Taking out the trash

“So, I deleted my Tinder account,” I say, unwrapping the scarf around my neck. I sit down at a coffee table where my friend awaits me.

“What?” my friend says, looking up from the menu. “Really? Why did you do that?”

“I mean, I didn’t really use it, it was just using up data on my phone, and anyways, all the guys had pictures of them standing next to BMWs with fake Rolexes on.” I grab the other menu and start flipping through it, “like get out of my face, ya know what I mean?”

“Right,” she replies, nodding her head suspiciously, “So..did something…maybe…happen this weekend…”

“Uh,” I say with a shaky tone, “nope, nothing.” I keep looking down at my menu and suddenly slam it shut on the table. “I’m not sure what I did in my past life, but I had to have ruined a couple marriages or suffocated my servant with a goose-filled pillow. Cause this doesn’t make sense.”

“I like how you assume you had a servant in your past life.”

“I dream big about the past.”


The club’s dimly lit and filled with the same faces I scroll through on Instagram when I take a shit. Their lips are plump, their tits are out and their weaves are intact. Fucking intact. The men aren’t much better, in fact, the only difference is their lack of chest fat. But at the end of the day, they have nipples too, so it’s the same shit. No one’s really smiling, but no one’s really frowning – the club’s filled with inconclusiveness. The dj’s standing in the corner, fingers rubbing soulfully against the vinyl records, his straggly hair moistened from the sweat dripping down his face – he’s fucking vibin’. I’m pretty sure I saw him wearing the same blue sweater from last weekend, but I’m lucky if I remember to change my socks on a monthly basis, so who the fuck am I to say anything.

I’m sliding my way through the crowded room with Tijana bobbing to the music behind me. I ignore the wandering eyes that lay upon me as I gently press my hand against people’s backs, manoeuvring my way past them. They always look at me when they feel my fingertips gently pressed against their backs, no one really touches each other anymore.

We make it to our usual spot: a small corner beside the end of the bar. I put my bag down on the table and immediately start swinging my hips, moving my hands through my curly hair, massaging my scalp, feeling the tingle flush its way down my back. I close eyes, absorbing the feeling of release. When I open my eyes, a man’s standing in front of me, doing an 80’s jive. It doesn’t turn me on, however, it doesn’t repulse me. I look at him and notice he has an eyebrow piercing. This automatically alerts me to the possibility of him being a closeted homosexual, a fear that I’ve had since it’s apparent that it’s all I can attract. My eyes gaze down his body, examining for more clues confirming my assumption. He has a silver chain around his neck which bounces off the chest hair that’s aggressively poking out of his tight black shirt. Before my eyes can move any lower, he steps towards, placing his face next to mine, his lips hovering beside my ear.

“I want you to be my lover,” he says, his breath hits my ear and wraps around my face.

My sensual sway turns into an anxious bob, as I look at him concernedly, “what?”

“I want you to be my lover,” he says a little louder, lips brushing up against the peach fuzz on my ear.

I stop bobbing from side to side and stare at him, “are you married?”

“No,” he says smiling.

Oh, Jesus fucking christ, you just can’t tell me.

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

He stares at me and then looks at the floor, “yes.” 

I look at him, slightly annoyed and start to dance again, “what am I supposed to do with you?”

He jerks his head back and looks at me confused, “what I meant was–” his hands preparing to explain to me the arrangement he’s purposing.

“No, no, no,” I reply, as my finger shakes in front of his face, “what am I supposed to do with you?”

“Buu–”

“Come on man,” I say, looking at his furrowed eyebrows, “why you doing this? Just go home to your girlfriend, be with her or don’t be with her, and don’t ever wear that shirt again.”

I return back to dancing and through my peripherals I see him disappear into the crowd. Minutes pass, my face is dripping with sweat and my head dizzy from all the cigarette smoke.

“I’m going home,” I say to Tijana as I grab my bag from the table.

“Okay, I’m going to stay here a bit longer,” she says, her arms pumping higher into the air as her boobs bounce up and down. There’s something comforting about them.

I turn around and push my way through the crowd towards the exit. A girl in a large brimmed hat stops in front of me, talking to a man that looks like he should be on a yacht.

“Can you move?” I ask, gesturing with my hands, smiling.

A hand grabs my arm and I look around as I hear a voice, “you’re going to calm down, understand?”

The guy that looks like he should be on a yacht has his hand firmly gripped around my wrist. He squeezes it harder, pulling my wrist closer towards him. He’s wearing a baby blue button-down shirt with overly gelled that’s combed to one side. He reminds me of those Instagram male models for online discount shops, you know, where they’re casually sitting on concrete steps with cuffed pants, smiling as their ankles are perfectly angled to show off 50% off bamboo flip-flops.

“What?” I say, jolting my hand from his grip, trying not to laugh.

“You heard me,” he says, staring at me emotionlessly, “you’re going to calm down.” 

I look around, laughing, “what the fuck are you talking about, calm down? I just asked her to move to the side.”

He grabs my arm again and looks at me in silence. What? Am I in a PSA for assholes?

I take a step towards him, surprised, he hesitantly moves back, loosening his grip, “listen, you fucking frat boy rapist, don’t fucking touch me.”

A piece of overly gelled hair stiffly falls in front of his face.

“What the fuck are you going to do?” I ask with a smile.

He steps back.

“What?” I ask again, smiling. “You wanted to fucking hit me in this club? Show her how big your dick is? You’re half my size, you loafer wearing fuck.”

“Fuck you,” he replies insecurely.

“Fuck me?” my tone becomes harsh, “next time you touch me, you’ll be using Tinder from a fucking hospital bed. You fucker.” Hmm, I don’t know if I like that comeback line. It’s a little lame and would probably get him sympathy fucks. You tried. Next time, Natasha, next time. 


“How are you the only person I know that encounters these people?” she asks while flagging down the waitress. “I mean really, these guys sound like absolute trash, fucking garbage.”

