Something Borrowed

I once borrowed a year.

It was the year following my boyfriend’s sudden death.  He died from a heart condition while running the half-marathon on the south side of the city.  We had been together for five years and lived together just nine months. Zach’s absence was, still is, enormous.


They talked about how proud he must be of me. What they don’t know is that it has nothing to do with strength, but rather a lack of choice.”

So, I borrowed a year.  If I was tired, I canceled any plans I might have and took a nap.  I was social when it sounded good to be out with people. I cried alone in public regularly and unapologetically.

But I was exempt.  I was exempt from the social pressures of going to everything and being everything for everyone.  I was merely surviving, so I got a free pass to opt out of the madness.

Grief and mourning and suffering and loss – whatever word you choose to describe the experience of someone being axed out of your life – is not at all what you expect.  This may seem obvious, but I’m talking about the absurdity that comes with it. No one knows what to do with themselves so everyone over compensates.  Either they are devout in their solemnity, unable to relax around you, or they are too eager to prove nothing has changed, unable to acknowledge that your life has been shattered. No one can find that middle ground, that sweet spot of sadness. No one says, “What has happened is horrifying.  And I’m grateful that a well-timed joke (particularly a morbid one) still makes you laugh.” When your life is unrecognizable, your behavior, and the behavior of those around you, soon is as well.

One of our friends showed up at Zach’s funeral as high as a kite and couldn’t stop herself from slapping my ass and laughing hysterically every time she walked past me.

Zach’s crazy ex-girlfriend took to messaging me about “our loss.”  I dismissed these emails and planned to hide from her at the funeral. But as I approached the reception following the service, I saw her out of the corner of my eye, marching, furiously towards me.  Before I could even murmur, “Oh shit,” she grabbed me. Taking my hands in hers, she looked straight into my eyes, and said, “We will get through this together.” I had never talked to this woman in my life.

Throughout all of this, Zach’s family was very into the retail side of death. They printed his image on a variety of materials and labeled it a tribute. His cousin took to drawing caricatures of his face and printed it on t-shirts.

I finally called my sister-in-law, Anne about it, “This t-shirt thing is way too weird.  I can’t have his cartoon face staring up at me from my drawer – you’ve gotta take it.”

“No way!” she said. “I don’t want that weird stuff in my house either.  And I already have my own t-shirt.”

“Well what the hell am I supposed to do with it?  I can’t donate it, God, that would be so weird. I don’t want to just throw it away.”

She relented, “Bring it over. I’ll take it. I’ll figure something out.”

“But what if they ask me to wear it to something?”

“They won’t.  Just bring it over.”

It was four, actually. Four t-shirts. The wristbands his family had made were nice; I liked having one despite never wearing it.

“What’s your wristband for?”

“My boyfriend who died.”

I wasn’t going down that road.

I really disliked the prayer cards at first. I wish this was an exaggeration. For whatever reason, they just really pissed me off. The final straw in a long line of things I thought Zach would have hated.

His boss liked putting Zach’s name on everything. He had t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, and wristbands made for Zach’s coworkers who were running the marathon that year. He had a quote saying, “Let’s get after it!”  attributed to Zach, that was broadcasted on one of the jumbo-trons blasting advertisements during the marathon. He created the Customer Service Award in Zach’s honor for their physical therapy company and talked about renaming the race itself.

But who can blame him?  He, like everyone else desperate to preserve him in their own weird way, loved Zach.  But I was the one who lost him.

That year, each time I saw someone for the first time, it was spent accepting condolences and describing how I was doing.  This meant that I unsuccessfully tried to convince them that I was not on the verge of jumping off a bridge. As I launched into this memorized reply, they gazed at me with that dreaded look of pity. I repeated this exchange dozens, hundreds, thousands of times over the course of the year.  I was forced to submit to this dance not only for everyone I knew, but everyone Zach knew as well. I listened as they praised my strength and my decision to honor him by running the race he died in. They talked about how proud he must be of me. What they don’t know is that it has nothing to do with strength, but rather a lack of choice. There is really nothing to do but continue. What they don’t know is that I ran that race for myself, and that Zach was surely laughing as he watched me cringe at all of this attention I was getting. What they don’t know is that as they spoke, I thought about writing a guide to surviving that dreaded look of pity.

