An Encyclopedia of Little Abominations

Emily Carter's flirtation with drugs led her from Park Avenue to a bad marriage with the festering streets of New York's Alphabet City. Now, in a collection of stories, Carter recalls the ABCs of addiction--and spells out the terms of a new life in Minnea

The Staten Island Ferry might be the least romantic vessel in New York City's fleet of public transportation. All day long it shuttles bone-weary commuters and automobiles from Manhattan to the borough that many New Yorkers would rather see go away. On a rare clear day, the trip offers unbeatable views, and more often than not, one finds a trigger-happy tourist or two braving the swill to get a glimpse of the city's gaudy skyline. On most occasions, however, the brackish arrival ports and swooping gulls erase any postcard images from the mind's, or camera's, eye. Smart folks go to the Statue of Liberty for their pictures.

In the mid-1980s, Emily Carter was one of the ferry's most loyal passengers. Born and raised in New York, Carter was not sightseeing on the cheap, nor did she live in Staten Island. Rather, the hulking barge had become her refuge from the world. "There were days when neither my friends nor my parents would let me into their houses," she says. "The only place I could go then was the Staten Island Ferry and I would just take it back and forth. I'd bring enough drugs and money and I would hide. I spent days on there getting progressively fucked up."

A decade later Carter tells this story from the bar of a Thai restaurant in Minneapolis's Warehouse District. Wearing a slinky black tank top, flame-red boots, and hip-hugging jeans, she doesn't quite fit in with the mid-afternoon bar set. In fact, from her go-go appearance, one might surmise, incorrectly, that she hasn't quite left the using life behind. Pulling on a Marlboro with dramatic flair, she grudgingly tosses off anecdotes of the drug life, a bomber over the ruins of Cambodia making one last run before turning the B-52 home. But she's not quite there yet.

Teddy Maki

Next week Carter will embark on the publicity tour for her debut collection of stories Glory Goes and Gets Some (published by Minneapolis's Coffee House Press), which lays out the aftermath of a dozen years spent abusing alcohol and drugs. While the book draws on Carter's experiences in recovery, the rehashing of what came before it--however painful that may be in its umpteenth retelling--looms as a necessary prologue. As a veteran of therapy--she started seeing a psychologist at age four--Carter certainly has the equipment for personal confession. But as a writer and a person who has fought to get to her current state of sobriety, she'd rather keep conversation in the literary realm.

"This little book is 11, 12 years worth of work. I'm glad to get it done, but you also can't imagine how, in some ways, embarrassing it is to have all these things I've written 8, 12 years ago. I am a totally different writer now." Carter, approaching age 40 with wisps of gray at her temples, was also a different person then. "I ran around looking like Valerie Solanas, a wretched little beatnik," Carter said in a Poz magazine profile two years ago. "I hung out at the Horseshoe Bar. A more obnoxious drink-cadging slut they never came in contact with, and there was stiff competition."

Though it's probably safe to say that no one's parents expect to see their tots turn into junkies, Carter's pedigree in particular would seem to have put her at a safe remove from the skuzzy dive bars of Manhattan's Alphabet City. Her mother, novelist and feminist thinker Anne Roiphe, descended from the Van Heusen family of clothiers. Carter's stepfather, Herman Roiphe (she never knew her biological father) is a well-known psychotherapist. Together her parents built a happy home off Park Avenue. In the words of her younger sister, cultural critic and author Katie Roiphe, "we had a sort of warm, chaotic household--two dogs, cats, five girls. We were a patched-together family of half sisters, stepsisters." Carter was destined to be the black sheep of this clan.

She acted out early, bouncing from one pricey Connecticut boarding school to the next and then right out of New York University. Attention deficit disorder and depression were the culprits, Carter says now. In retrospect, she believes her drug abuse was a way to cover up those two, often-linked, conditions. But the Band-Aid solution created an even worse problem: Carter's compulsion to drink was overwhelming. "I knew early on my reactions to them weren't the same as those in my peer group," Carter says coolly. "My attraction was much more intense. When I was 13 years old, I went to a party of much older kids and I was trying to tag along with my older sister. I got really, really drunk and woke up the next morning on the beach with some guy who was like 21. My feelings about it were not, 'Gee, I did something really foolish.' My first thought was, 'Where can I get more alcohol?' I liked the feeling that it gave me that much."