“Well, it’s not like I gave them my number,” I say slightly offended. “And I’m sure I’m not the only one…I mean, there have to be other people who meet these idio—”

“Oh, I forgot to ask you,” she says, checking her phone. “Remember that guy I met? The one that liked all my profile pictures on Facebook?”

My eyes look up at the ceiling as I mentally search through the roll-a-dex of men stored in my head.

“Uh, the one that drove you home from the club when it was raining?”

“Yeah!” she says with bright eyes as readjusts herself in her chair. “Okay, so I found out he’s married, I mean, I found out after we kissed. But there’s just something about him, we connect–”

“I swear to god,” I mumble, shaking my head as I rub my eyes.

“What did you say?” she asks excitedly.

“I said, you should totally fuck him,” I reply with a touch of sarcasm.

“Yeah?” she questions. Her eyes shine with my statement of approval.

“I mean, between the closeted homosexual and the he-man woman hater I just met, your guy sounds like a good guy, definitely not the trash I encountered,” I reply, nodding my head with slight exaggeration.

“Yeah,” she says smiling, “he’s such a good guy and he’s so sweet.”

“You gotta lock that down, girl.”

“He’s married,” she says with disappointment.

“Funny how trash comes in different bags, eh?”

The Christmas Story

“So, how was your Christmas?” my friend asks while taking a sip from her hot chocolate.

“Yeah, how was it?” another one chimes in.

I stare at my three friends who are huddling around the table, eyes fixated upon me as if I’m holding a piece of steak in front of my face. Not even men look at me with such intensity. My hands are wrapped around a hot cup of Chamomille tea, I’m blowing on it every couple of seconds while keeping eye contact.

“What’s up with you guys?” I say with a giggle, however, highly suspicious, “you’re acting all eager.”

“Something always happens with you,” my friend says with a slight whine, “come on, so… anything good happen?”

I stare at them for a moment, thinking if I should fall into their trap.

I sigh heavily and put my cup down on the table. “Yes,” I reply, with a slight disappointment. I bend down, grab my bag off the ground and place it on my lap. I’m rummaging through it and pull out the package, placing it onto the table.

“I don’t get it,” one friend says.

“That was my Christmas gift,” I reply in a monotonously.


“My god, can you imagine,” my great-aunt says to me with while anxiously chewing on a sugar cookie while she stares at the tv, “they let colored people on tv now.”

I close my eyes and press my fingers onto my forehead, “that’s the thing with equality, eh.”

“Natasha,” my great-uncle yells out with a thick Croatian accent, “you-you, you know, your friend came to pick you up yesterday?”

I pause in figuring out whether that was a statement or a question. “Yeah, she did,” I reply.

“She got stuck in snow, yes?” he asks eloquently.

“Yeah, she did, it wa–.”

“You know,” he starts to laugh, “this is what happens when woman drive.”

A wheezing sound escapes my mouth, “that’s right, Karl,” I reply with one of those smiles that don’t reach the eyes. I turn my head and I watch my grandpa’s head fall into his chest as he lets out a humbling snore. His pocket protector that’s perched in his chest pocket lightly grazes the bottom of his chin, he doesn’t notice.

“Everyone!” a voice sings out from another room, “it’s time to open presents!”

I calculated that I could possibly walk away with $300 if people get with the program and just give me cash. I figure that this cash is a ‘thank you’ for the racist and sexist banter that I calmly sit through.

Within minutes, the entire family pours into the family room and grabs whatever seat they can claim. We’re at my uncle and aunt’s house, who, are the original hipsters of Vancouver. Beside the tree, a stuffed deer foot lamp lights the room, while a painting saying, “go fuck yourself,” hangs in the corner. Underneath the humming of idle chatter, the vinyl record, Music for Plants is playing.

The presents get called out and are passed down the assembly line, one by one.

I’m the last name to get called and a small brightly wrapped package gets handed to me.

A present, I think to myself. How unusual nowadays to get an actual gift. I start feeling warmth springing inside my chest, I start smiling with uncertainty and excitement. Perhaps getting cash is overrated, perhaps being surprised with an unknown gift and unwrapping it to reveal the surprise is what we should all aspire to experience.

I open the card, it’s from my great-aunt. I look at her and thank her for the gift. I place the card on the table and slowly start to open the package. I undo the sides and then wiggle my finger under the tape on the top of the gift. The wrapping paper delicately falls open.

“What did you get?” my mom asks across the room.

The room goes silent, all eyes fall on me with the only thing being heard is the song from  Music for Plants, “For cactuses and other thorn-based plants.”

I hold the gift up and try to muster a smile, “I got the complimentary toothbrush and eye shade from a KLM flight.”

“That’s very useful,” my dad says, nodding his head from his chair in the corner.

 

I look at my brother from across the room, “what did you get?”

He lifts up a package, “the complimentary toothbrush and eye shade from possibly the same KLM flight.”


 

Two years later.

“Your flight has been delayed for a couple of hours,” the customer service lady says to me with a smile, “so, you’ll have to wait for your next flight at 2pm.”

I stare at her with bags under my eyes, “is there any lounge I can go to so I can sleep?”

“Unfortunately, you’re not in our star member program, so you’ll just be able to use the airport services.”

I aggressively grab my carry-on bags and search for an unclaimed bench to lay on. The bright lights burn my eyes and I wiggle around trying to find a position that’ll provide me comfort, yet darkness.

“Fucking, fuck,” I say, aggravatedly, as I get up and start to rummage through my bag. “Fucking star member program,” I unzip a side pocket on my laptop bag and pull out the complimentary toothbrush and eye shade kit, holding it in my hand in silence.

“I can’t believe this,” I mumble to myself as I tear it open.

I take the shades out of the package and start to place it over my head.

“Oh, ma’am,” a woman says, stopping in mid walk. “Can I ask you where did you get those eyeshades from? My flight didn’t come with any.”

I stare at her for a moment, “it was a gift.”