People wanted to see the pain that I was experiencing. It was as though I somehow wasn’t grieving appropriately because they weren’t witnessing it. As though I was going about it all wrong. As though their presence for my darkest moments – collapsed on the floor, raw, sobbing, utterly lost – would somehow make my stages of grief more correct.

For me there were three losses. The loss of the future I thought I’d have, the loss of the man himself, and the loss of the couple that we created. These losses are distinct, and I mourned for each in different ways. It was a triangulation of loss that I was trapped within, feeling around, recoiling from wound to wound.

The worst part is that I knew that the pain would not – could not – actually kill me. It could continue for whatever duration it pleases and at whatever intensity it chooses. And I would bear it. The knowledge of this is as excruciating as the experience of it.

About six months into that year, Anne called me.

“I keep thinking about the race. I think I’m gonna have to run the damn thing.”

“Jesus, Anne. Why did you say that out loud? I’ve been avoiding that thought for months.  Now we’re gonna have to run it!”

“Yeah, so it’s been haunting you too, huh?”

At that point, I was a regular runner, but never farther than three miles at a time. Not only did Anne not run, but she did not exercise. Period. We reluctantly agreed to do it together. We had six months to turn ourselves into long-distancers.

Both of us hated it the entire way. We never talked about the race, only the damn race or the damn run. We lamented handing over our Saturdays to longer and longer stretches of running. We traded podcasts that seemed to help pass the time, or at least last longer than an hour. We agreed that there was nothing worse than your phone running out of juice before you reached the halfway point. We both admitted to cheating.

A few months before the race, Zach’s boss called me.

“I have a friend at the Trib. He said they could run an article about you running the race. You know, it’s an amazing thing that you’re running the race he died in just one year later.”

I finally cracked. “No,” I whispered into the phone. “You will not take this from me. This is mine. Do you hear me? This race is mine, don’t you dare take this from me.” He was baffled, apologetic, and reassured me he would never do something I wasn’t comfortable with. He never brought it up again.

The day of the race, Anne and I still hated it, really wanting to just get it over with already. We ran the entire thing, proud that we only had to stop to use the bathroom, and never walking, not once. As we crossed the finish line, I cried. We hugged our family and then headed to the beer tent. Looking at the people around us, blissed out after another race completed, we took a swig of our free beers and agreed that they’re all nuts. We promised to never run that far again.

But as I ran the race, I kept a secret. I still had Zach’s bib from last year’s race. The one where he filled in the emergency contact information with my name and our address. So I wore his bib under mine as I ran, because he was mine. Because that race was mine. And because that year was mine.

Marta Wilmes is a writer and storyteller in Chicago.




Should I Feel Anything Yet?

It was the eighties but we wanted it to be the sixties, those of us in divided Boulder who claimed Pearl Street, “the mall” as opposed to “the hill” where the University of Colorado students fratted or whatever they did besides look down on us through their Ray-Bans. They thought of us as out-of-touch hippies, which was fine since we thought of them as soulless. We, in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, were writers. Better than that, we were poets. Of course they couldn’t understand our value and our depth. Few could.




I thought of the button candy I ate in childhood, scraping the sugary dots off the paper backing with my teeth … The real sixties. Angie singing Yummy Yummy Yummy in my ear and calling me Baby.”

That summer, I was nineteen. At the start of the year, my wild runaway older sister, who’d finally settled down with a sweet-natured bear of a guy, was murdered along with him and their one-year-old son. But I didn’t want to think about that, the latest and last of Angie’s countless departures that broke my heart. I wanted to write stunning poems and make my friend David, a classical guitarist with green, basset hound eyes, fall in love with me.

“He looks like Picasso’s blue period guitarist,” I told my good friend Kate, pleased with the artsy reference, but also believing my words. David defined lanky. When he played Bach, he leaned with his ear tilted toward the curved wood of his Yamaha like it was whispering secrets.

“It’s an old man in that painting,” Kate pointed out. “It’s called The Old Guitarist.” She was worldlier than I, better read, a year older than my sister who was now trapped at twenty-five. Kate thought of me, I knew, as boy crazy, which wasn’t exactly true. It was more that the hope of being loved, like any hope, kept me from fading.

We had another friend named Dave that summer. Actually, there were several. But this particular Dave—bearded, burly—resembled my dead brother-in-law enough that my eyes slid away from his face whenever he stopped me on my window-shopping, jotting-in-my-notebook strolls down Pearl Street.

“You know it could be great for your poetry,” he said one time, holding squares of blotter acid in his palm.

