The Videogame That Changed My Life

I’m not a gamer. I didn’t even know what IRL meant until a few months ago. Shameful, for a girl from Seattle. But then, I came up against a challenge that nothing but a videogame was going to get me through. In July 2013, I was in excruciating pain. I couldn’t turn my head more thanContinue reading “The Videogame That Changed My Life”

When Diving Under the Table Isn’t Enough

Recently, I went to a Seattle bar hosting festivities in honor of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. As my friend and I ate our haggis and enjoyed the bagpipes, someone volunteered himself as company. A man in his sixties slid into our booth and beamed his red cheeks and full white beard straight at me. HeContinue reading “When Diving Under the Table Isn’t Enough”

Saying Goodbye

One hour ago I packed up my housemate and leaned through the driver’s open window to tease her. Then, I stepped back. She spooled up her iPod, and her stereo’s bass thumped. We grinned. We had crammed her windows with socks and running shoes and an old clock, the folded flag from her father’s funeral. All the detritusContinue reading “Saying Goodbye”

When Did Gentle Become Weak?

Dave Eggers’ 2006 novel, What Is the What, opens with a violent robbery for which the narrator, a Sudanese refugee, blames himself. Earlier that day, he came across his attackers in his neighborhood, and smiled at them. Now held at gunpoint, the refugee asks himself, “Why did I smile at this woman? I smile reflexively and itContinue reading “When Did Gentle Become Weak?”

I Can’t Talk to Men

I mean it. I’m 33 years old, and it doesn’t matter if the dude is 21 or 41. If I find him remotely attractive, I’m a blathering, stammering mess. So over the weekend, I’m out with friends, and a handsome server goes around the table, taking everyone’s wine orders. And I begin to swell withContinue reading “I Can’t Talk to Men”

On Dressing (and Undressing) at the Public Pool

Americans are weird about nudity. Maybe because we associate it exclusively with sex. To be a nudist in America is not just eccentric—it’s deviant. So deviant, in fact, that it’s illegal. You must have private property, fences, and warning signs—at the very least—to go topless, let alone in the buff. And I’m no exception to American puritanism.Continue reading “On Dressing (and Undressing) at the Public Pool”

Trust the Not-Knowing

Because sometimes the honest place is the empty place. The place of uncertainty. I’ve been talking a lot with my brother lately–this skinny white guy from a West Coast suburb who now works as an engineer on the East Coast. We’ve been talking about privilege, race, gender, social class, and orientation. I love my brother. AndContinue reading “Trust the Not-Knowing”

Winners and Losers

Today a middle-aged Korean woman and I learned that American culture divides people into winners and losers. Or so her ESL textbook assured us. Americans view life as a “race for success,” the textbook authors claimed. Those who play the game well are rewarded. And those who don’t? They can feel useless and devalued, sinceContinue reading “Winners and Losers”

Listening as Discovery

On any given day, the writing center where I work exudes a cacophony of smells: there is curry–both African and Indian, the honey-musk of perfume, chalky talcum, roasted coffee, rain-steeped leather, and–on occasion–the rank sweat, aged and thick, of students who have not yet learned to wear deodorant in the U.S. To imagine I knowContinue reading “Listening as Discovery”

Into the Gray

I have a problem. I love certainty. Labels. Categories. Classifications: fiction or nonfiction, ethical or unethical, subject or verb. As a child, I crammed a pine bookcase with glossy paperbacks of E.B White and Louisa May Alcott and Lloyd Alexander. I lined up the little volumes alphabetically and counted them when I needed reassurance that the world spun onContinue reading “Into the Gray”