 

 

Jesus and Cream Sauce: How to survive the Arizona desert

“I don’t wanna walk this fucking mountain,” sixteen-year-old me says, as I stare out of the car window.

“Did you know it’s called God’s Thumb?” my dad says, ignoring my bitch moment.

“It doesn’t even look like a thumb,” I say with slight tone in my voice, hoping that it will instil fear in my family and result in us going back to the vacation house.

“It looks like a thumb,” my brother says, tying up his shoelaces. “you’re just being an asshole,” It does look like a thumb, I am just an asshole.

“I don’t see a single thumb resembling a mountain in sight, actually,” I reply, as I unlock my phone and stare at the screen. I realise at that moment, that my dad didn’t provide me with an out of the country data plan, leaving me virtually disconnected from my boyfriend of a week and a half. I wonder if we’ll make it through the week a part, but only time can tell. I continue staring at the screen for dramatic effect.

“Listen, Natasha. We’re going to climb this mountain,” my dad insists firmly, as he drives the rental car into gravel parking lot. We drive past a couple people, the car creates a giant dust ball, I watch the people choke as I see the mountain peering through behind them. Fuck you, thumb.

“Can’t I just stay in the car?”

“No, you out of all people cannot. We’ve already seen how the Mexican guys like you, I don’t need you being taken,” my dad says concerningly.

“They won’t take her, then they’d have to feed her,” my mother chimes in.

My family laughs as they undo their seatbelts. I did not share their emotional response as my love for food was no joking matter and Mexican men did terrify me ever since I ordered a burrito at this Mexican joint in a strip mall. The restaurant was next to a laundry mat, so, you knew it was authentic.

I had ordered the beef and bean burrito and was extremely excited to venture into Mexican cuisine. I had tried Taco Bell, but I knew, there had to be something more out there. When the food had arrived, everyone received their meals, while I waited for mine. The waiter was a young, Mexican guy who had soulful eyes, though they were hidden by a New York Yankees baseball hat. His name tag read ‘Jesus‘. He was lanky in stature but had veiny, strong hands – something I noticed while he came to the table with my burrito in hand. He placed the plate in front of me and without breaking eye contact said, “here’s your burrrrrito”. I don’t get who’s supposed to break eye contact first. Wait, why did he roll that many r’s? Just eat your burrito, Natasha.

I looked down at my plate and noticed my dish was the only one to be garnished with a white, yogurty substance. Though I was sceptical, I scraped the white sauce off my burrito and ate it. Ever since then, my love for burritos has been slightly tarnished.

I get of out the car, lugging my body towards the beginning of the trail. “God’s Thumb” the sign reads. I stare at the mountain for a moment. God’s Thumb is probably the most inappropriate name for this mountain. Other than the fact that it looks like a thumb, I can only describe it as being the color of desert sand with the only visible plant life being giant cactuses scattered amongst the slopes.

My mom and brother are already making their way up the mountain, finishing off the topic of me being unappreciative while then moving on to the discussion of Arizona’s vast nature. My father is walking along side with me, I can hear his New Balance runners crunching down against the gravel beneath. They’re highly supportive shoes.

“Why did we choose Arizona anyways?” I ask curiously, determining who I can blame for making me exert sweat.

My dad bends his arm in front of my face, “I have tennis elbow, Natasha.”

I stare at his hairy arm that’s being flung in front of my face, “right, the elbow,” nodding supportively.

This is all because of tennis elbow. If he didn’t have tennis elbow, I would have already made it to first base with my boyfriend, who at the time, lacked a fully developed chin.

We continue on the hike with the terrain becoming steeper and the potholes becoming more holy. My dad warns me of the giant potholes. I pat him on the back and tell him not to worry. I can see a pothole a mile away. Though I lack agility, I make up for it with my mountain goat hiking strength, it runs in the family. Give me a slope, and I’ll get up it.

“Look! It’s a snake!” my dad yells out suddenly with great excitement.

“Ah!” I scream, turning away for safety. I lose balance, and slip, sliding down the mountain side. I try to grip onto anything in my reach, however, my hands slip off of the loose rocks that tumble alongside me. I realize that the only thing that’ll stop me is the giant cactus that’s coming up ahead. I’m totally gonna hit this cactus. I hit the cactus with my leg as I fling the rest of my body upwards, grabbing onto the dirt, trying to prevent myself from wrapping around the cactus. I remain motionless for a moment and take a deep breath, looking up the hill to see where my dad is. My dad’s still standing on the trail, staring at me.

“Are you okay?” he yells.

I turn my head, take a deep breath before evaluating the damage. From this angle, my leg looks like it’s simply resting against the cactus. I jiggle it slightly. Nope, not resting, definately stuck.  I grab my thigh with one hand and my calf with the other as I slowly peel my leg off the cactus.

“AHHH, FUCK,” I scream out loud, seeing the thorns embedded in my calf.  I get on my knees and start crawling up the hill, feeling the thorns rub into my muscle. I make it to the top of the trail where my dad’s standing. He looks at me in silence as I collapse onto the trail, staring at my leg while crying.

“My…leg…,” I say, as the tears pour down my face. I start pulling thorns out of my calf, whimpering as I remove each one.

My mom comes half-way down the mountain to see what the commotion is.

“Natasha landed on a cactus,” I hear my dad loudly summarize.

“Oh god, well, we’re going to keep on walking then,” my mom says as she turns away.

“What happened?” my brother yells up down the hill.

“Your sister landed on a cactus,” she yells.

“Oh, okay, let’s keep walking,” he yells back.

I turn my head and see them continue their hiking up the thumb of God. Fuckers. I pull the last thorn out of my leg and watch the blood stream down. I continue crying for a couple minutes as I remain on sitting on the gravel trail.

“Okay, get up, Natasha,” my dad says with a short tone.

“I do-do-don’t wa-wa-nna go,” I stutter, “y-y-you go, I’ll be h-h-heere.”