“Great for my poetry how?”

With spit and breath Dave made the sound of an explosion. “It will expand your mind. Open you right up.”

I, a girl who’d guiltily smoked pot twice in high school, stared at the tabs, considering.

No way my angel of a sister is gonna do that, Angie would’ve said, mouth twisting into a wry smile. She who did it all. Heroin. Meth. But that was before. Before marriage, motherhood, being murdered. Now that she was the angel of the family, who should I be?

“How much?” I asked, pulling crumpled bills from my fringed shoulder bag. The acid looked like nothing, like lost bits of confetti. It would be good for my writing.

Days later, Kate and I sat by the creek in our wraparound Indian print skirts and swallowed the tabs with swigs of water from a suede canteen. I thought of the button candy I ate in childhood, scraping the sugary dots off the paper backing with my teeth. This made me think of wax lips. Candy cigarettes. The real sixties. Angie singing Yummy, Yummy, Yummy in my ear and calling me Baby.

Kate was my one friend who knew. Still, I felt an urge to say aloud, She’s dead. They’re dead. Even my nephew with his wet grin and chubby baby legs. Would hearing it make it finally seem true?

“Should I feel anything yet?” I asked instead, then saw my watch begin to spin.

A boy we knew from a class called The Integration of Art into Daily Life—another Dave?—came across the footbridge. I waved and my arm rippled like creek water.

“Hey kids,” he said, licking a Dairy Queen cone. Rainbows flowed from his mouth.

“Amazing ice cream,” I drawled, a record on too slow a speed. Kate’s laugh echoed canyon-like around us.

I watched Maybe-Dave’s word rainbows for a while, then he and Kate swapped heads. That’s when I grew scared, wanted my mind back, felt fear carbonating in my knees.

When you play, you pay, Angie used to say. She used to say a lot of things.

“Cut it out,” I said now about the head-switching. It’s what I’d shriek when my sister tickle-attacked. I’m just playing, Baby.

Again I gazed at my swirling watch, unable to read it, unable to make time move in either direction.

Ona Gritz’s essays have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals including The Utne Reader, MORE magazine, the Bellingham Review, and, most recently, The Truth of Memoir: How to Write about Yourself and Others with Honesty, Emotion, and Integrity by Kerry Cohen. She is the author of two children’s books, two collections of poetry, and the eBook memoir, On the Whole: a Story of Mothering and Disability.



First Day of School

It was the summer of the Carnival of Death. It was also the summer my brown baby boy learned to battle the blue jays.

first day of school 2

It’s not you, it’s them,” I told him. “They are birds. It’s their nature… If you don’t want to continue going through the back door of your own house for the rest of your life, you are going to learn how to deal with them.”

At first we were excited when we saw them building a nest in our crabapple tree. They were beautiful with their perky crest, powder blue and white feathers and black jacket. But then we noticed that one in particular had become increasingly more aggressive towards my son. Getting into the house had become difficult as Mr. Blue Jay (as we came to call him) would dive bomb my son. Asher wondered what he had done wrong to deserve these attacks.

“Mama, why the bluebirds always picking on me?” he asked.

“It’s not you, it’s them,” I told him. “They are birds. It’s their nature. They are territorial. If you don’t want to continue going through the back door of your own house for the rest of your life you are going to learn how to deal with them.”

Over the summer I had watched him learn to battle the blue jays. He would observe them in the crabapple tree from his seat in the car and when they weren’t looking he would make a run for it. He had learned to be on alert and to watch what colors he wore. He became faster and more precise as he aimed for the door.

When middle school started, I became a mama hen protecting her nest. I did so in the hope of increasing his chances of survival. At 12 he does what boys his age do. What I fear most is the world’s perception of him as a young black male living in America and how that negative perception unravels when law enforcement becomes involved.

I am a lagniappe of a cautionary tale. A song of songs. I guide my son, instruct him on how to address the police if he is ever stopped. As he turned his head and looked directly at me, his mahogany eyes gleaming, he gave me the most beautiful two-dimpled smile.

Shaking his head slowly from side to side, he said awkwardly, “Mama, I am just a kid. I don’t have to worry about that!” For a brief moment I questioned myself. Then I recalled that his voice has deepened and so, in sing-song voice I said, “Yes, you do and yes, you will.”

In the summer break of my first year in college, I encountered the police for a minor traffic violation. I had driven my father down south to the home of his youth in Deland, Florida. The police stopped us. I felt it wasn’t a legal stop because my father’s fuzz buster did not go off – there was no radar on us.

