Church in a Mall

PHOTO: Shravan Vijayabaskaran, Unsplash

I think he begged, or I called. I can’t remember.

But the worship team arrived, putting on their service smiles and filling up the awkward silence with their white man bullshit, the gardening stuff ordinary people say to ward off evil spirits.

I couldn’t. Two more days, so I told them off. I said all of the things I could not say. I looked the paper pastor dead in the eyes, the one who seemed to want me inside of him, and denied his church three times, just to be clear. His wife looked away, glancing down at her 1,904 friends — an arm’s length away from redemption.

The rage shook until I freed it with my verbal dagger aimed straight into their hearts. I remember clenching so hard one of my teeth broke free, then I left them with their shock and outrage, and him to make his polite apologies. Such a familiar story.

I walked into a random not-so-random store where Christina showed me around the Pandora’s box. She took the trinket I not-so-accidentally held onto.

None of it mattered. They’re currently on a boat, bathed in the glorious light of His unconditional conditional love.



PHOTO: Gaelle Marcel, Unsplash

Boots on the ground. Someone asks for breakfast. All I can find are one or two eggs sitting on the counter at this favorite diner in the middle of Tokyo Town in the Mid-West. I look down on my eggs frying in an ashtray, as the old Japanese lady lay dying by the open window 12 feet away.

She ran the diner with a firm, gentle hand, singing out her bento orders, surrounded by the small talk of young people ready for bigger things. Small and frail, she would always make room for me, saying my name in Broken English, “Ca-dole” very carefully.

On Fridays, I’d find pink, heart-shaped mochi in my pocket on the way out.

I could feel her last breath fill the room as the sound of those boots pounded in my head, surrounded by the love of the weak and the helpless, drained by compassion. I am sickened by my servile design, desperately searching for another egg that will not crack the yolk. I am running out of time.

(But I only wanted to sit quietly by her makeshift bed, with a handful of the others, waiting to die.)


PHOTO: Derek Liang, Unsplash

Dear Diary,

I had that dream again, the one where I run for my life — what’s left of it.

Like Bobby Axelrod in “Billions,” he went to all the places he knew I’d go, waiting around for me in Maui at the end of our chapter.

I ran because I broke his precious laptop, the one that cost him so much time and money to jury rig. I was doomed the moment I stood up, pulled the gray metal box away from him, then carefully, intentionally slammed it against the hardest part of the nearest wall.

I heard little tiny pieces of glass shatter inside the machine, as I eyed the nearest exit. Before he could rise and roar, I left the room grabbing my purse.

Suddenly, as he stood waiting to mafia me somewhere between Lahaina and Kaanapali, I sat huddled in the corner of a random bus. The tail end of a parade passed, green and white leis, a waft of sweet through the half-open window, reminding me of eighth grade. I dare not breathe deep. The Merrie Monarch Festival, in a blur. Keauhou, I must be close.

This would not do. I pictured myself in a nowhere town in the middle of Texas maybe, Nebraska, …

I woke up thinking about South Dakota. You never hear about South Dakota.

But there is no beach.

“Zealous in the beginning, unfaithful in the end.” —a recent sermon somewhere in Everett

The Time William Hurt Schooled Me in a Corridor

CORRIDOR PHOTO: Daniel Tseng, Unsplash

It was William Hurt, my college crush, staring at me in that way he did in all the movies I’d binge-watch.

He loomed over the room in a shadow, about to shoot from behind until I turned around to face him. With a mix of rage, frustration, and something I couldn’t identify until he spoke, this actor turned into every man I’d ever loved.

“You want to know why I’m still standing here when I’d rather end your life right now?”

He began to stroll, then crawl on his hands and knees toward me, narrating the story of my life in the footnotes and in parentheses… the extras I never noticed, taking me back to my first language.

These were flattering, surprising, perplexing revelations, dropped like flower petals that rotted at my feet as I backpedaled then scooted from one room into another when a casual conversation through the vents grew louder.

By the time he reached me, resolve disappeared, leaving him to show me physically in one, long, drawn-out affair I will never forget. The salty sea air, fresh linen breeze, moms hanging their shirts out to dry in the afternoon sun, and fresh paint, as he tried to warm my cold naked body with his mouth.

When he finished, laying there helpless — the dying eyes of the besotted — we both saw his penis oozing blood into a puddle next to three perfectly shaped tablets of pain pills.


PHOTO: Dev Benjamin, Unsplash

“Mail it now. In a few days, this world will go away.”

By the time they took his soul, in fleshy parts he never knew he had, a stranger with a smirk knocked on this strange silvery door (I just walked through) and handed me an innocent package. The brown paper box reminded me of freshly mowed lawns, Easter Egg hunts, and you blocking the noon in the desert between then and now.

Your rings, gold and worn, almost warm, I wear them now, waiting for the men in the gray coats and the foreign accents to come for me.



Even in my dreams I am initialing statements, hoarding books to put away. But for a brief moment, he was here lifting me as easily as a rag doll, his eyes shining, his laugh a warm compress for everything. His kisses… proof that I loved once.

For a brief moment, I felt undeniable, blinding happiness.

The pain now, almost unbearable. My body, a foreign object weighing me down.

I miss you.


PHOTO: Derek Truninger, Pittsburgh

For Jon …

obvious, by now he’s stationed himself directly in front of me naked save for the bass dangling around those long shoulders, those spider web fingers

in front of an audience of an even dozen, he pronounces my name, as if quoting Scripture, as if we are the only two people in this room outside — seconds before the first sounding notes

that naked laugh, I hear it in my head still as I lie awake, wishing I were back there, wishing I were the young, lithe girl he lifted in his skinny white-boy arms before sending me on my way to a scavenger hunt, where he knows I will sneak into the nearest fountain to wash my dirty hands, where he has a band mate shower my half-open blouse with perfectly geometrical ice cubes (because he likes the way my breasts look in the dying sunlight)

in this dream, I am someone else, another girl, his for the rest of time

in this life, I am nobody special other than the one who gave him one year’s worth of freedom