“Natasha, get the fuck up!” he yells as people walk by, “Get up! You’re an Ivanovic! You’re a fucking Ivanovic! We don’t give up! Now get up!”

I’m shocked by the sudden profanity used in an attempt to inspire me. My dad takes my arm, lifts me up, shakes the dirt off me and grabs my hand, pulling him behind me as he walks up the hill.

“Don’t be a pussy,” he says, continuing to pull me behind him.

“You assholes, I just landed on a fucking cactus,” I begin to rage as I wipe my nose in my sweater. “Don’t be a pussy,” I say mockingly, “you go fucking fall on a cactus.” I stop walking and kick the dirt with my good leg, “God’s Thumb, this stupid fucking mountain.”

“See, someone’s watching over you.”

I walk up the rest of the mountain and back down in silence. We all bundle back into the car, turn on the AC and stop by a gas station next to a juvenile prison.

“Natasha, can you go pump the gas?” my dad asks.

“But, I just fell on a cac–” I saw, looking around the car for support.

“You’re the closest one to the pump,” my dad replies as everyone else is looking out of their windows. Oh, I see what this fucking is.

“Fine!” I open the door aggressive, get out of the car, undo the gas tank and start to pump the gas.

In the background, I hear fences shaking and people yelling, ‘chikta’. I ignore the background noise for a minute until it starts reaching an irritating volume. I turn around and notice that the fenced area is filled with men wearing neon orange jumpers.  They must be on lunch break since a small riot has developed up by the fence, yelling and hollering at me. I try to pump the gas faster, but realize that I’m an idiot and that you can’t pump gas faster. Knocking on the car window for reassurance, my parents turn and look at the group of men gathered by the fence. The car doors lock and I see my family laughing through the tinted windows.

I bang on the window hesitantly, “open up the car! This isn’t funny!”

The shaking and hollering become louder and louder as I’m rushing to put the gas cap on. I crank the door open, however, it remains locked.

“I fucking hate this place!” I scream at the car as I pound my good leg into the ground.

“Ay, chikita.” the voice says above the crowd, “I’m here baby, you don’t gotta be mad no more.”

I turn my head, squinting as I stare into the crowd, “Jesus?”

 

 

 

Hunting the blind

“Natasha, you have to get up,” a voice says from the bedroom door. The footsteps walk away and I hear a door close.

I groan and readjust my body that was reverting back to my fetal position days. With a solid stretch, I rub my eyes and stare at the ceiling. I can hear footsteps crunching in the snow outside my window. I grab my shitty drug dealer phone and look at the screen, it’s dead. I get up and shuffle to the bathroom with eyes half shut, untying my pajama pants in preparation. As I let the warm stream of pee flow into the toilet, I inspect my ripped bright green pajama pants slumped around my ankles, debating at what point do I have to get new ones before people start assuming I’m unhygienic. Fuck em’,  I love these pjs. With that thought, I look up from the floor and stare at the bathtub.

There’s a dead deer laying in the bathtub.

Fur is plastered onto the tile walls with one hoof elegantly draped over the rim of the tub, blood dripping onto the floor. I look around the bathroom for reassurance that this is normal, but I’m alone in silence.

“Uhh,” I say to myself, as I quickly tear off a sheet of toilet paper. I recently became environmentally conscious, however, my reduction in toilet paper sheets makes me uncomfortable in securing the moisture when I wipe.

“Dan!” I call out in a slight panic. No one replies.

I wash my hands quickly, forgetting the soap because I figure that time is limited since there’s a dead deer in the bathtub. I leave the bathroom and quickly walk around the cabin. There’s a kettle of water boiling and a barrel of sauerkraut next to the fridge.

What…why is there… a deer…

“Where is everyone,” as I curiously peek around corners, “….Jim? Dan?” I call out.

I walk to the hallway, slip on a pair of winter boots and the first jacket I see. My feet are swimming in the boots, struggling to lift my feet up, I scrape my heels along the floor to the front door. The arms of my jacket are so long, you can’t see my fingers, so I spend a couple extra seconds trying to turn the door knob. I open the door and take a step into the snow with the only sound being heard is my breath.

“Dan! Where ar–”

“Shh,” a voice says.

I look around trying to find the voice.

“You look like you’re swimming in that jacket,” a voice says behind me.

I turn around, surprised, and see Dan who’s looking more tired than usual. His 6’4 frame peers over me as I stare at his beard which isn’t able to grow on his cheeks. He’s carrying a black backpack.

“Where were yo–”

“Talk quieter, you’re so fucking loud,” he says annoyed. “You know you’re voice carries, right?”

I make a disgruntled face and stare at him in silence.

“Better?” I whisper offendedly, I pause for a moment, remembering the deer, “did you know there’s a deer in th—”

“Give Natasha this gun,” a deep voice says behind him.

The man approaches us with a couple of rifles, handing one to Dan, who passes it to me. He has a thick head of peppered hair that matches his long beard. He’s wearing a camouflage jacket and is chewing on a toothpick.

“Can I have one?” Dan asks as he passes me the rifle.

“No, you’re an idiot,” he says with a growly voice, extending his arm that’s holding another rifle. “Here, give this one to Jim.”

Dan takes the rifle and holds it against his torso, making a face that’s similar to when you’re constipated.

My eyes bulge and I take a step closer to Dan, “are you fucking kidding me?” I whisper, “Jim’s fucking blind. What the fuck is he going to do with a rifle.”

Dan shrugs his shoulders, “ I dunno, but Jim gets a rifle and I don’t.”

“I had to help you put on your sweater yesterday because you couldn’t find the hole, so yeah,” I say as I wipe the steaming snot dripping down my nose, “I get why you shouldn’t hold a loaded gun.”

“Dan! Natasha!” the man calls out, “Jim’s waiting over here, let’s get going.” There’s a moment of silence, “oh and Dan, point the gun away from your face.”

Dan and I start walking towards the voice. My feet drag in the snow as I’m staring at Dan limply holding the rifle. I wonder if, at some point during this walk, he’ll shoot himself in the face.

