Originally published by theNewerYork in Jan. 2015
three things to pray for in solitary confinement:
- to be the expanding sun
- to be luminous like the moon
so she will
gaze up at you
always time travel
- to be the North star
or any constellation that
can be used for navigation
when your daughter is lost
A letter you can write to your ex-boyfriend and never send:
Fifty percent of the boys I have loved have had names that start with J. Jason, Justin, James, Jim, Jimmy, and so on. This is what my bunky likes to analyze about me. The ways in which I am reliable and boring. She taught me to use colored pencils and water as eyeliner and lipstick. If I were to kiss you now it would be like I was painting your mouth. I hope you will write back this time. I hope your parole date doesn’t get canceled again. I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorryi’msorrysorrysorrysorry that I got you into this. And for everything else.
Things you will be allowed to take with you from one jail to the next:
- The silver fish shaped scar over your shoulder blade – from one of the J’s you have loved. He crashed your car while you were laughing in the passenger seat, Big Gulp cup half full of rum and Coke.
- The vague feeling that you are both leaving and going at all times, and will be until you go home, but maybe you are always home, wherever you are. One thing is certain: you are prone to melancholy and it is probably all that Molly you’ve done. It’s just hard to stay positive.
- Your superman joke* that no one thinks is funny — you are not funny, but you tell it to every cop who transports you from holding cell to holding cell. Sometimes they laugh. Sometimes they tell you to shut the fuck up.
- A manila envelope of letters from everyone but Jimmy.
- Pictures of your daughter with her new family. Her new mother rests her hand on your baby’s shoulder, and they all look so happy.
*So, this guy walks into a bar right. He’s an architect. So he has this arm full of blueprints, and his hair is thinning a bit, and he’s just kind of pissed off. So he finds an empty table and he’s not happy that it’s so small and a bit dirty, but he has a deadline, so he drops his shit on the table and he goes up to the bar to get a pitcher of beer. When he comes back with his beer there’s a dude sitting at his table. Handsome, tall, you know. And Handsome says, hey man, you look stressed. Whatcha working on? And the architect groans a little and says, buddy, I don’t really have time for this. okay? I have a lot of work to do. Can you go sit somewhere else? And Handsome’s like, well, why don’t you tell me what you’re working on? The architect says, buddy, I don’t want to offend you, but it would take me a long time to explain what I’m trying to do. Oh, says Handsome. Well, I couldn’t help notice that you’re a fellow architect. I thought maybe I could help. No shit, the architect says. And even though he’s not the kind of guy who likes to share a win he needs the help. So, I’m trying to build a suicide proof building, he explains. And Handsome is like, nice! My last project was a suicide proof building. It was a pain in the ass. Bullshit, the architect says. But they drink that first pitcher, and a few shots, and they get to bullshitting, exchanging stories, until finally Handsome is like, hey let’s go look at my building. And the architect agrees, especially when Handsome says it’s across the street. The bartender shakes her head and makes them settle up, even though they swear they will be back for their stuff. Once they get across the street they take the elevator up to the top floor, and then the stairs to the roof. Up on the roof, Handsome says, alright, go ahead and jump. You’ll pop right back up. Yeah, pal, I’m not that drunk, the architect says. No, I’ll show you! And Handsome backs all the way up to the far edge and then runs for the edge and leaps right over .And bounces back up. Holy shit. How the hell did you do that? Do it again! So Handsome runs and jumps three, four more times, until the architect says, fuck it. I’m gonna try. But then you need to tell me how you did it? And he’s thinking about how he might not fail at this own design now and he feels good. He’s made a friend, right? So, he backs up, swaying a bit, to the far edge. And he runs up and launches himself over the side. He falls one, two, twelve stories, and splat. Handsome walks back downstairs, giggling. The bartender, standing in the doorway, says, Superman. You are such an asshole when you drink.
Originally published by theNewerYork, Nov. 2014
Chicken Tikka Masala for Lovers
Serves 2, with leftovers for 1 to eat at work while contemplating the previous night.