When my father realized my intent was to explain in detail to the officer that I hadn’t been speeding, he said with force, “Shut the fuck up. We in the south.” That conversation took place in the same amount of time it took the officer to get out of his car and walk to my window. I did exactly what my father told me to do. I shut the fuck up.

We never discussed it. However, I had become keenly aware that these incidents were not just happening in the South. They were everywhere and in every type of neighborhood and I wasn’t able to control it. From the television news reports I have become familiar with the different cases. There was Trayvon Martin and then there was Rumain Brisborn, and Tamir Rice and Akai Gurley, and then Kajime Powell and Ezell Ford and Dante Parker and Michael Brown and then John Crawford, Tyree Woodson, Eric Garner, Victor White III , and then there was McKenzie Cochran and Jordan Baker and Yvette Smith. We had our local cases too: Jeremy Lake, Michael Harris and Luis Rodriguez. I imagined the collective cries of their mothers were like the great voice heard in Ramah. I could hear them in my soul. Mourning and great weeping. Rachel would not be comforted. I recall the image that I had seen in Jet magazine of Maime Till at her walnut-colored baby’s funeral. She could not be comforted. Michael’s father could not be consoled, either. I cannot allow my son, my pride and joy, to be caught off guard. He has to know how to respond.

So the morning of the first day of middle school, Asher brought me a cup of coffee and we stood by the front door to have this conversation.

Exasperated he said, “I thought since Martin Luther King died we didn’t have to worry about this anymore. Why do we even celebrate his birthday?”

I said, “Boy, you better act right.” And then drilling him with scenarios with police officers, I said, “How do you address a police officer?”

He waved his hand as though he saw an imaginary officer coming towards him, smiled sweetly and said, “I say, “Hello Mr. Officer. “ I said, “Son, they might not think you are as cute as I think you are. Emmett Till was a prankster too.”

He cast his eyes downward and said, “I say, ‘Hello Officer.” I saw the light dim in his eyes. His innocence slipping away. If only I had happy thoughts and pixie dust. I wanted the light to return to his eyes. Oh dear God, please bring back the light in my brown boy’s eyes.

I asked, “What if the officer is a woman?”

“Okay, okay. I would look at her finger to see if she was married and then say… I don’t know what to say, Mama. Is an officer an officer an officer?”

“Good job,” I said as I see a little light return. It is just a small spark and then I asked, “What if the officer asks where you have been?”

He said, “I would say, Officer, I would like to speak to an attorney.”

“No son. You have no money to pay an attorney and you are a minor. You get a message to me or your father and as quickly as you can, we will take care of it from there.” I cannot bear to tell him about Kalief Browder.

“You ask to speak with your parents. You got it?”

“Yeah, Mama. I got it.”

“What if they say you are under arrest?”

He looked at me.

I say, “Come on, put your hands up over your head. Son, I need to see you do it.”

“Okay, okay!” He put his hands up to his ears.

Shaking my head, I said, “Son, that is not putting your hands over your head. The officer might think you are not complying with the law.”

“Mama, it just seems to me that when you put your hands up, they just shoot you anyway.”

Hopelessness is a bitter pill to swallow. It is unbearable with tepid black coffee. I question the extent that I must go to prove to the world that my son is not a thug.

I watched as he closed the door and headed for the school bus.

Gay Pasley is an award winning community leader and photographic artist, whose work is featured in the most recent edition of Loud Zoo at Bedlam Publishing.  She is a graduate student at the Oklahoma City Red- Earth MFA Program and this is her first published essay. For more about Gay, go to Photo by Gay Pasley.


Dating Chloe felt like magic. We were both writers, and we’d hang out, get drunk and write together. She was so compelling. I admired her creativity and her inquisitive nature. She was sexy, too. Chloe’s Facebook profile was full of pictures of the modeling work she’d done. I was dating an intelligent model who challenged me to be the best I could be. It seemed too good to be true.

The only problem was that she lived on the south side of the city, and I lived in the far north suburbs. Driving to see her was a pain in the ass. When my lease was up, I decided to move to the south side to be closer to her.

orange:blue apts

… each month, more of the other expenses like cigarettes, groceries and booze fell to me. I didn’t stress about it though. She needed her space.”