Throughout her 20s, Carter progressed from one drug to the next, from alcohol to cocaine, and then to heroin. But she also continued to write. To finance her habits--the writing and the drugs--she worked a variety of odd jobs, stole a painting out of her parents' living room and resold it to a gallery, and moonlighted as a stripper. (She eventually dabbled in trading sex for drugs.) Katie Roiphe remembers her sister's fleeting presence in these years: "She would sort of come back and leave, come back and leave. She seemed to me very glamorous and wild. I think she was always interested in me and my younger sister. I remember when I was little she wrote me this story with photos about our family. She was having a hard time."

Eventually, Carter realized that if she were going to survive--perhaps even recover--she would need treatment. Having deceived them for several years, Carter finally revealed to her parents that she was addicted to heroin. Though initially astounded, her parents soon turned disbelief into action, sending their daughter packing to the Hazelden clinic in Center City, Minnesota. She eventually got clean (after a painful relapse) but the effects of her use still remain. In addition to the turmoil she wreaked on her family, and herself, Carter tested positive for HIV in 1989, a disease she figures she contracted from a dirty needle. The list of other health issues looks like that of a war victim: "I now have a compromised immune system, a severed fallopian tube, holes in my nasal cartilage the size of dimes, a liver that's been exposed to hepatitis C virus, extreme fatigue at various times of day, smoker's cough and internal uterine scarring in the form of painful adhesions," she wrote in a column for Poz.

 

Unlike her body, the fiction Carter dredged from the rubble of these years appears to have emerged stronger for the battle. In roughly two dozen vignettes, Glory Goes and Gets Some brings to life Glory Bronski, a woman in her 30s, fresh out rehab, HIV positive, and looking to the future with a gimlet of pessimism. Though sugarcoated with humor, Glory's tales are an acid concoction. In the gritty opening sequence, "East on Houston," she teeters up and down an avenue in lower Manhattan--once a prime copping spot--wearing a borrowed red dress and dodging gibes from oversexed men. The indulgently raw tone sets the stage for everything that comes after. In later stories, Glory recounts her initial impressions of folks from Minnesota--the first people she's met who think before they speak--runs circles around a heart-breaking lothario, and makes a stab at true love.

While the arc of her collection is somewhat conventional--Glory goes from bombed-out sadness to flickers of optimism--Carter's voice is more distinct. Her images lance the boils of her character's infected lives. In the book's opening scene, Glory struts around wearing earrings that resemble "jewelry from a sunken Spanish galleon," while men's voices glitter at her "like tossed beer cans on traffic islands." Carter continually switches gears between the bathetic and comic, making liberal use of Unnecessary Capitalization. In one scene, Glory becomes overwhelmed with the revelation that "Oh, My God, I Am A Lesbian." Later she calms herself down with the internal mantra, "It doesn't matter...because No One Is Looking At You."

While humor can leaven some tales, Glory's chronically self-critical revelations--the painful Wish-You-Hadn't-Said-That lines--give the book the immediacy of a thorn. Reading it we feel like voyeurs. The proximity of some details to Carter's life and the tone of her speaking voice invite the obvious question: How much of this is true? Consider the following sequence, delivered from the mouth of Glory in the collection's fetid, virtuoso centerpiece "The Bride": "Other people couldn't stand me. They said I was just another slumming rich girl, staggering around downtown in the heat of summer nights when I could just as easily be off in East Hampton."

Like Carter, Glory is a visitor to both worlds yet a denizen of neither, and feels like an abomination as a result. "I saw myself, heroically," Glory narrates, "like the monster driven out from the ringleted Swiss family to whom he secretly became attached. He wanted them to like him, and they did not. Party crasher, Banquo's ghost, I took my revenge by inflicting myself upon them: Nothing, but nothing, could make me shut my big mouth."

When asked to connect this material to her own life, however, Carter casts a withering sidelong glance across the bar and pulls back into abstractions. "You know this is not a memoir," she says, head shaking back and forth. "It's fiction. I do find the whole recovery, 12-step phenomena distinctly American--this sort of optimistic, common sense, common decency is very uniquely American. I wanted to explore what happens when a cynical, secular, humanist background is presented with the optimistic spiritual philosophy. I thought the clash was interesting."

