Dear Roald Dahl,

It was my eighth birthday and a wrapped package the size of a shoebox lay quietly on my bed. I poked and prodded, gave it a good shake, then slid one finger below the tape and ripped apart the wrapping paper.

I was shocked to find a stack of novels, each brightly colored and illustrated with sharp, pointed noses and stringy hair. My parents had given me a golden ticket to a factory of over-the-top adventures and the best childhood heroes.

Some days, I wanted to glue my nosy neighbors to the ceiling and on others, I memorized the exact ingredients of George’s marvelous medicine. Danny taught me what “poaching” was and all I wanted to do that summer was travel the world in my own giant peach.

But Matilda? She stole my heart faster than she pored over her books. Filled with hope and a sense of wonder, she made me believe that we could all stand up to the Miss Trunchbulls in our lives, telekinesis or not.

With your stories, you took us on adventures that tickled our funny bones: the evil were taught lessons with thinly veiled irony and our favorite characters always found their happy ending.

These are books that crawled into my heart and stuck with me long after childhood. I hope more little girls stumble upon the magic within their pages, and find in them a companion for lonely nights and long bus rides.

Love,
A 90s kid

Subway

Newspaper crumpled as it was
folded in half, travel-size. The
late night metro smelled like
all the school kids and pressed suits
it had transported on
a rainy Monday.
You stared into the pitch black
of the racing window,
worn out eyes, hands fidgety from
the lack of a cigarette pack.
Your faded Nirvana shirt reeked
of sentimental value. I tucked
my glasses in my coat and
looked up to find you staring.
It wasn’t the kind of eye contact that
flattered you or even sent chills
down your spine. It felt
more like you were scanning
my every move, sizing
me up, counting
my breaths.
A dropped keychain,
an unfamiliar cough,
the shifting light from the windows.
I wandered into the bar, it smelled
like happy hours. We were
the only two people who would
rather be sprawled on the
corner sofa than dance
to EDM’s Top 90.
I was two beers down and bursting
with conversation. You laughed
at my shower playlist, that
annoyed me a little. So I
attacked your striped pants and
called them a midlife crisis.
I told you why piña coladas in Maui
were my alternate universe. We
argued about serial killers and
war films. I told you where all
the underground bookstores were.
The night wore on, you emptied
your pack of cigarettes. I had
never discussed Murakami
with a stranger before. It was
half past two when we
finally shuffled out. You put on
your coat and offered to share
a cab. You told me conversations
like ours don’t happen everyday.
But I let you walk into the
Monday rain, where we were still
strangers on a subway.

After Hours

I sit across from you, cross-legged, uncomfortable.
This sofa isn’t made for singular conversations that make it
through the night.
I fumble around for the remote,
there isn’t one.
So the raucous blaring of a
music video continues.
There is cheap wine, white:
I like the bitter aftertaste.
And there is music, the kind that
doesn’t stick with you,
but reminds you of an old song
you might have heard in a jazz bar
that can only be described as blue.
I laugh at our mistakes as high strung teenagers, indie posters taped over
fragile bravado, secrets stashed
below the bathroom window.
You steal a look at the book on
my night stand, I tell you it is about
shoveling snow.
We talk in metaphors, so I fetch you
a cup of liquid nostalgia and we
flirt with disgruntled singers and old
photographs that still smell
like the ocean.
The light shifts across your face,
no need for a clock. I play
with the idea of crossovers and
classic margaritas, crowned with
indecision and loud, seaside laughter.
You call me cheesy and throw my
mixtape out the window. We find
the tangled strings that lead us
to each other, and idly wonder what
would happen if we undid them.
I am struck by the feeling that I should
write about this for people don’t stay,
but poems do. I laugh at your joke
about ferries, but the whole time
I am wondering how long before
you leave, too.

Geraniums

Parched twine cuts the skin of my thumb as I carefully untie the thread around my journal.

My hand runs over the faded paper; like dried flowers from summer, swollen clouds to puncture with my pen.

I stumble through the silence after an avalanche, the twisting clothesline in my stomach and the bales of cotton in my head.

I run to feel the wind in my hair, my thoughts rattling like a badly driven car.

I miss the beat to an old, schoolyard song and hum in misshapen verses.

I sit cross-legged, the jute meshwork of the window seat painted onto my calf.

I stare at the geraniums on the other side of the glass, a dewdrop clinging to the deep purple of it’s petals.

It is elegant in the way it tricks you into believing it is ordinary.

Dusted with misty cobwebs and pollen grains like powdered sugar.

I watch the edges of each flower ruffle with the temperamental breeze, chiffon skirts protecting their modesty.

I look up to see that the clouds have turned more white than grey.

I wrap the twine around my journal.

The torrential rain has given way to a light, blue sky drizzle.

Strangers In A Coffehouse

Roasting coffee beans and the smell of a working oven greet me as I enter the coffeehouse. A brief, but definite tingle of excitement dances down the back of my neck: something’s different.

I wait in line for my hazelnut latte (I am predictable to a fault), and notice with some annoyance that my window seat’s been taken.

A young woman, seemingly in her 20’s, braided hair down to her waist, with topaz cat-eye glasses and a septum piercing that I secretly thought was très chic.

The more I look at her, the more it feels as though she is frozen in time.

But not the present, no.

She is far too entitled for the present.

I feel a little tug, gently grabbing me by the finger and pulling me to a different time, a time where I’d sit across from her and we’d discuss the pile of books on our coffee table; a pile that only grew higher with each passing day.

A time where her hair would be pulled back in an effortless bun that I could never, ever perfect and she’d have little half-moons below her eyes because she’d stayed up all night, perfecting her essay on Homer.

She would clutch her tenth mug of coffee so tight, her knuckles would turn bloodless and she rarely smiled because she didn’t like her teeth.

Her gray eyes sort of defined her; she wouldn’t stray far from a bleak existence.

But now, I see an almost firefly-like twinkle in her eyes, still grey but with little ripples breaking the surface, as she looks out the window, amused at something she’s read in her novel.

Her smile is wide and disarming, with dimples I’d never known about.

There is a pink in her cheeks, like she’d forced the color into her life.

Traces of the person I knew still lingered: in the earnest tightness with which she clutched the pages of her book and the peach iced tea on her coffee table.

But there was an air to her that made her seem almost foreign, unreal.

When she looks up a second time, she finds me staring and my cheeks flush with embarrassment.

Her smile appears almost as quickly; she calls my name, waves me over and wonders if I’d like a hazelnut latte.

I realize then, what is so different about her: she is unmistakably happy.