not be likely to disturb other passengers, such as: Will not talk on cell phone; will not eat smelly food.
Included in mine would be: Will not talk on cell phone at all, aside from perhaps a short communication to my husband at the beginning of the trip home, summarizing my visit in the city, or, more rarely, a quick warning to a friend on the way down that I will be late; but will recline my seat back as far as it will go, for most of the trip, except when I am eating my lunch or snack; may in fact be adjusting it slightly, back and up, from time to time throughout the trip; will sooner or later eat something, usually a sandwich, sometimes a salad or a container of rice pudding, actually two containers of rice pudding, though small ones; sandwich, almost always Swiss cheese, with in fact very little cheese, just a single slice, and lettuce and tomato, will not be noticeably smelly, at least as far as I can tell; am as tidy as I can be with the salad, but eating salad with a plastic fork is awkward and difficult; am tidy with the rice pudding, taking small bites, though when I remove the sealed top of the container it can make a loud ripping noise for just a moment; may keep unscrewing the top of my water bottle and taking a drink of water, especially while eating my sandwich and about one hour afterwards; may be more restless than some other passengers, and may clean my hands several times during the trip with a small bottle of hand sanitizer, sometimes using hand lotion afterwards, which involves reaching into my purse, taking out a small toiletries bag, unzipping it, and, when finished, zipping it up again and returning it to my purse; but may also sit perfectly quietly for a few minutes or longer staring out the window; may do nothing but read a book through most of the trip, except for one walk down the aisle to the restroom and back to my seat; but, on another day, may put the book down every few minutes, take a small notebook out of my purse, remove the rubber band from around it, and make a note in the notebook; or, when reading through a back issue of a literary magazine, may rip pages out in order to save them, though I will try to do this only when train is stopped at a station; lastly, after a day in the city, may untie my shoelaces and slip my shoes off for part of the trip, especially if the shoes are not very comfortable, then resting my bare feet on top of my shoes rather than directly on the floor, or, very rarely, may remove shoes and put on slippers, if I have a pair with me, keeping them on until I have nearly reached my destination; but feet are quite clean and toenails have a nice dark red polish on them.

Lydia Davis, Can’t and Won’t: Stories, Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition (April 8, 2014)

Now that I have been here for a little while, I can say with confidence that I have never been here before

A Woman, Thirty

A woman, thirty, does not want to leave her childhood home.
Why should I leave home? These are my parents. They love me. Why should I go marry some man who will argue and shout at me?
Still, the woman likes to undress in front of the window. She wishes some man would at least look at her.


The Bad Novel

This dull, difficult novel I have brought with me on my trip—I keep trying to read it. I have gone back to it so many times, each time dreading it and each time finding it no better than the last time, that by now it has become something of an old friend. My old friend the bad novel.



Now that I have been here for a little while, I can say with confidence that I have never been here before.


I Ask Mary About Her Friend, the Depressive, and His Vacation

One year, she says
“He’s away in the Badlands.”

The next year, she says
“He’s away in the Black Hills.”

Lydia Davis, Can’t and Won’t: Stories, Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition (April 8, 2014)