“I thought we weren’t supposed to yell? Also, can someone please tell me why there’s a dead deer in the bathtub?” I ask, walking behind him.

“You’ll see,” he replies, he adjusting his backpack.

As I walk behind him, I’m staring at the backpack which looks a little weighed down, “what’s in the backpack?”

Dan shakes his head as he continues walking.

We meet up with the man and Jim, who is holding a loaded rifle. Jim’s wearing Matrix shaped sunglasses with red lenses and a navy blue toque. He’s getting acquainted with the rifle as he runs his fingers along the barrel then gently circling them over the trigger. I breathe nervously and casually move myself, using Dan as a body shield as I pretend to admire a tree.

“Natasha, you’re going to walk behind Jim and Dan will walk behind you,” the man says. Great, I have a blind guy leading me and a 6’4 jealous gun enthusiast walking behind me. “Oh,” the man continues, “since you’re the only one out of you three that knows how to use a rifle, you need to be the eyes and ears while I guide us.”

“Okay, but I –”

“Let’s go”

“What the fuck am I looking out for,”  I mumble to myself as I shuffle my feet. “And who gives a blind guy a gun.”

Now piles up inside my boots as we walk up and down slippery slopes, through frozen streams and thick bush. All while the whole time I’m staring at Jim’s gun carelessly dangle off his shoulder in front of me.

The man hand gestures that we stop. We stop. He then gestures that we duck. We duck, falling into the snow and I hold my rifle, aiming it at a tree I found to be suspicious.

I don’t know what it is about this tree, but I genuinely don’t like it. 

“14 o’clock,” the man says, staring at me.

“Oh fuck,” I whisper to myself. I keep the rifle in one hand while I try to figure out the time in the other. Okay, so 14 o’clock is 2:00pm and then if this is the clock so, okay, right, up to the right. I point the gun to a single bush. As I lay in the snow, pointing my gun at the bush, I feel my pyjama pants quickly getting wet and my feet starting to freeze. I should have just said I’m having my period. 

“Let’s go,” the man growls quietly while waving.

We walk down a hill and come to a clearing with a steady river flowing through it. The only sound to be heard is the water, babbling down the river.

“Okay everyone,” the man lowers his rifle to his side. “Dan, give me your backpack,” he says, pointing to an area in front of the river, “Natasha, Dan, stand there. Jim, here’s the camera.”

I think I may die.

Dan takes off his backpack and hands it to the man. I hesitantly move into position and Dan puts his arm around my shoulders. Jim’s in front of us holding the camera up to his face, ready to capture a memory. I hear the backpack open behind us.

“Why is Jim taking a picture of us,” I whisper to Dan, “if he’s blind?”

“Just smile,” he mumbles back.

As I smile, I hear a large thud and then a splash. I turn my head to the side and see a deer head floating down the river. I quickly turn my head back, facing the camera.

“You carried a deer head in your backpack?” I say, twitching nervously as I smile.

“Apparently, it’s illegal to shoot deer here.” he replies, smiling.

“Right,” I mumble back, “also, why are we even smiling for the photo,” I say, relaxing my cheeks, “Jim’s not even pointing the camera in the right direction.”

“Jim!” Dan yells, “move the camera more to your left.”

Jim repositions the camera while holding it up to his face.

“A little more,” Dan yells and pauses for a moment. “No, no,” he waves his hand, “now a little to the right.”

“Why is the blind guy taking the picture?” I say, wiping my nose in the sleeve of my jacket. “There’s no one else on this mountain, why do we need to pretend to take photos?”

“If someone sees us,” Dan says smiling, “it looks like we’re just out for a family walk.”

“With rifles,” I reply monotonously, “this has to be the stupidest shit you’ve gotten me into. Not only that, I googled this mountain and found out that there’s a rehab facility close by where they literally beat the addicts sober.”

Dan stares at me in silence.

“Don’t deny it.” I say, resting the rifle on my shoulder, “I saw the YouTube video.”


 

I’m sitting at the dinner table, next to the barrel of sauerkraut. Dan is across from me and Jim is at the head of the table feeling a loaf bread. A woman with a long black braid and thick long johns puts a giant pot of soup in the middle of the table.

I lean into the pot, smelling it with delight and entitlement , “ooh what kind of soup is this?”

I rip off a piece of warm bread and stuff it into my mouth. “It’s deer soup,” as she ladels it into my bowl.

“The one from the bathtub?” I say with a mouth full.

 

 

 

Riding in taxis with men

“Can you tell me what you were wearing, Ma’am?” the woman asks me expressionlessly.

“What?” I ask, refocusing my attention. My mascara is smudged on my face and my leg is jiggling up and down, under the table. I’m sitting in an off-white room consisting of a desk and two computer chairs. There’s a camera in the top corner pointing at me.

“What were you wearing at the time of the incident?” She asks me, moving her ponytail off of her shoulder. She momentarily looks at me, then down to her notepad.

“Uh,” I scratch my arm nervously, “I was wearing a black skirt and a white blouse.”

“Okay,” as she scribbles down notes, “can you show me, on yourself, how short the skirt was?”

I stare at her in silence. I move my hand mid-thigh and hold it in place. She stares at my leg for a moment and continues to scribble on her pad.

“Were you drinking?”

“I wasn’t drunk.”

She continues to scribble on her pad. She pauses, puts her notepad down onto the table and crosses her legs.

“Okay Natasha,” she sighs heavily, rubbing her eyes with one hand. “What we have here is a level two sexual assault.”

I stare at her in silence. Don’t be a pussy, breathe, breathe, breathe.

“Do you want me to tell you what level two sexual assault is? You told me that you’re in Criminology, maybe you know wha–”

Deep breathe iiiiiiin and out.

“I know what level two sexual assault is.”

“Listen, I’m going to do all that I can to try to find this guy. But you know, you don’t have a license plate number so it’s not going to be easy,” she puts her card on the table and pushes it towards me, “here’s my number if you have any questions.”

