Recently by Emily Maloney:

 

Rumi looks pure. Her skin is porcelain-colored from high-end, Japanese-brand foundation and a layer of bone-colored powder. Her eyelashes are curled at 90 degrees, coated with black mascara and lined heavily. Her lips are glossed clear with just a hint of pink pigment.

I have learned to negotiate the labyrinth of her weird papers without ever seriously commenting on content at the drop-in community college center where I tutor, because when I do, it makes her pout and say my name in a high pitched stretched out way. She is always very sure of what she wants to say, and sure it is merely her misunderstanding of English grammar that is getting in the way of perfect communication.

One thesis went something along the lines of no matter how far apart your eyes are, and how small your… More…

 

The boy had the kind of ears no human could possibly hope to grow into, and when he showed up at my restaurant table, just tall enough to mouth-breathe into the backside of my newspaper, I told him to eff off. I had become the anti-Mother Teresa in my first month in India. I knew from experience that if I gave a street kid food from my plate, it would lead to him asking for more food, money, and eventually, I feared, a piece of my soul. So I took to regularly telling the kids, beggars, and even the monkeys of Mysore to piss off while I was eating.

As the kid with the ears breathed on the other side of my paper, I read English-language personals to my friend Carly across the table. She was reading the… More…

Once I had a boyfriend, and when he got into my car for the first time he said, “Oh, it’s dirty.” I could tell he was concerned, because it was not just cluttered — it was strange messy. I looked around and tried to imagine what I would think of the owner of a car like that if it wasn’t mine. I moved things out of the passenger seat — shoes, rackets, books, orange rinds, glasses of dried smoothie — but then I thought there was no use in pretending. “It’s just like this normally,” I said. “It just is.” It was a time when I was too worn out to lead anyone on. “Hey, you know I ride a bike,” Sean said.

He said sometimes people flipped him off while he was riding, or threw drive-thru drinks at him from their car for no reason. I told him the… More…

As the ship sank I smirked. At the time I thought it wasn’t appreciated by the panicked crew members and passengers I was assisting onto rescue boats, but I couldn’t help it. Each addition to the drama — the arrival of a Coast Guard chopper overhead, the slight tilt of the ship toward Alaskan glacial melt, and, especially, the donning of the orange mobility-retarding life preservers — confirmed a suspicion that I was, in fact, the butt of some sort of cosmic joke.

That summer I landed a job as a steward on a small ship called the Wilderness Adventurer that carried sea kayaks for seven-night, soft-adventure cruises in Alaska’s Inside Passage. I turned out to be a pretty bad waitress and a slow cleaner of rooms.

The sky was never totally dark in June, and at night I would talk to Kelly, my roommate from Kansas who called passengers… More…

The Oregon Convention Center hall had the artificial lighting and concrete walls of a nuclear fallout shelter and not a very cozy one. It was a space used to accommodating big shows for attendees making big decisions about college, holiday gifts, or RVs, but this weekend it was exhibiting three equally grand concepts: the body, the mind, and the spirit. According to the program for the Body, Mind, and Spirit Expo, the $10 entry fee entitled entrants to “Free Aura Photos!” and the chance to go to lectures, one put on by a pet psychic called “Listen to your Animals Talking!”

When I entered the convention hall, in the first visible booth a man stood with his eyes closed and his hand over a woman’s head. According to the literature on his table he was performing Jyorei: “a five minute purification of the spirit session consisting of spiritual light transmittal… More…

When you believe your job is so boring it’s bound to kill you, the end of every work day feels like an unexpected gift. A couple of months ago, I got off from one of my temp jobs and I felt, as usual, euphoric and grateful to be alive. When I left my building, it was 8:00 on a Sunday night in downtown Portland, and it had just rained. I started to walk to my bus stop.

I turned left at the end of the block and headed toward the Willamette River. I looked up at the fire escape of Hotel Alder, a low-income residential hotel that sometimes serves up some low-grade drama on my commute home. The fire escape was empty. When I looked back down a man lunged toward me and said, “That’s what he gets.” Simultaneously, I heard what sounded like a gun shot, and I saw… More…

Right before the girls in the house started peeing in each other’s shampoo bottles, we went on a wilderness retreat. It was not a good time at the group home where I was working. We were understaffed and the house was, for the moment anyway, filled with the kind of teen girls who possessed enough misdirected rage and disinterest in self-preservation to pee in their roommates’ shampoo bottles.

I did not want to go on a trip to the mountains with these girls. On my 60-hour shifts I had been on enough trips with them — to the YMCA, and the grocery store — to know that this trip would not go well. Managers of both places we frequented wanted to expel us — the grocery store for run-of-the-mill shoplifting and the Y because the girls had repeatedly stolen cigarette butts out of the outdoor ashtrays and tried to smoke… More…

When I lived in Japan I joined a flower arrangement club. I didn’t have any interest in flowers, or tradition, or grace, so it was an odd move.

I did, however, have a friend who was the president of the Ikebana club at our university, who had helped me out a lot in the first months of school. In classes Ryoko made sure I was following along by grabbing my sleeve and whispering, “Understand, Emi?” She blinked a lot and made audible breathing-in noises whenever she was about to explain something difficult or ask me a question she thought I could potentially answer no to. So when she invited me to come watch her Ikebana club, I could only say yes.

The sensei, who was in her late 70s, helped me prune my branches and buds into the appropriate shapes. Then she impaled them at specific angles onto a square… More…

After my debit card was stolen one night, a couple of years ago, I posted this letter in the “lost & found” section of Craigslist:

Dear whoever stole my debit card on Tuesday night, out of the ’90 Toyota Corolla on NW Flanders, you know who you are, and I have a question for you: Why did you do that? Why did you withdrawal $442 from my account? Were you high, or hungry, or desperately ill, or, better yet, do you have a friend who was hungry, or ill, or needed desperately to get high?

Portland Teachers Credit Union tells me that next you bought two $62 Amtrack tickets and then spent $8 at Burgerville. That seems like a lot for one person at Burgerville, unless you got a milkshake or something. I know I always want one, but I am on a tight budget and so can’t afford those… More…

“Wild night?” my roommate sat down on the corner of my bed and asked.

“What are you talking about?” I had never had a wild night in the year I lived in Boulder, but I was flattered that she thought I was capable of pulling one off, and I wanted to hear more about this wild night of mine. I stretched out in my bed. It came from a dumpster, but it was king sized, and it was a good bed.

“That guy in your car,” she said. “Did you guys have a fight?”

“What?” I thought back on the night before. I remembered watching the dog obedience class in the park across the street from our porch, and then, when the class was over, throwing crackers at the squirrels while they had really loud sex on the porch banister. It was wild, but not the kind of wild I… More…