In this tension between fact and fiction lies the artistry of Carter's voice, one amped a notch higher than most from the author's years of performing as a spoken-word poet on the stage. The collection's second story, "Glory B and the Gentle Art," reflects those roots, starting with a breathless riff on the pleasures of riffing:

 

All right, maybe I do. Maybe I do talk first and think later. Yes, it's true. I admit it freely. It's because I'm from the city. Now, you can say to me, Glory B., it's no crime to think about what you're going to say before you say it, to figure out it relates to the topic being discussed, or if it does at all, or if what you're going to say has the slightest factual basis whatsoever. I've got that argument down cold, because listen, my words are music.

 

Beneath Glory's melody is a tune whose truth only Carter can know for certain. Yet Carter's instinct to preserve her life and times in fiction puts her in good company. Like Jack Kerouac, Nelson Algren (whom she cites as an influence), William S. Burroughs, and more recent dope poets Ann Marlowe and Darcey Steinke, Carter has turned plain poppies into a literary opiate.

Speaking from the family summer home in Amagansett, Long Island, Anne Roiphe is prickly in maintaining that the book is about artistry first and autobiography second. "Of course it is a book about addiction and of course it is a book about AIDS," she says. "It's a book about a lot of things. But it's not a work of nonfiction. It does exactly what fiction is supposed to do, which is to let us come into the experience more intimately than it does otherwise. That's why fiction is so wonderful."

One should not be surprised that Roiphe has nothing to say about Glory Bronski's mother--a liberal feminist who relies on a black maid to keep the house in order while she's off changing the world. Though Roiphe has certainly mined her own experiences in memoirs, it's another thing to have the spotlight of another confessional writer illuminate family dynamics that might more comfortably stay in the shadow.

 

This year marks the end of Carter's first decade in Minneapolis and so far the city has treated her well. Separated from her husband of five years, Carter has lived for the past two years with her boyfriend Johnny on the ground floor of a red-brick house in the presidential streets of northeast Minneapolis. She maneuvers her scarred Saab 900 to a parking spot before the building, another Marlboro dangling precariously from her lower lip, and casually warns me about her dog, a pit bull named Betty. "She's going to want to greet you, but don't worry," she says, then appears on my side and with a kick opens the door:

"Dogs only smell fear if you show it." She turns and strides toward the house, her tank top revealing a tattoo of a fish skeleton on her shoulder.

Carter "works nights" these days, meaning that she does most of her writing between the mid-afternoon and ten or eleven at night, sometimes later, depending on when Johnny works. During the day, she intermittently teaches a class at the Loft, and writes a column for the weekly Pulse, which together take care of her modest fiscal needs. At the door of the apartment, she hesitates at the lock, as if Johnny might be sleeping inside. She turns the key and Betty bounds forward, nails clattering for traction. Her spastic greeting brings out a stern mommy in Carter, and she demands Betty redeem herself with a litany of tricks--"Play dead, lie down, do your thing!"--the performance of which calms the beast down to a tail-thumping pant. With Betty curled up on the couch and out of menacing range, I look around and take in the detritus of her living room: random artwork, a shelf of books by Raymond Carver and Mary Gaitskill, a tattered madras throw on the couch. It all feels as if it's been retrieved from some deep sea bed; like Carter, they seem unused to direct sunlight. I hear the first hint of softness in Carter's voice. "Sorry it's so small," she says scanning the apartment. "But we do okay here, don't we?"

Carter offers me a Fresca, and we retire to the porch to two butterfly chairs. A volcanic eruption of cigarette butts--think Richard Dreyfuss's sculpture in Close Encounters of the Third Kind--clutters a silver ashtray. Carter lights up and puffs languidly as our talk drifts to Proust and Woolf and literary gossip. As she talks wistfully of "maybe someday getting a job at a community college in New England and just writing," a police cruiser roars down the wide street. Otherwise it's so quiet the cicada buzzing feels like a roar. While no retreat, her apartment feels self-consciously separate from the city's murmur, a fact both Carter and Johnny appreciate.

Johnny is also in recovery, Emily says, which she believes is important. "Maintaining my sobriety has always been the big challenge for me. Living with someone who has that same issue is a double-edged sword. I could not be with somebody who hadn't been where I've been. The idea that I am going to hook up with some lawyer is ludicrous because we would have nothing in common. They'd resent me for my lack of drive, and I'd resent them for their lack of pain."