She gets up, smiles, opens the door and walks out of the room. I hold her business card in front of my face, “Constable Smith. Case #5423-8453.” 


“Let’s just take a taxi cab home, it’ll be like $10 each,” my friend Christa says as she puts on her coat. “I don’t wanna wake up my parents.”

I check my phone, it’s 2am. I’m wearing a black skirt with cork wedges that I thought would give me a bohemian flare amongst the suburban kids. I saw those cork wedges in a shop window and I thought, “that’s my way out.  I’ll get noticed at this club by some casting director, he’ll be like, ‘You know, you’re different from the other girls. Most girls can’t pull off wedges in a suburban nightclub.’ ”

I wobble to the first taxi I see and knock on the half-open window.

“Would you be able to drive us?”

“Yes, yes,” the man says. I open the front passenger door for Christa and opt for the back seat – I saw the opportunity for more leg room. I put on my seat belt and notice the taxi driver is balding and sporting a yellow bomber jacket. His hands were firmly grasping the steering wheel as he stared straight ahead.

“Uh,” Christa says, trying to put her seatbelt on, “the address is 1234 99b avenue.”

The taxi driver nods and slowly begins to drive out of the club parking lot.

“So, did you girls have lots of sex tonight?” he asks.

Christa freezes. Her body immediately tightens and I see her head slowly turn to look out the window.

“Excuse me?” I reply defensively.

The taxi doors lock.

“I said, did you girls have a lot of sex tonight?” he asks again, staring at me through the rearview mirror.

I stare back at him, “No, we didn’t.”

I push my knees deep into the back of Christa’s seat, trying to get her attention. She doesn’t react. I look out the window as I slowly open my purse, taking out my phone and the switchblade I tactfully hid in one of the pockets. I put both items on my lap. The taxi driver leans towards the dashboard, with his long piano fingers twisting the dial landing on some sensual 80’s porno song. I close my eyes. Do not panic, think, think, think. You have to do something. The car suddenly comes to a full stop. My head jerks back, I open my eyes. It’s a red light. I go back to staring out of the window and I feel a hand slowly moving up my leg. My head slowly turns to see the taxi driver’s hand  making its way to my inner thigh. I stare at his hand in silence for a moment and look at the switchblade resting on my lap.

“No!” I try to yell, but it comes out as a pathetic mumble as I push his hand off my thigh. I quickly shift my knees towards the door and try to pull the door handle, it’s still locked.

You need to stab him.  No, you can’t there’s a corn field coming up, there’s nothing around. Wait, better idea, stab him, you have a phone, call 911. This is what you’re going to do. Right, you’re going to call 911, stab him and run. Yes, that’s it. No, Christa’s in the front seat, he’ll hurt her. Wait, you’re going to take the knife and hold it against his neck until he stops the car and you’re going to run. Yeah, that’s it, that’s the plan. You have to, you have to do it, you have to tell her. 

I unlock my phone, the bright light illuminates the car.

“Fuck,” I whisper to myself, trying to quickly dim the light. With my phone in hand, I slowly look up and see the taxi driver staring at me through the rearview mirror. The whites of his eyes gleam as the street light passes through the car. He shakes his head slowly. He’s going to fucking kill us.  I lock my phone and put it in my lap.

I’m not dying in a corn field. No, no, no, no, no. Breathe.

I stare up at the roof of the taxi and take a deep breath.

Fuck it. 

“AHHHHHHHHHH,” I scream from the back seat, the taxi drive jolts in his seat. “UNLOCK LOCK THE DOOR,” I yell, shaking and punching the front seats uncontrollably. The taxi driver jolts in his seat in surprise, looking in his rear view mirror unsure of what to do. Christa  starts yelling, shaking the door handle.

“UNLOCK LOCK THE DOOR,” I yell, shaking and punching the front seats uncontrollably. The taxi driver looks around nervously, surprised. Christa starts yelling, shaking the door handle. The 80’s porno music continues to play in the background.

“LET US OUT OF THE FUCKING CAB,” I continue yelling, as I grab the switchblade, I click the safety and the blade pops open. I hold it in the air and continue to yell as Christa stops yelling and starts sobbing and she’s shaking the door handle.

The taxi driver slams on the breaks and the doors click open.

“GET OUT NOW!” I yell, with my switchblade still hand, I aggressively open the door with the other and dart out of the car. At the same time, Christa’s anxiously pulls the door handle and jumps out of the front seat.

I look around for a moment. Run. 

I start running in away from the taxi, Christa looks around momentarily and starts running behind me. My feet are sore from dancing, but I don’t notice the blisters that are breaking, bleeding out onto my cork wedges. I start crying as I continue to run towards the corner store we passed by earlier.


 

“What did the officer say?” my he asks concerningly.

“She said she’s going to call me if she finds out anything, it just happened last night,” I say, staring at my mashed potatoes, “so I guess she’ll need time to find him.”

He turns his head to the clock that’s hanging above the fridge. It’s 11pm.

“Get your jacket on,” he says to me, forcefully getting up from the kitchen table.

“But where are we g–,” I say, looking up from my plate in slight surprise.

“I said get your jacket on.”

We’re sitting in the parking lot of the nightclub with our car facing the row of taxis that are lined out front.

“Is that him?” He says staring at the row of taxis.

“No.”

“What about that cab?” He says, lifting a finger up from the steering wheel, pointing at the cab on the right.

“No,” I say, sitting in my partially reclined seat. “Why don’t we just go, I don’t want to be here,” I fog the window with my breath and start to doodle, “why would he come back here? Let’s just let the poli–.”

“Fuck the police,” he says sternly, staring straight ahead. I continue to draw on the fogged window as taxi cab pulls up in front of the club, “is that him?”

I don’t reply. “Natasha, fucking focus. What about this cab?”

I turn my head and stare at the taxi.

“So?” he asks.

I unlock the car door.

