Author: Rebecca Meng

Rebecca Meng lives in New Jersey. She can be found on Twitter and Tumblr.

Earshot

Tell me, what are you supposed to do when you’re strolling on the Highline and the couple walking behind you decides to break up within a span of ten blocks?

You’d only been vaguely listening to their chatter — the benefits of graduate school, someone’s weird party, ways to poach an egg. But then you hear the woman say I think we should end this. You pause for a moment to wonder if you heard it right, and then you realize that the man has paused too so you think This can’t be good just as he’s asking Did you really bring me up here to say that?


An emphatic Damn nearly escapes your lips and you can feel the rhythm of their steps keeping time with your own. She coolly answers, It’s as good of a place as any. You’re dying to turn around and see who these people are but you can’t — one of them is bound to be staring at your swinging ponytail at this very moment. The boardwalk is too narrow and crowded to move to the side and you don’t want to risk losing them in the stream of people.

The conversation turns to I’ll take my stuff out of the apartment and Some of my books are probably mixed in with yours. You think That’s it? It can’t all end, just like that? The silences hurt and you feel like a kid whose parents are getting divorced. But you aren’t their kid, you’re just another person caught within earshot.

In the space between strained mutterings you grow self-conscious of each step on the wooden slats, keeping your gait even and wondering if they suspect your involvement. As you’re passing a stairwell that leads down to the street you hear the man’s voice: I’m going to go. I’ll see you at home, I guess. You hesitate but you can still sense her behind you so you keep walking. She might be crying, you don’t know. You only know that he’s not there anymore.

The Highline is less crowded at this end; it’s your chance to look. You stop for the old tie-your-shoe trick but you’re wearing sandals so you just scratch a mosquito bite on your ankle. When you look up, there are several girls who could be her — young and alone, just like you.

Ankles in the Hudson

The boys took off all of their clothes and ran into the Hudson River. It was like a scene in a coming-of-age movie, except we had all already come of age. They splashed around until I couldn’t hear them anymore. I cracked open a watermelon in the dirt and didn’t have to worry about flies because the wind was so strong. The lights of the bridge and its massive steel beams took up most of the sky and I couldn’t stop staring. I stayed, waiting for the boys to finish playing, to escort me out of the park, back over the Henry Hudson Parkway to the surety of city streets. I was used to signs and lights and going about on my own. But stranded on the wrong side of the highway, the noise of the cars up beyond the trees, I watched them in the river and thought about how easy it would be to swim to the other side. Later, while they warmed themselves at the fading barbeque and ate the flesh off dirty watermelon rinds, I went over to the bank and took my shoes off. The sand was eerily soft, not like beach sand, but like mud or memory foam. I walked in to my ankles. The muck helped me stand my ground. I got dizzy. The currents. They begged me out, into the pull of the river, the bridge, the shores of New Jersey.

Dark Water

I feel soft sitting on the beach, watching the dark water roll in.
The wind is cold but the sun makes it okay.
She is sleeping now. Her body is coated in sand
Like a chicken cutlet drenched then dipped in breadcrumbs.
And her dress is hiked up, exposing blue cotton underwear and dark swirls of hair
On her upper thighs. Hand tucked under her chin and thumb pressed
Against her lips as if she were about to suck it like a baby.
I get up to wet my feet. The hem of my dress grazes the waves and when I come back
I look at her again, nestled into the beach like any dune or patch of seagrass.
She’s repositioned her arms, and there is a
Thumbprint of sand on her lower lip
From where her hand used to be.

Basic Drawing

The 6:30 Drawing class at the Artists’ League. It was a terrible idea and she knew it. Gary had let it slip that the model John left her for was named Sarah or Samantha; he couldn’t remember which. Maria figured she would know in her gut when she saw the woman, naked on a pedestal, swaying by the millimeter to keep her balance.

“It’s not healthy,” all of her friends said.

“Fuck healthy, I’m angry,” was Maria’s reply.

She only wanted to see her. She wasn’t going to do anything. And so she signed up for Basic Figure Drawing and waited the month until her six-week session began. The League still hadn’t cashed the check. Maria called several times to make sure they had received it. She was registered, the woman on the phone assured her. They probably wouldn’t get around to processing the payment until after the first day of class.

Maria arrived early and wandered the dingy halls, peaking into classrooms and reading flyers taped to the wall. There were a lot of homemade ads for furniture and different computer things she didn’t understand. A green flyer advertised an “experienced critical eye.” She saw what looked like a “critical eye” in one of the classrooms. They weren’t even drawing. They just sat in a clump around a man with silvery hair and pink skin. When people passed by she smiled and made eye contact. She didn’t want to show that she was lurking.

They went around the room introducing themselves. The metal stools were rickety and uncomfortable so some people just stood and some leaned awkwardly instead of sitting. Maria found a balance at the top of her stool, legs tucked neatly beneath her. When it was her turn she said to them, “My name is Maria. I’m a yoga instructor. And I’ve always wanted to improve my drawing skills.”

She was not a yoga instructor. She did administrative work at a law firm. But everyone else had interesting professions, or at least they said they did.

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