At 4:00 p.m. Johnny bounds home and pumps my fist with a vigor typical of a high school wrestling coach. It's easy to understand why Carter brightens visibly in his presence. While there's the obvious--his wide smile and restless physical energy--Johnny also feels like Carter's empathic steward. He keeps a close watch on her, and when she grows more fidgety as the afternoon wears on, he carefully assesses her energy level. "What's the matter, honey, you trying to get rid of him?" he finally asks.

"No, no, I'm just really tired and I'm going to meet my friend at seven," Carter replies.

"Want to lay down? Let's go, it's okay."

Their conversation drops to conspiratorially low levels and soon Johnny ushers his partner indoors. Emily Carter needs a nap.

Carter's fatigue is the only visible symptom of her HIV--although she's not a walking poster for a health club. Her bones protrude at her jaw, shoulders, and hips as if her skin had been draped over as an afterthought. In addition to living in the recovery mecca of America, being in Minneapolis has been good for Carter's HIV treatment. When she tested positive, she was able to establish a regimen of treatment with the HIV clinic at Regions Hospital, run by Dr. Keith Henry. Today she takes Videx (Didanosine) and Zerit (Stavudine). Her viral load is undetectable and her CD4--or lymphocyte cell count--hovers safely above 200, the cut-off for designating AIDS.

 

After an hour and a half of rest, Carter appears visibly refreshed, and apologetic for any irritability earlier in our interview. She even offers to sign my book, backtracking a bit to make fun of her offer to do so. It will be the first of many she will probably sign once her book tour starts. Her Minneapolis publisher, Coffee House Press, has heard that the New York Times, Newsweek, and the Village Voice plan to review the title, and based on glowing advance capsules, several paperback houses have expressed interest in the rights. Barnes & Noble has selected the book for its Discovery Program, ensuring better bookstore placement. At this felicitous juncture, it seems entirely as though Glory will get some.

As publication looms, Carter gears up for more interviews, and another trip to New York, where several readings are planned. Although New York is where she grew up, Carter reports that she has no notion of making a triumphant return home. "There's too many things for me there as a writer, and as a person. Quite frankly, I know where to get stuff there and I just don't want to be around it."

A decade ago, Emily Carter may not have suspected she would survive addiction, not to mention HIV. Yet medicine and Carter's nature--and maybe even a drop of fate--have conspired to keep her alive and working. Yet this now presents its own challenges: How many times can Carter retread the woeful path that nearly led her for good? And where to go next?

"My perceptions are expanding," she says. "There's a whole world out there. What I want to do is to write about it. I don't know anything else but my little world, my dog and my cat. As a writer, I need to feel that. For example, I wanted to write something about power; I am fascinated by electricity. Don't know how it works. Have to go on a tour of an NSP plant. Find out how the power grid works. That's part of the world that draws me into it. With Glory Goes and Gets Some, I just used the experiences and the body of knowledge I already had."

Carter's editor at Coffee House Press, Chris Fischbach, argues that HIV is merely one subject among many in the collection--and, as such, the step past her own story might not be a forbidding one. "You hear over and over that HIV is definitely not a death sentence," he says. "And the title story completely addresses that. The last couple of stories also address that same idea--living with it, and not dying with it. But there is so much more here beyond AIDS and I hope people see those things."

For her part, Carter remarks that she wouldn't mind if someone living with HIV or AIDS found solace in her tales, yet feels uncomfortable being identified publicly as a spokeswoman for the issue. "I would be appalled if anyone thought of me as any kind of advocate, because there are people who do such great work and are dedicated. I'd hate to be assuming martyrdom. In comparison to the truly awful things going on in the world about AIDS--you know, one in five people being affected in Africa, being unable to get drugs--what I have here is nothing more than a bad hair day."

And, in fact, Carter has been feeling decidedly upbeat recently. After seeking treatment for depression a few years back, she reports experiencing an emotional and creative renaissance. "It's difficult to describe the joy I felt the first day I was able to get in my car, take my clothes to the dry cleaners, and pick up a video without having to pull over to weep or smack my own face because I hated myself so much," Carter wrote in her Poz column in March of this year. "To even get through a normal bout of errands without becoming exhausted and confused was a triumph. "Hey," I wanted to shout to the world. "Get me, I took a shower, and now I'm actually leaving the house."

To what extent the publication of Glory's story will pull Carter--and her family--back into the morass of the past is difficult to gauge. "I don't even try to see with Emily beyond one moment to the next," Carter's mother says. "I know that people will see that she has a special voice as a writer. How she uses it, what comes next in her life, will be as surprising to me as it is to anybody else."

