She lived in the house at the end of the cul-de-sac, the one with the three-car garage and the sycamore tree at the corner of the yard. She wore designer stilettos everywhere she went, the click of the heel a herald of her arrival. She baked cookies for church each week and taught the second grade Sunday school class. Perfume radiated off her like sunshine on a spring morning, loud enough in my nose she was with me when I went to bed every night.

From where I stood, her life looked simple. Her husband was tax attorney, an unremarkable…

She was alive in America as the end began.

She was only a child then. Her days were spent in classrooms, where the teachers didn’t talk about the food shortages or strange sickness. Her nights were spent dancing on the lawn with her mother, the blades of yellow grass prickling the soles of her feet. The stars would roll into place to light their performance and the crickets gathered as their orchestra. When the girl’s eyes grew heavy, her mother would usher her in to bed, then wind the music box on the nightstand.

“Sing me a song, mommy,” the…

Phoebe was ten years old the first time her father ran away from home.

It was the Sunday after he’d given a sermon on the parable of the lost sheep. She always said she remembered because she was drawing pictures of sheep on the leaflet with the tiny pencils used to fill out the visitor cards. When her mother saw this, she put the pencil in her pink leather purse, then got down in Phoebe’s face and said, “This is not how good girls behave.” Her perfume was thick, to cover the scent of cigarettes on her breath.​

“Let us…

She was just a college kid padding a resume, but in his memory, she was much more. There was a mixtape tattoo on her right forearm because she lived and breathed music. She loved the ways a mixtape was like a time capsule, carrying the past into the future. It made her sad nobody seemed to make them much anymore.

He was a kid — a punk — or at least he wanted to be, so he wore black t-shirts and liked his music fast and loud and angry. He didn’t have any tattoos because he wanted to be an…

There are Christmas songs on the radio, but the snow lining the median is a sick grey color. We’re ghosts and we glide down the highway, lit only by the overhead streetlights and our nostalgia. It’s late and neither of us feel like sleeping. We drive instead.

“Midnight Mass was stupid this year,” she says from the passenger seat while scanning the radio for something that isn’t bullshit.


“I don’t know. Just was.”

I don’t say anything as she looks out the window.

“Christmas feels different now,” she says.

“How would you know? …

He tells me to smile, but I don’t. I’m too busy trying to figure out how to kill him.

“Tell me a story,” I say as I lean against the headboard and light a cigarette. He stands, buttoning his shirt. The sheets are still warm and we’re both breathing heavy.

“Not tonight.” He doesn’t even turn around. I consider asking again, but I’m not in the mood to play mind games with him. “Fine,” is all I say as he stares in the mirror and struggles with his tie.

“Are we still on for tomorrow night?” …

Late at night, when all the lights were out, I would sit by my window, watching the world twenty-three stories below and waiting in nervous anticipation for the woman in the building across the alley to appear in the frame of her window. …

I have the strange urge for it to be summer. I’m beating myself with nostalgia. I’m rooting around in my past again, something I’ve sworn time and time again I would never do. But I find myself remembering. I find myself wanting to go back.

Back to the goodbyes. Back to the parties. Back to stuffing people in the trunk of my car and watching them try to escape in the rearview mirror while cruising at 35 miles an hour. Back to jumping to the swimming pools fully clothed. Back to the last show, the last chords, the last mosh…

“I heard you were back in town,” she says as she closes the car door and steps into the light streaming from the overhead streetlamps. The tiny parking lot is empty apart from his car, parked several lanes away from hers. “What’re you doing here?”

He turns his head from his sprawled position on the back of his car to look at her, the cigarette glowing as it illuminates the smoke encircling his head.

“What’s it look like?” he snaps at her, an unfamiliar edge in his voice. She notices the irony in the words printed on the front of…

joshua chamberlain

joshua chamberlain is a writer and artist based in los angeles.

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