“I woke a few hours later too hot, stifling in the bedclothes. I switched on the lamp beside the bed. R. slept so deeply I never had to worry about waking him on the nights I couldn’t sleep, when I spent hours beside him reading or writing. But this time he did wake, or half wake, as I lay with a book propped on my stomach, he turned toward me and linked his arm through mine before settling back into sleep, his face pressed against my shoulder. I looked at him for a long moment before going back to my book. They could make a whole life, I thought, surprised to think it, these moments that filled me up with sweetness, that had changed the texture of existence for me. I had never thought anything like it before.”
—“The Frog King,” Garth Greenwell
“Please have some sympathy with me,” Mr. Khieu Samphan said forlornly. “I need to have some rest.”
—“‘We Only Killed the Bad People’: 2 Khmer Rouge Leaders, Forever Linked,” Seth Mydans
“The story got heavy play on the trade sites, and Isaac, the ex-stepson whose career had benefitted from the mentorship of a monster, waited, perhaps irrationally, for the axe to fall. A few times he indulged in the literal side of the formulation, pictured the arc of the executioner’s blade, its glint in the noonday sun, and Isaac’s shaved head plopping into a basket, his final physical sensation slightly splintered wicker pressed against his cheek.
“Nina wanted to know why he kept touching his face.”
—“Show Recent Some Love,” Sam Lipsyte
“The Point was the same—their arrival down the long gravel road through the shade of oak and pine so beautiful it tipped Nancy off-balance and she never quite righted herself. The wind banged the screen doors at night, the shades slapped the windows—as if something alive was trying to rouse them all from sleep. The boisterous parents down on the beach, the white sails drying on the lawns, the crumpled beer cans on the terrace wall, the cigarette butts extinguished in the clamshell halves—all of these adult things seemed to her a part of herself that had yet to happen, and she lived in apprehension of their occurrence.”
—“Spill the Wine,” Karen Brown
“Our parents and those older than us disapprove of the way we bring up our children. They would like us to lie to our children as they lied to us. They would like our children to play with woolly toys in pretty pink rooms with little trees and rabbits painted on the walls. They would like us to surround their infancy with veils and lies, and carefully hide the truth of things from them. But we cannot do this. We cannot do this to children whom we have woken in the middle of the night and tremblingly dressed in the darkness so that we could flee with them or hide them, or simply because the air-raid sirens were lacerating the skies. We cannot do this to children who have seen terror and horror in our faces.”
—Natalia Ginzburg, The Little Virtues
“I had gone to see her in Montreal just as soon as she’d moved there. That was late August. Twenty hours’ worth of Greyhound each way, and it was worth it: to be alone with her in a strange city (the Paris of Canada), to only know each other, to smoke Player’s with pictures of cancer or black heart on the packages. To stick our heads out onto the fire escape, to make dinner in her kitchenette, to drink liquor and have wild fucking arguments about different things—God, Oasis, my insufferable arrogance—whatever she felt like. We would get to screaming at one another, then fuck and sleep like young wolves in a shoe box. It was like a dream. And like in dreams I didn’t get to stay. And neither did she. Something to do with money. She dropped out and moved back to Elba. She rented an apartment and got a job at Giant Eagle. She was waiting for spring semester to start up at the local school.”
—Nico Walker, Cherry
If you ever woke in your dress at 4am ever
closed your legs to a man you loved opened
them for one you didn’t moved against
a pillow in the dark stood miserably on a beach
seaweed clinging to your ankles paid
good money for a bad haircut backed away
from a mirror that wanted to kill you bled
into the back seat for lack of a tampon
if you swam across a river under rain sang
using a dildo for a microphone stayed up
to watch the moon eat the sun entire
ripped out the stitches in your heart
because why not if you think nothing &
no one can / listen I love you joy is coming
—“To the Woman Crying Uncontrollably in the Next Stall,” Kim Addonizio
“We live 26,000 light-years from the center of the Milky Way. That’s a rounding error by cosmological standards, but still — it’s far. When the light now reaching Earth from the galactic center first took flight, people were crossing the Bering Strait land bridge, hunting woolly mammoths along the way.
“The distance hasn’t stopped astronomers from drawing a fairly accurate map of the heart of the galaxy. We know that if you travel inbound from Earth at the speed of light for about 20,000 years, you’ll encounter the galactic bulge, a peanut-shaped structure thick with stars, some nearly as old as the universe. Several thousand light-years farther in, there’s Sagittarius B2, a cloud a thousand times the size of our solar system containing silicon, ammonia, doses of hydrogen cyanide, at least ten billion billion billion liters of alcohol and dashes of ethyl formate, which tastes like raspberries. Continue inward for another 390 light-years or so and you reach the inner parsec, the bizarro zone within about three light-years of the galactic center. Tubes of frozen lightning called cosmic filaments streak the sky. Bubbles of gas memorialize ancient star explosions. Gravity becomes a foaming sea of riptides. Blue stars that make our sun look like a marble go slingshotting past at millions of miles per hour. Space becomes a bath of radiation; atoms dissolve into a fog of subatomic particles. And near the core, that fog forms a great glowing Frisbee that rotates around a vast dark sphere. This is the supermassive black hole at the core of the Milky Way, the still point of our slowly rotating galaxy. We call it Sagittarius A*….
“Astronomical images have a way of putting terrestrial concerns in perspective. Headlines may portend the collapse of Western civilization, but the black hole doesn’t care. It has been there for most of cosmic history; it will witness the death of the universe. In a time of lies, a picture of our own private black hole would be something true. The effort to get that picture speaks well of our species: a bunch of people around the world defying international discord and general ascendant stupidity in unified pursuit of a gloriously esoteric goal. And in these dark days, it’s only fitting that the object of this pursuit is the darkest thing imaginable.
“Avery Broderick, a theoretical astrophysicist who works with the Event Horizon Telescope, said in 2014 that the first picture of a black hole could be just as important as ‘Pale Blue Dot,’ the 1990 photo of Earth that the space probe Voyager took from the rings of Saturn, in which our planet is an insignificant speck in a vast vacuum. A new picture, Avery thought, of one of nature’s purest embodiments of chaos and existential unease would have a different message: It would say, There are monsters out there.”
—“How Do You Take a Picture of a Black Hole? With a Telescope as Big as the Earth,” Seth Fletcher