Carter seems to have reconciled herself to the fact that being in a family of writers means everyone feeds from the same trough of experience. Asked if she's anxious about the public response to what often feels like family business, Carter answers, "Yeah, there might be some of that. But what can you do? We're writers and that's what we do."

Carter shows her fiction to both her mother and sister, claiming that when they saw this book, "they responded fine. My mother did ask me to change a couple of things. Things she thought might be hurtful to my father, and I did so. I often show my work to my mother. It's nice, but at 40 years old I should also wind down the whole approval-seeking thing." She pauses, and then blows a neat stream of smoke through a winningly self-deprecating smile: "We're working on that."

 

Emily Carter reads 9:00 p.m. September 10 at the Turf Club in St. Paul; (651) 617-9313.

Glory and the Angels

by Emily Carter
illustrations by Marry Fallon

He said he was an architect, and I believed him. He looked about forty years old, nicely done, Boston blue-blood accent, wrinkled seersucker jacket, premature white hair, like an early snow. He bought me vodka, insisted on ordering a name brand, said for fifty cents more why not drink the good stuff. I had almost no money that night, having paid the rent and gone to sleep for two days, so I told him that, whoever he was, I was glad to see him. It wasn't until I took a good look at his eyes that I saw how drunk he was. He was in the middle of a long binge, is what it looked like, the kind I've always secretly wished to go on myself, the kind of drunk that goes beyond inebriation into a state of almost genteel lucidity.

I knew that whatever we talked about, whatever happened, he wouldn't remember any of it.

When he talked he leaned his face into mine, far too close, and I took a good look at his eyes, which were lashless and pale blue.

My guess, he said, is that you have a very tall Yugoslavian boyfriend who deals black-market blue jeans behind the Iron Curtain and would kill any man who looked at you twice, without a second thought.

Close, I said. Danger is my acronym. Death is my boyfriend

Oh that's good, he giggled, putting up his hands movie marquee style, "Death. Is. My. Boyfriend." What's your name?

Gloria Bronski.

Gloria Bronski, do you know anything about cancer of the nerves?

Ah, I said, the old nine-to-five, the desire for excelsior...

Do you find me rude? He opened his eyes wide, aggression and ennui doing battle for his posture. Do you think you're a tough little bit?

I didn't answer him; I hummed along with the jukebox.

Listen, he clenched my hand, do you know Bess, the landlord's daughter, she's dead. Though she didn't die for me...He swayed, a cross between a wounded matinee gunfighter, you got me, and a cobra convincing some small mammal that its destiny was to be
his dinner.

What, he said, seeing some odd thing in my face, surely you're not afraid of me, toothless old bastard like myself?

No, I'm afraid you'll stop talking to me and buying me drinks and I'll have to go home. I'm afraid to go home.

Self-revealing truths, when said at a certain time in a certain way, become lies, harmless small talk, insomniac chatter.

Don't worry, he said, I never leave a damsel in the same state of distress I found her in. You know me, I'm a gentle troubadour. He began to sing in Spanish, the only word I could make out was "corazón."

Listen, Corazón, the bartender said, friendly as ever, you need to go home, or get some air, don't you think?

No, quoth the gentle troubadour, give me another one.

The bartender shrugged, exactly like I used to when presented with such a customer, and poured him another drink. But what did he pour? Club soda. With a twist of lemon, nothing else. If this guy wasn't drunk, if he hadn't been drinking, he was clearly mad in some frightening and confusing way that I couldn't begin to approach. Instead, I pictured his brain shiny iridescent black, like the back of a Japanese beetle. He put his hand around my arm, like a bracelet, just below the elbow.

Come with me, I want to show you something.

What is it? I asked, reluctant to leave the bar before last call.

It's Coney Island, he replied, not missing a second.

We walked outside and he went into the fruit store on the corner of Second Street. Apples, green pears, lemons, and purple grapes tumbled out of the bins like jewels, hosed down and shining, tended by the owner's son who worked with his kick-ass cash-register mother and father all night, and was up and on his way to law school in Queens every morning at six. When I saw those no-bullshit Korean faces and caught a glimpse of all that fruit spilling over abundantly almost out into the street, I was ashamed for myself, of my indolence, my bone-crushing indolence, until he came out with a bag of strawberries.

He moved under the fake white moon of the streetlight and popped one into my mouth.