For the chicken*:
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs – breasts for John’s mother
- 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt – any plain yogurt will do
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced – jar stuff works fine
- 1/2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
*Skip this part if your date tells you at the last minute that he/she has gone vegetarian. Be grateful that you didn’t buy the expensive organic chicken that has been massaged and read to on a daily basis.
For the masala sauce:
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced fine (about ¾ cups)
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
- 1 small Serrano chili, minced – take the seeds out for John – too spicy!
- 1/2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1/2 Tbsp. garam masala
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 lb. peeled tomatoes with juice –14-oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves – garnish
First, rinse and drain jasmine or basmati rice. Or, forget that you need to make rice because you are too busy trying to find the one black bra that doesn’t dig into your sides and leave marks. Give up, put on the pink push up bra that make you feel like your breasts are choking you.
If you should remember to make the rice shake a little coriander on the top along with a dash of olive oil and some sea salt. When it comes to a boil cover it with a lid and turn the heat down to low. Forget about the rice entirely until everything else is complete and the bottom has burned to the pot.
Yell, “Shit,” as you are combining the cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, salt, in a faded plastic Spiderman bowl that your son hasn’t used in years. Forget to wash the broiler pan and fail to let the chicken sit in the spice mixture for at least an hour because your ex was late picking up the kids and you were scrambling to put on mascara and flopping back and forth between that mini skirt you never wear and your favorite jeans. Wash the broiler pan; preheat the broiler to 500? even though it will make the small kitchen so hot that you have to keep checking to see if your deodorant is still working.
Stick the spice-coated chicken back in the fridge. Whisk the garlic, ginger, yogurt, and oil together and set it next to your phone on the counter. Double-check the ringer volume just in case your date calls to cancel. Read through the text messages you’ve exchanged and smile.
In your mother’s old Dutch oven heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion, cooking and stirring frequently for about ten minutes. Don’t set a timer, you’re no novice, you know what this is supposed to smell like. Add the garlic, ginger, chili, tomato paste, cayenne pepper, and garam masala. Cook, stirring frequently, until it smells a little like sex and sweat. Blush when you think about the last time you actually smelled sweat and sex. Check your armpits again. Add crushed tomato, sugar, and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about fifteen minutes.
Rub the sweat out of your eyes just before you remember the black eyeliner. Dash to the bathroom and wipe the whole mess off, then get back to the kitchen to pull the chicken out of the refrigerator.
As you use tongs to dip the chicken into the yogurt mixture, consider how much happier you would be in the jeans. Drop yogurt-drenched chicken on your shirt/skirt. Consider it a sign and as soon as you have the chicken in the oven, 6 inches away from the heating element, run into your room and throw on a clean shirt- not your favorite, but dependable enough — and your jeans.
Check your phone and see a text message from your ex reminding you that you were supposed to pack bathing suits for the kids and now he has to buy new ones. Roll your eyes at the next text asking if you are deliberately sabotaging him. Type out and delete a snarky response. Remember that you are recently resolved to taking the high road. Simply type, “I’m sorry.” Drain the half glass of wine that you weren’t going to drink before the date, but you’re a bit rattled and don’t want to be brittle and irritated like your ex called you in the divorce papers. Or maybe it was frigid. It doesn’t matter.
Stop screwing around, add the heavy cream to the sauce, stir, return to a simmer and then turn off the heat. Check the chicken- it should read 160? in the fattest parts and look a little charred. The recipe says ten to eighteen minutes, but you know you need exactly fifteen after making this at least once a month for the last ten years. Wonder if your ex noticed the telltale ingredients on the counter when he came in to be smug and wait for the kids to grab their backpacks.
When the doorbell rings set the broiler pan on the stovetop and swear as you burn your wrist on it. Smile as you open the door. Smile wider when your date says, “It smells amazing in here.”
Add the chicken to the sauce; pull the rice off the burner. Chop the cilantro with your dullest knife, the one your ex bought you for Mothers Day, smelling the tips of your fingers discreetly after you sprinkle it over the plates.
Brace yourself on the counter as your date kisses the back of your neck. Strip on the way to the couch.
After, eat the tikka masala cold, wearing nothing but his t-shirt.