Entropy As Islands As Stars
New Madrid Journal
And yet, entropy loomed. It would soon land: the piano, the hammer, the million little punches, the blade of the guillotine, the unmade bed, the roosting chickens, karma’s bitch slap, the rock and the hard place, the bottom line, the crow, the humble pie, and a million other cliches that said things got bad and better at the same time. The myth which insisted that matter falling apart was not moving toward something larger, like islands or stars.
Alcohol enclosed slowly. Indifferent to it throughout high school and college, I was busy with the good girl rat race—sports teams, honor societies, early admissions, and all-one-length chestnut locks, parted in the middle, and tucked behind my
ears. At parties in the woods, I rarely drank, content instead with the occasional thrill of a boy’s lizard tongue in my mouth, Led Zeppelin pulsing in my ears, or for a sudden swirl of flashlights and adrenaline, the town cops tracking us through an old
cemetery as we streaked toward our parents’ sedans and minivans.
Not a Place on Any Map
The New Mexico Review
They sound like the words the father might repeat on a Dateline special, after some terrible accident, after his daughter has been left in pieces for the desert coyotes. “She just wanted to let me know she’d made it to Blythe,” the father might say ruefully, searching for some meaning in a last phone call.
The Right to Remain
Best American Essays Notable, 2016
Nominated by The Rumpus Editors for a Pushcart Prize, 2015
I got a job as a cocktail waitress at a velvety hotel lounge, around the corner from some or other filming location of The Maltese Falcon, where I balanced silver trays overhead and played the role of wry and mysterious bon vivant. The lounge hired only girls with a certain look, and this heady knowledge carried me off to a place of ego from which there was no easy return. I began to drink Fernet Branca, champagne, pricey tequila, and aperitifs and digestifs that I’d only ever seen people drink in old movies. I was 24, and insufferable. While I see this headiness now as an optimism reserved for the young, I see it also as a kind of privilege, for unconsciousness is privilege.
An Alternative or Supplemental History (excerpt of memoir-in-progress)
You can’t remember how you got lost, the details. How you got to that liminal no-place between the dead and the living. Off the map. From friends and family you were unreachable. You had to get lost to return. You can’t remember the car accident and arrest. Only that you came back on the map at Interstate 610 and San Felipe in Houston, Texas. There you said find me.
Remembering the Cockroaches: On Doubt in Creative Nonfiction
Passages North: Writers on Writing
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying facts don’t matter or that the truth is too abstract a thing to reach for. We should reach for it. But we might also regard capital-T truth as a kind of chimera of memory, sensorial detritus, and intention. If we are honest about our lives, we and they are full of uncertainty. Often, memory is not what actually or empirically happened, but the story we tell ourselves of what happened. Or what could have happened.
The Geography of Consolation
New Millennium Writings Nonfiction Winner, Spring 2014
The truth is the geography is always changing—- inside and out—- whether from dramatic events or to a geological beat, and if we are not paying attention, we could miss everything. We could wake up in a strange land, strangers to ourselves.
April 17, 2014
A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Obsessive Compulsive
Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog
I radiated pride (and fake humbleness) as the teacher handed out my star paper, throughout which I had parroted the prior week’s vocab words (ignominy, bildungsroman, Byronic hero), but other than this one glittering paper, I had no reason to believe I could be a writer. I resisted writing, for one.
Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction
But of course there is a deeper reason for my resistance: I have been to jail. I spent 749 days in the Texas criminal justice system following a 2005 arrest for felony drunk driving. Drunk on red wine, I ran a red light and crashed into three other cars at a busy Houston intersection. A woman in one of the other cars broke her leg and underwent multiple nightmarish surgeries three days before her wedding. It was wrenching to have caused someone that kind of pain, and to imagine it could have been worse. As it was, it was life-changing.
Arrivals: An Autobiography
In composition I am doing everything right—my leg extension, my head tilt and calculated side smile, but there is nothing in my eyes. My light is all wrong.
July 1, 2013
Playing By the Rules: White Privilege and Rachel Jeantel
By way of some magical alchemy of interracial dating, a lifelong love of black music, and a good liberal education with a reading list calibrated toward writers of color, I believed that I didn’t have any unacknowledged whiteness or racial or class entitlements. I had been anointed, absolved, made clean—maybe even made nonwhite or racially neutral. In a word, I had been made into an asshole.
March 5, 2013
The Ultimate Guide to Not Letting the AWP Do You
Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog
My plan was breezy and vague: oh, I dunno—find some authentic deep-dish, go to a few panels, say smart things, be charming, and have literary types fall in love with me. If there’s time, wrangle a book deal.
A Decent Happiness
Nominated for Sundress Best of the Net and a Pushcart Prize
I played a little game with myself in the front seat of our station wagon. I counted up to sixty and scanned for jack rabbits. I took furtive sips of the cool canyon air. One. Two. Three…..Seventeen….C’mon, bunny…let me see you. I held my breath. I counted. I saw three jack rabbits in 1982.
August 6, 2008
Life After Jail
I had on the same plaid trousers and pink cashmere sweater I’d been wearing in court on the day I was sentenced, an ensemble that earned me the nickname “teach” in the holding tank. The pants, which had fit perfectly then, now hung lank over my hipbones. I had lost 15 pounds, the one perk of being incarcerated.