stop

The mass of bikers, cyclists, and bicycle commuters approaches the intersection of Beacon and Kirkland. On the other side are two cops, recognizable from a distance if you know what they look like. The front of the pack slows down and then stops as the light turns red. Several people break off to the side–passing on the right–and through the signal.

The cops across the street yell for them to stop, once they have officially broken the law.

The rest of us start up again. “Stupid kids,” someone mutters to me on my left. I look over at her and she smiles. “They have to learn to trust the rest of us. The folly of youth.”

statistics

This is about rape.

“Okay, I’m just going to say it, I’m worried she’s going to get raped.”

There is a moment of silence and then agreement.

“I mean, statistically speaking, she is more likely to get raped than anything else.”

More agreement.

“It’s really disgusting that that’s what we’re worried about, you know. That her actions are ones we think will get her raped. Even those words ‘get her raped.’ That’s really messed up.”

“Someone will rape her and use her actions as an excuse.”

“Yeah.”

preparations

“So, we need like fifteen-thousand calories a day.”

“What?”

“Four people, medium load, winter. Maybe more like eighteen because it’s winter?”

“Eighteen thousand calories? How do you even consume that many?

“What? Three to five thousand?”

“Yeah.”

A pause. “Butter.”

nostalgia

Walking across the row of seats, trying to get as close to the center as possible, a familiar and nearly lost feeling of visual confusion creates a lack of balance. The next row down is too low, the tops of the seats don’t reach my ankles. We sit down and lean back, look around, test our seats and position in the dome.

The IMAX screen goes from a grey blue to a brighter blue, the voice starts explaining how the theater works. If you start feeling uncomfortable or disoriented, it says, look away. The lights on the screen darken and the lights behind it go up, showing off a full surround sound system in front, behind, below, and above us. They demonstrate its capabilities, calling it a test, a calibration. Rain fills the room and I grin uncontrollably, giddy. I am ten again.

cliques

“What was her name?”

“Cora, right?”

“Barnacle! Nora Barnacle!”

“Yeah. Well, he wrote her these letters and they are the grossest thing ever.”

“Oh geeze, yeah. I’ve never seen anything as disgusting.”

“Have you been on the internet?”

“Yeah, and this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”

“I just read James Joyce’s letters to his lover. Have you seen those before?”

“No. Are they any good? I never made it through Ulysses. Liked Dubliners though.”

“Once you get past the poop, it’s pretty hot.”

“Eh, I’ve seen worse on the internet.”

“Oh, man! Are you talking about the Joyce-Barnacle letters? I love those!”

sneak

A TSA agent has a line of Chinese school children in front of him.

“How old are you?” He asks one.

They stare at him.

“How old are you?” He repeats, louder.

“对不起,你多大了?” I say.

“Nine!”

The man shuffles kids under twelve one way and those over another. Twelve is a magical age where your body cannot be affected by millimeter wave scanners and you are a greater threat for terrorist activity. The younger ones go through a metal detector and keep their shoes on. The older ones are sent barefoot to the scanner.

Another TSA agent directs the children through the scanner. He tries to explain what to do, but TSA-speak is too specialized. He makes a motion to each child, showing them how to stand in the machine.

“你向前走,然后等待。”

The children nod.

Things I took through a TSA checkpoint:

1 electric kettle full of socks and underwear (used)
1 electric kettle stand
1 electric tooth brush (sonicare)
1 tube toothpaste (3.8 oz)
1 bottle Bauscher + Lomb Bio true contact lense solution (4 oz)
1 Dell Latitude (with charger)
1 mason jar containing distilled water and a living sphagnum plant (4 oz)
2 pairs microspikes

“Do you have something in your bag?” The screener asks, holding it in front of me.

“Anything big?”

“A kettle.”

“Electric?”

“Yeah.”

He opens my bag and takes it out, running the backpack and the kettle, now separate, through the scanner again.

“Anything in the kettle?” He asks when he comes back.

“Some used socks and underwear.”

“Can you open it for me?”

“Sure.” While he holds it, I hit the open button. He can see one sock and one pair of underwear. There are more underneath it, but he doesn’t ask for any evidence of this. I’m not allowed to touch my bags while he opens them. I’m not allowed to touch things in the bin. For the sake of the agent’s safety, I have to hit the open button while he holds it.

“I didn’t know people still used kettles for tea.”

“How do you make tea?”

“A microwave.”

“Do you fly a lot?”

“I used to,” I say. “Now probably four to six times a year.”

“Have you thought about TSA pre-Check? You can read about it on our site.”

“Yeah.”

“Do you always opt out?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you know that with TSA pre-Check you can keep your laptop in your bag and shoes on. You can also pick which method of screening you want to go through–the scanners or the metal detectors.”

“For $85, I can choose to go through a metal detector rather than a patdown?”

“Yes. It might be more convinent for you. It lasts five years. If you fly four times a year, that’s twenty flights for $85.”

“I think I prefer the pat down.”

After reaching the gate and seeing my flight was delayed, I wanted to brush my teeth. When I started to walk away from my bags, someone told me that you [still] can’t leave bags at the gate.

“Why?” I asked. “So they won’t get stolen?”

“So if there’s anything dangerous in them, like a explosive device or biohazardous agent, a terrorist couldn’t leave it.”

“After the security screening, shouldn’t everything be safe?”

“Do you want some coffee, miss?”

Pandora Helps Political Organizers Target Voters, the scrolling text reads. “You probably vote democratic if you listen to Daft Punk,” CNN informs me as I sit and wait for my flight.

As I write this list, I wonder what would happen if they banned more of these things. I think I remember hearing something about epoxy being material you could make a functional blade out of. Epoxy can look a lot like toothpaste. What if you couldn’t have any toothpaste at all? I wonder if I’d then have to check my bag. The bag I have with the kettle and the microspikes. I think about the cost and the fees. The TSA gets an extra fee for each checked bag. More people are using carry-ons because of checked-bag fees. It is widely believed that the existence of the TSA and the use of scanners is about capitalism and votes.

motion

“Welcome aboard the Love Train. The train of love. This goes out to the ladies and the men and everyone in between.”

“Thank you for being part of the love movement. Remember to love thyself and love thy brother and thy neighbor and everyone else around you.”

The conductor smiles at each of us as we get off the train.

vows

The man and woman are on the street. She’s crossing. He’s running behind her to catch up.

“You said,” the woman started. She never got to finish her sentence.

“I said love, honor, and cherish, in sickness and health, until death do us part. And I didn’t even say that!” the man cut her off. “I said–”

The light changes and I don’t hear the rest.

 

appropriate

“I have a few ideas,” you say to us. You go over them. I retract into myself.

“I think that’s the most appropriate,” someone says. It might be me. It might be you. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that enough of us believe it.

I look at the mountains, tracing the peaks with my nail, scratching through the front on the inside of the car window. I name the peaks, remembering how they looked in the summer, in the fall. Under the moon and in the rain.