How to make a murderer

“So… remember how you had a theory that I murdered my guinea pig?” I stare at the floor of the cafe, there’s a feather stuck between the waxed hardwood floor and my chair’s leg. My friend stops stirring in her cup of tea and looks up at me.

“Yes…”

“I didn’t exactly kill h–”

“I fucking knew it.” She takes a bit of her complimentary cookie, “you’re a murderer.”

I stop stirring my tea and look up at her, “Can you just listen, okay? I’m not a murderer”. I pick up my stirring spoon and continuing to dissolve the honey crystals at the bottom of my cup.


“I killed my guinea pig,” I say, slamming the front door behind me.

“Oh god, Natasha, you’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Hey, this is my therapy session,” I say, taking off my coat and throwing it over the back of a leather chair, “you can’t be judgemental, it was like a year ago.”

“I’m your mother, Natasha.”

I stand for a moment in silence, staring at her as she shakes her head while continuing to peel a potato. Though I’m feeling guilty, my stomach is grumbling. I walk halfway to the fridge but am unsure if getting a snack is inappropriate at this time. So, instead, I stand with my hands on my hips, looking around the room, thinking of how I’m going to change the topic.

“Well, who buys someone a guinea pig when I specifically asked for a Vietnamese pig.”

“Wasn’t it dressed in a Vietnamese headdress?”

“Yes, but does that make it a pig, no?” I take a couple steps closer to the fridge. “And plus it was shitting all the time.”

“This is coming from the girl who likes the smell of sewage plants”

“When did I ever say that?” I ask, opening the fridge door. “I said, I don’t mind it, I’m not gagging when we drive by it – I can tolerate it.”

My mother stops peeling the potato in her hand and places it down while she stares at me.

“I cannot believe you killed an animal.”

“I didn’t kill it,” I say, opening the fridge with mind calculating what I could make with a jar of pickles and a red pepper, “it committed suicide.”


My friend slams her fist on the table in victory, “I knew you killed it!” 

“Can you let me tell the full story?”

My friend takes a sip of her tea, smiling.


“Natasha, how can a guinea pig commit suicide?” My mother asks.

I ignore her question and continue looking through the fridge, what can I make with a jar of pickles and a red pepper?

“Mom, listen, I need to tell you what happened. You know Clarisse, she was shitting everywhere. Like, the house was filled with her shit, I couldn’t handle it anymore. People come over, play with her but I’m left with the shit. And I know you don’t think I clean, but I was cleaning her shit every day. So, that day, like every other day, I put her cage outside on the balcony while I was vacuuming because she was scared of loud noises.” I place the jar of pickles on the counter. “I guess the door of her cage just happened to be unlocked and when I came to take her back inside, her cage was empty.”

“Oh my god, Natasha. The poor thing jumped off the balcony, terrified.”

With a pickle in my hand, I take a bite, “Don’t they have depth perception? Don’t guinea pigs come with that?” I take another bite of the pickle. “You’d think that was just a natural instinct.”

My mother puts the knife down and turns to me, like a detective discovering the hidden clue, “you put her on the balcony on purpose.”

I lick the pickle juice off of my fingers, “did I know there were pigeons on the balcony? Yes. Did I hope one would eat her? Ehhh”.

My mother shakes her head and gets up from her chair with a bowl of freshly peeled potatoes in her hand. I take a step towards her to grab the bowl of potatoes, she jerks away from me, “I can’t look at you right now.”

“What? I was just being honest!”

“I hope you buried her.”

I stand in silence, turning around to go back to slicing the red pepper.

“You did bury her.”

My brother walks into the kitchen, wearing a white wife-beater and gray sweatpants. He takes a bite from the half eaten apple in his hand.

“She threw her in the trash after leaving her in a cookie jar for a week on the balcony.”

I stare at my brother as he gets a glass of water.

“You did what!”

My brother has his back leaning against the sink, with a glass in one hand and an apple in the other.

“Yeah, she sent her guinea pig to die.” He says, putting his glass on the counter. “What’s even a better question, why didn’t you just put her in another room while vacuuming?”

I shoot my brother a look. He takes a slow bite of his apple while keeping eye contact.

I stare at him without flinching, “Because she needed to get some air.”

My mother placed her hands over her mouth gasping, “you murdered her.”

“Why does everyone keep using the word murder?” I say, placing a piece of red pepper on top of a sliced pickle, perfection. My mother and brother continue speaking, but I don’t hear anything. I’m thinking about red peppers and pickles, how two opposites foods blend in my mouth so delightfully.

 


“On the bright side, there’s no more shit”. I mumble to myself.

“What?” my friend says, leaning over the table.

“Shit. There’s no more shit.”

How to go on a road trip with your 75-year-old roommate

“You come with a-me on holiday tomorrow a-morning?” the words struggled through the lips of my 75-year-old Italian roommate, Dina. She sat on the other end of the table with a napkin laid out in front of her that was safely holding her sliced marinated eggplant – her chubby, wrinkly fingers dripping in olive oil. As she waits for my answer, she licks the olive oil off of the tip of her thumb.

I look up from my salad.

“Ahhhh,” I  pause, thinking of the appropriate hand gesture, “Okay. Where?” I ask as I furrow my brow and point around the room with my fork in my hand.

Dina points to the ceiling.

I’m not sure what that means.

“Okay, I come with you,” nodding and smiling in agreement.

“We go nine and thirty morning,” she says with an appetizing smile.

“Okay, grazie,” I take an oversized mouthful of lettuce.

I hit my alarm. 9:00 am. I grab an old gym bag and fill it with things I’ll be needing. Toothbrush. Ipod. Journal. Water bottle. An Apple.

