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The Girl Who Loves to Clean

The girl had a messy childhood. It was littered with loud noises and tons of shouting. Sometimes these were happy sounds: the scream of excitement tumbling down the staircase, or the jubilation waltzing through the front door. Other times, these would be displays of anger: hurled insults and words that crossed the Rubicon and never looked back. It was in these moments when the girl would begin to clean. First, she’d wipe down all surfaces until she scrubbed away the last of the emotional debris. Then, her hand-held vacuum would zap away despair with a sharp inhale – anything could disappear at any second: dust bunnies, scraps of paper, the tornado that, at times, seized her with full force. She never felt like she had a handle on anything and for most of her young life, she was just a piece of sea kelp flailing inside a gale storm. She swore that as a grown-up, things would be different, and they are… and they’re not. These days, she has an Amazon subscription for weekly deliveries of Lysol wipes and bleach. For her birthday she asked for a $400 mop. She balks at the idea of hiring a house cleaner or splurging on a Rumba. “What are they going to do that I can’t do better?” And she’s not wrong, I suppose. I’ve seen the way she can eviscerate a red wine stain from a pair of white jeans, the way her eyes dart around the carpet, scanning for domestic tumbleweeds. She wants nothing more than to spend her Friday evenings on her hands and knees buffing the oak floors of her apartment. For this reason, her living space is cleaner than a sterilized echo chamber that’s never seen the light of day… it’s also why she doesn’t really have guests over… come to think of it, she doesn’t really have friends, it’s kind of impossible to be anything more than penpals with her. On a Zoom call I mentioned that she didn’t have to pick up every single follicle of hair, sweep up each speck of dust within her reach, but she was too busy lint rolling the computer screen. Once she told me her wet dream was for a man to roll up his sleeves, and actually hand wash the dirty dishes. “That would be so hot,” she admitted with a wistful smile… then she was silent. We both knew she was thinking about how it would still be necessary for her to do a second wash, after the fact.


The Girl Who Lives in the Sky

The girl lives a million feet in the sky, and when she feels lonely she’s almost convinced it could be nice to return. To what, to what? The girl has no idea, though when she reaches the moon, all she wants is to grow like ivy: all-consuming and wild and silent. There, she watches the earth intently: the rooftops, the edges of the clouds curling like desire, the way airplanes cut the blue air open like the belly of a fish. When she hovers just a hundred feet in the air, she’ll overhear their conversations. In midtown, the voices ricochet from mirrors constructed like tubes of lipstick… they are worried, of course, because they are tethered in the way something is always wanted, measured, expected. When she hears these words, when she feels trapped living in this pre-ordained life, she’ll slowly scale the glassy office buildings and stare inside at the board meetings and slide decks like a ghost riding an invisible elevator. Why is it easier to simply avoid the ground? Maybe because down here, they can’t help but hunt her with questions she can’t answer, or because she feels the iron molds quietly closing in, ever so tightly, around her ring finger, her belly, maybe because each day on earth is just another game show episode… once, she asked if we were happy and we answered with our credit scores, our degrees, with our spot in line for the Great American Rat Race. I watched her listen to us, but could tell she would rather be dancing with helicopters and chasing blimps. It wasn’t too long after that when she disappeared, and I must admit I do miss her… last week I even stood on the corner of Hudson street staring at the moon and there she was: floating away like a free helium balloon.


The Girl Who Can’t Stop Daydreaming

The girl who can’t stop daydreaming has already been hit by half a dozen cars and bicycles, and for this reason, she’s a pedestrian menace, especially in a city like New York. But don’t worry, miraculously, the girl has always recovered from these run ins. Last week she daydreamed about sushi in the shape of dogs. This week, she’s daydreaming about her latest crush: some long-haired earth specimen with locks as curly as a packet of ramen noodles. Given her multiple casualties, it’s truly a shock that she’s never actually bumped into anyone she knows on the street. Her chin is always tilted up, she’s not looking at you. She’s staring at the sky, watching the lunchers sitting at the rooftop restaurant like a pack of city pigeons. She’s thinking about how being inside the edifice feels like wading through the belly of a whale, how it already feels as though summer is slipping through her fingers but it’s only May. She daydreams about possibilities and make believe scenarios, sometimes involving you but always involving her, and while she dreams about the day, the day in turn dreams about her: you can tell by the way she makes a wish on a dandelion and the seeds dance around her hair like a mortal halo, how the trees bend and sway around her, when she waltzes past with a silly half smile glazed on her face.  Her dream journal is more detailed and up to date than her checkbook and her ideal vacation destination is Saturn. She probably couldn’t recount for you any names from the street signs in downtown Manhattan, but she could be the sole author of the North American Cloud almanac. Behind her back, they call her an airhead, they say she’s a space cadet, and maybe they’re right – the left hemisphere of her brain replays her favorite dreams on a loop while the right side feels like swimming inside a lava lamp. Once she was daydreaming about what it’d be like to fly without paying attention, of course, and walked straight into a manhole. I haven’t been able to reach her ever since.


image: Bridget Riley