Variations on the Idea of Living

Northside Hospital: Atlanta, Georgia

in a sterilized square accidentally makes her rainy-day-game-playing-family laugh when she slurs loopy observations and pretends her stool softener medication is a shot of Jager.

A nurse interrupts the fifth
tie-breaking game of Uno
to announce (with no sympathy)
that the woman is ineligible for the chemo that could save her life. Her three daughters crumble.
their shoulders shake and seize
chests swell
and mascara
runs and they wipe snot from each other’s cheeks
with stretched out sweater sleeves.

Their mother asks if they are going
to be okay and then wonders aloud about
who won
The middle daughter runs home and grabs a shoebox full of old photographs
and drives through McDonald’s on the way back to the hospital
to pick up three large orders of French Fries.
And she sits in a circle with her sisters on sea foam green tiles
s p e ckled with lavender
and they pull out photos and remember
bad hair cuts and platform heels
first cars
first limo first
funeral first angel
petty fights
Miss. America pageants and queso
the prom
where it rained the prom where you
got dumped the day we thought
there’d be a blizzard

but it was just
(school was still canceled and we felt silly for stocking up on milk and bread.)

South Forsyth High School: Cumming, Georgia

Young girl feels younger acts older and tries too hard not to be cliché. Thoughts spiral around her head but they all sound like they came from a self help book or an episode of Oprah or a Pop song she hates in the presence of the other kids, but sings in her car at the top of her lungs. She hopes no one can hear her thinking. Thinking of firsts.
Wondering about seconds.
Her eyes cross and vision blurs while she gnaws on her cuticles until they bleed
and she wedges her hands under her so she stops looking so insecure while she thinks about how her first

drink was an accident
spiked Quik Trip Icee tasted like


in front of cool kids
couldn’t stop smiling
or blushing or biting her bottom lip and wondering what kind of beautiful
he meant when he said she was.
The first time
her mom told her not to care
about those girls who whisper and stare and snicker
about those girls whose first kisses happened
when her first diet happened
those girls who drank beer out of Starbucks cups and whose hair never frizzed.
Her first cigarette made her puke
her first SAT scores made her puke.
She accepted her first
to college.
The one that was the farthest away fromhome
and the first person she told
laughed. But she knew it would be better

300 North Orleans Street Chicago, Illinois

I like living in a bubble but sometimes it closes in and it hurts
and I can’t breathe and my mind races and fight or flight

becomes: get me the hell out
of here.
Lost meant tears and security guards and report to the Mickey Mouse station when I was six and
meant the nightmare I used to have and the way I felt
when I fell asleep on my dad’s shoulder
but woke up in my own room.
when I was eight and

lost meant open fences and flyers and roller blade search parties
when I was twelve.

Lost meant a television show that I didn’t watch
when I was seventeen
lost meant
blending in
to smoky smelling commuters and legless homeless men on the State Street bridge and the gangster who I assumed
would steal my bag.
I use my GPS to find directions
to get lost
in a nice part of town
by a bakery maybe or a hair salon.

The first time I actually got lost in the city I was disoriented and didn’t know which way NORTH was. I did not have enough money to hail a cab and a homeless man told me I looked pretty.
His compliment gave me anxiety, so
I smoked my first cigarette
of the day
and made my first eye contact of the day
with a mother and her baby
and she shook her head at me while we waited at the crosswalk
and she warned me


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