I sit at the kitchen table with my bag, waiting for Dina. The bathroom door opens, and the pattering of tiny footsteps are heard coming my way. At the kitchen door, Dina appears, completely naked. I try to focus on her face with a neutral expression indicating how normal I think this situation is. Dina is a short strong woman, with red-framed glasses and a gray pixie cut. Her breasts are eye-level to me, however, to avoid staring, I tilt my head slightly upwards. But through my peripherals, I can see that they look incredibly smooth and perky which has my curiosity changing from why she’s standing in front of me naked, to how she maintains such luminosity and lift at her age. I’m also experiencing quick spurts of jealousy. In comparison, my breasts were developed through genetic laziness. It seems that my genetic evolution became tiring and my body said, screw it, and slapped on two pepperoni slices on my chest, calling it a day. My neck is straining as I wait for Dina to say something. She finishes staring at the ceiling, pondering in silence, she turns around and walks away.

Ten minutes later, Dina has three large bags by the door. We make our way downstairs, and she opens the trunk of her car. I cannot describe this romantically – she’s a mess. Shoes, sweaters, a spare tire, cookie crumbs – thrown and squeezed into every nook and cranny of her Fiat Pinto.

I get into the passenger seat, Dina starts the car and makes the slowest U-turn I have ever sat through. Half way out of Turin, she realizes she forgot her cell phone charger. She makes a u-turn back to the apartment. She runs upstairs and grabs it, gets back in the car and turns on the radio, playing Manu Chau. She makes an effort to sing along, only blurting out the words she can identify – marijuana and zion.

An hour into the drive, we’re on a winding, Italian mountain road. She slows the car down, speculating a questionable dirt road, hidden by some trees – we go up it. The houses become sparse and we’re left with only countryside surrounding us. We pull up to a large gate. She rolls down her window and rings the buzzer. A dog barks, the gate opens. A small and slender old woman pops her head out and waves us in. We park the car inside an old barn, and I get out to introduce myself. The old woman is Lenna. She’s 83-years old, partially deaf and has three tumors in her brain. She’s wearing a pink long-sleeve shirt that has the phrase “just try and judge me” written on the chest, with a bright blue vest over top.

“Go,” waving her hands in the air,  “be free,” Dina says to me as she grabs some bags and heads into the house.

I’m left standing in the barn alone. I grab a lawn chair and go to the backyard which overlooks a winery. I take off my shirt, and lather on some sunscreen in an attempt to remove my tan lines that are visible from last summer’s tan. Laying down, the sun slowly whispers sweet nothings into my ear and I doze off. I awake with a stream of drool seeping through the corner of my mouth and Lenna, standing over top of me applying lotion to my breasts.

I wipe the drool from my mouth, and quickly grab my breasts while anxiously stuttering, “I have crema — no problemo, grazie..”.

Lenna can’t hear me. I repeat my sentence loud and slowly while I casually lather the glob of lotion she smothered onto my chest. I continue to repeat my sentence slowly, now miming the word “sunscreen”. As I mime the sun, behind Lenna, I see the large bird poke it’s head over the fence. I screamed and grabbed my breasts even harder, worried that this giant bird may mistake them for mushy peas or corn. Lenna turns around, looks at the bird, looks back at me and jolts towards me, cawing.

I mumble to myself in confusion and fear, “th-that’s not a crow, Lenna, that’s an ostrich”.

Lenna’s neighbour has a free-range ostrich that is twice the size of the wooden makeshift fence that’s dividing us. Lenna walks away and I remain lying on the lawn chair, staring at the ostrich, suspicious of its every move, however, at the same time, fighting the temptation to retreat inside.

“You don’t intimidate me,” I mumble to the ostrich, my hands folded across my chest. It stares back in silence. “You think you’re something special cause you’re free-range? I just became vegan, I haven’t eaten meat in three weeks, I’m in the relapse phase – watch yourself”.

The stare down between me and the ostrich lasted well until the sun fell behind the barn walls. I slowly got up from the lawn chair and left my nemesis outside to go eat dinner.

Dina, Lenna and myself are seated at the dining room table. The walls are bright orange and covered in an excessive amount of bright blue Italian plates. A bowl of pasta sits in the middle of the table, with an even larger bowl of sliced bread beside it. Lenna grabs a handful of bread and places it beside her bowl. Dina starts speaking in Italian, my eyes glaze over and I revert into my bowl of pasta.

“PANE! PANE!” a voice screams out from the dinner table.

I jolt and look up expecting one out of the two to have died face first into their pasta bowl. I quickly find out that both are alive and well, Lenna has simply run out of bread. She continues yelling until I reach for the bread bowl and pass it to her. She takes a handful of bread, puts one in her mouth and breathes slowly. I put the bread bowl down slowly, looking around the table – everyone continues eating as normal.

I decide that this moment in order to prevent early signs of aging,  I’m going home in the morning.

“Dina,” I call out. I get no reply.

“Dina!” I say a little louder. Dina looks up from her plate.

“Si?” she asks.

“Tomorrow, I go home. I skype for job, ” I slowly explain to her in broken English. While waiting for her to process the sentence, I realize that though this excuse is true, it’s also a great one and I must save it for future terminations.

“Oh, okay, no problem,” Dina replies.

I’m waiting by the front door with my things packed. Dina comes wearing a baby blue velvet tracksuit and crocs, swinging the car keys around her finger. Lenna comes down the stairs, dressed in a cherry-red suit. She starts yelling, pointing at her hands, indicating that she needs the batteries of her hearing aids to be changed. I stare at the hearing aids in my hand, this is it.  I change the batteries on her hearing aids , the screeching from the hearing aids indicates that they’re working. Lenna can now hear.

We get into the car and drive to the train station. At the train station, all three of us are standing in front of the train schedule. Dina and Lenna are arguing over what time my train will arrive. I point to the screen, explaining to them that the train arrives in five minutes. They stare at the screen for a moment, reading out loud each line together. They conclude that I’m not an idiot as they both nod in agreement, hug me and leave.

After the train ride, I arrive home, put my things down on the floor and lay on my bed. I grab my computer, open google and type, “how to stop aging” and “why do hearing aids screech when you turn them on?”. I wait for the pages to load.