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By Nadia Ghent

I think, therefore I am, but if I don’t think then I am not: Descartes knew what he was talking about, but he had it backwards: sum ergo cogito, I am because I think, and making the thinking stop means that I will not be, the “I am” cut out of my heart, spreading my body into nothingness, and I can feel the blindfold tight against my eyes, and it is one a.m. and I am crossing Flatbush Avenue not seeing, not thinking, soon not being, it is a fabric, a shroud, a crown I wear like a cowboy kerchief across my face, I am King Harold of the Rough Riders, and the boys in the neighborhood make me out to be a sissy because I am soft and yielding and left-handed and I play the guitar, not Elvis but Johann Sebastian Bach, and I won’t ever be an ironworker like my father Lester and his crew of Iroquois and Mohawk walking in the sky on twelve-inch girders looking down at the world below from skyscraper skeletons, the linchpin on their tool belts releasing them when they fall, but they are not even as brave as I am, I am not a sissy because nobody else has ever walked across Flatbush Avenue blindfolded before, and I am here doing it right now, I can hear the traffic roar, cars honking even now so late, I know it is dark even though there must be a moon that I can’t see through the blindfold, but I can feel the streetlights shining down in photons of brilliance that illuminate me like God himself, I wish I could see what I look like with a divine halo, and I wonder what Mary Mother of God thinks about me, her lover boy, but the cars won’t see me when I cross, the Saturday night boys out for beer and girls, engines revving, those fantastic fins cutting, thrusting, shoving aside the hot night air, inside those dicks ride their thrones, foot on the gas foot on the gas foot on the gas, it’s not just a thrum but a roar the engine makes underneath the chassis, I can feel the vibrations on the pavement, and if I can hear it, it means that I am not yet nothing, but soon I will be nothing, Descartes never thought about the future, and I feel the blindfold which is actually mama’s hankie I stole from her top drawer because Lester’s don’t smell as nice, and I smell the dust, the exhaust, the oil leaking onto the manifold, the dirt smell of cars moving like souls across the desert looking for Jesus in a palm tree mirage, fast, hot, loud, and it is time to take a step, I dare myself to take a step, a dare is not an intersection but a straight line between two points in a plane which exists in space, in the universe the closest distance between two points is a line, but this is another axis, the function of which is to float above the “y” axis in the space above my steps, and each step will take me higher across Flatbush Avenue, I will be climbing up St. Peter’s ladder, by the time I get to the other side my feet won’t touch the pavement anymore, O Charon no need for the boat, I will float above, I will step with the lightness of grace over each car as it speeds down toward what used to be my body, since I will be nothing, the cars will all pass through me, a transubstantiation like the Jesuits taught me, the sinister in my left hand in this world can go by any other name, I am ready.

Nadia Ghent studied literature at Brown University and violin performance at the Manhattan School of Music and was a violinist for a long time but decided she had things to say and some of the things she has said have been published in Slag Glass City, Talking Writing, Solstice Literary Magazine, and Necessary Fiction, and she keeps on talking and writing while she works on a lyric memoir about music, parenthood, grief, and mental illness.

Art by Nick Botka, who lives in the Northwest, where he makes trippy visuals and runs a tape label.

By Sarah Kilch Gaffney

We are a little over three months out from my husband’s deployment (his first since I’ve known him), and I don’t know if the dog is sick or if her age is just catching up with her, and it is high summer in the thick of the pandemic that shut everything down a few weeks after our youngest daughter’s birth, and we are picking blackberries and cherry tomatoes by the fistful, but I felt my heart collapse halfway through the day and I haven’t yet recovered, so tonight I put frozen chicken nuggets in the microwave while my husband finished up a shift in the ICU and I juggled the children and threw food from the fridge into the trash because I couldn’t remember how old it was, and I tried to remember that a year is not forever (and that I know actual forever intimately), and that I know in my head he’s more likely to die in a car accident any day on 295, or maybe even be struck by lightning, but the rogue cells in my first husband’s brain and our daughter giving him one last kiss in a hospital bed have left me little belief in odds or likelihoods or just the default thought that things will work out and everything will be okay, and now the baby is pink and sweaty in the evening heat, and she coos while the three-year-old screams, and the dragonflies in the yard swoop voraciously through the watercolor sky while I pour dishwater into the sink.

Sarah Kilch Gaffney is a writer, brain injury advocate, and homemade caramel aficionado living in Maine.

Photo by Jeff Kallet.

By Genia Blum

When my boyfriend came home that morning, there was no yelling, no hitting back, no sound or motion on my part, only a barely perceptible rise and fall of the chest and a slight fluttering of my nostrils; probably why—in an unexpected act of kindness from someone who’d once prevented me from seeing a doctor after he’d broken my nose—he delivered me to the E.R.; but only after procrastinating all day, so it was too late to pump out my stomach, and every molecule of every pill I’d swallowed was coursing through my bloodstream and flooding my brain, allowing me to see things that normally remain hidden; like the host of celestial beings who coaxed and coerced me into consciousness, luring me toward light and back into darkness, caressing and coddling, until I awakened in dull twilight, lying on a gurney as walls and ceilings rushed by; and when I grasped at the wings of passing angels, their white feathers dissolved in my hands, as I was now one of the resurrected, no longer deserving of mercy, attended only by Satan, who tore away the sheets and shoved a bedpan beneath me.

Genia Blum is a Swiss Ukrainian Canadian writer, translator and dancer whose work has received a Best of the Net and several Pushcart Prize nominations as well as a “Notable” mention in The Best American Essays 2019, and who haunts Twitter as @geniablum when not tweaking fonts on her website

Photo by Julian Blum.

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