You can have all you want, he said.

I sat in his car, watched the lights from the Kiev Diner on Seventh and Second. Yellow-gold and open all night. Soon to vanish.

The traffic signals changed from red to green to yellow to red and I thought about how nobody could afford to live here anymore, not anymore. I think I might have even curled up a little for a catnap in the back seat, drowsing off between eating strawberries.

He came down from his sublet about ten minutes later and tossed a piece of cloth at me. It was a bathing suit, olden style from the fifties, a one-piece thing with a fluted skirt and a purple plaid pattern.

Wear it and be wonderful, he told me.

Oh no, I bitched, you don't really want me to wear this thing.

Yes, he grimaced and started the car, and there I went again, floating over the Williamsburg Bridge while he tried to connect with the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, heading out toward Coney Island and the Atlantic Ocean....It seemed so silly, pathetic even, but I knew what was waiting for me back at apartment 6-C, Pitt Street, and it was no joke. I decided not to go back there until the light was full blaring afternoon and there was no chance of being able to think about what I was going to look like sitting alone in that apartment when I was seventy years old and didn't even like cats.

My friend was talking about Beethoven as he drove, pushing his free hand through his snowfall hair. I'd like to be able to look him in the eye right now, he was saying, and tell him "Ludwig, you don't have to be afraid. I am your friend." Women don't like Beethoven, do they?

I don't know much about classical music.

Because he was ugly, ugly shows in the music. Let's face it, a woman wants a man with a little glamour to him, she wants a handsome man above all else.

I flashed a mental picture of him sitting drinking club soda in some cafe in Barcelona, watching the slowly diminishing back of a familiar female form as it disappeared down the sunny dusty street on the arm of a slender young bullfighter.

The image was hackneyed and horrible, it needed something stronger than club soda to make it work. I began to shake.

Look in the back seat.

What?

Look in the back seat, he didn't exactly shout, but merely raised his voice.

I did what he told me and there in the back under the beach towels was a fifth of the good stuff, which he didn't drink, so what was it doing there? It must've been a present for me.

After the first swallow I began to notice the houses peering over the parkway as we drove by. Seagulls described thin black arcs around the silhouetted chimneys and roof antennas.

When we got there it was five-thirty in the morning and except for a stray jogger, looking mechanical and disoriented on the boardwalk, we were the only ones there. The parachute and the roller coaster stood behind us like giant wind-polished skeletons, and the apartment buildings as always faced the sea: weary sentries, ossified guards to a kingdom of air.

I threw a large towel around myself and wiggled out of my clothes into the purple plaid bathing suit.

Are you going in? I asked him.

No, I'll just watch.

He sat there on the towel, on the beach, in the middle of a hot August early morning with his wrinkled jacket and his tie not even loose.

There was something in his eyes that was too abrasive to look at, his gaze when it fell on me was like a scrape.

I took some more vodka as an antiseptic, afraid that whatever he had was catching, and walked down to the water.

After the first moment of chill it was hardly cold at all. I dove under and held my breath for as long as I could, coming up gasping and treading water as I looked at the city on the shore. A city with everything. Coney Island its own set of fragile ruins.

I walked slowly back to where he was sitting, aware that he was watching me walk, watching me walk toward him in that bathing suit. He didn't turn his head when I sat down next to him but continued looking toward the water. I could have easily told him what a middle-aged run-of-the-mill loony toon he was and how he'd go back to his job in the architectural firm on Broome Street and they'd all laugh at him about the circles under his eyes and wonder if he'd fallen off the wagon.

Instead I said nothing at all because I didn't quite know how to phrase the words into the kind of acceptable and even flirtatious contempt I could usually use to my best advantage. I squeezed the water out of my hair and so didn't hear what he said next.

What?

He changed neither the direction he was looking in nor his expression, but I had the feeling he was speaking while doing something else, like trying to breathe through a rock instead of through air.

She's not coming back, is she? he said.

I thought about it.

No, I answered him, I don't expect she is.

We looked out in the same direction, out just beyond where our eyes could see, right behind the blue line of sky meeting water was the place where they'd all gone. All the people who weren't coming back. They were full of the grace of their various abandonments, they were far more beautiful than we were. I asked him to please drive me home.

 

"Glory and the Angels" is reprinted from Glory Goes and Gets Some, © 2000 by Emily Carter. Used with permission from Coffee House Press (Minneapolis).

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