At the time, I wouldn’t admit that’s why I was moving. Chloe valued her independence. She said that the only way she’d ever move in with a boyfriend again is if she was engaged. I wasn’t suggesting shacking up just yet. I was only planning to move to her neighborhood. But I worried she’d think I wasn’t giving her enough space.

So I came up with other explanations for my move. The south side was cheaper. Parking was easier. The culture was livelier; the sun shined brighter and all that shit. But the truth was simpler. I’d fallen in love.

To a north sider like me, there’s a mystique to the south side. It’s a crime-ridden mess down there, according to what the news tells us. South siders don’t go shopping, they go looting. The neighborhood watch is a group of Latin Kings. And if you’ve lived on the south side, you’ve seen some shit.

Chloe knew that her neighborhood, Lawndale, had a bad reputation, so she always said she lived in Pilsen. Pilsen had more cachet. Pilsen was a hip place for artists and musicians. Pilsen was also fourteen blocks east of Lawndale.

I became more familiar with this tactic — the neighborhood bait and switch — once I started apartment hunting. In ads for apartments on Craigslist, neighborhood names are approximations. They don’t describe where an apartment is. They describe the nearest gentrified community.This shouldn’t be a surprise. Craigslist’s “Housing” section is only loosely based on reality. Photos are composed, cropped, curated and corrected to only show the most flattering features of each unit.

The first apartment I looked at was in a basement with a concrete floor. The ad called this “cozy.” The floor sloped toward the back of the building. The landlord billed this as a feature. If the apartment flooded, all the water would roll down into the drain at the far end of the living room. Drainage: how cozy.

Another apartment didn’t have a floor at all. At least, the floor was a work in progress. Someone had torn up the tile and done a shitty job of it. Left behind were chunks of tile, stained hardwood, damp cardboard and dirt. Staples and nails poked out from the surface. I asked the landlord what his plans were for the floor. He said, curtly, “To walk on it.”

Another apartment had two bathrooms, but neither was complete. One had a sink and a shower. The other had a toilet. After you used the toilet, you had to walk across the kitchen to the other bathroom to wash your hands. I envisioned a trail of poo germs running from one door to the other. The poo germs weren’t mentioned in the ad.

After looking at twelve different shitholes, I found a shithole to call my own. It was only a mile away from Chloe’s place. Seven hundred dollars a month got me two bedrooms, squeezed into 550 square feet of space. The night I moved in, she stayed with me. She never stayed in her own apartment again. Over the next few weeks, we moved all her stuff in.

We loved being able to spend so much time together. But the cramped apartment was too small for two people. You could hear everything that happened in those 550 square feet. I always knew exactly where Chloe was, and exactly what she was doing. We had no privacy or independence.

We needed more space.

The next year’s apartment search was easier. With our combined incomes, we could afford a better place. We found a decent three-bedroom unit that was more than twice as big. It was more space than we’d ever need. At times, the space between our friends and us felt enormous. Getting to the north side was a trek that required planning. They were a world away.

All this space gave us the freedom to create whatever lives we wanted for ourselves, independently.

With her new-found freedom, Chloe pledged to spend more time writing. She picked up less shifts at work, but her freelance income never picked up. She kept up with her half of the rent. But each month, more of the other expenses like cigarettes, groceries and booze fell to me. I didn’t stress about it though. She needed her space.

While wandering around the city searching for inspiration for her writing, she met an elderly man who owned a bookstore. She referred to him as a shaman. I had no idea what that meant. She became interested in meditation and crystals and all sorts of hippie bullshit that I couldn’t understand.

She told me about the meditation room in the back of the shaman’s bookstore. I saw a picture of her on Facebook that was taken in the meditation room. She was posing with a pyramid made of copper on top of her head. I asked her what it meant, and she was annoyed that I didn’t know. She said that pyramids generate energy, and that so much energy came out of the meditation room that the shaman received checks from ComEd every month instead of bills. It seemed absurd, but I wasn’t going to question what she did in her space.

With all my extra space, I got frustrated with my writing and quit. My drinking habit became a drinking problem. Living on the south side spared me the shame of bumping into a friend while hauling a case of beer home on a weeknight. In time, transporting my beer became cumbersome, so I switched to whiskey.

Then Chloe left me. She moved in with the shaman. Six weeks later, they got married. Soon, she was pregnant with a shaman baby. She was a new person. The woman I fell in love with was young and stylish. She would have scoffed at an old guy in a dashiki. Now she was in love with one.

Given all that space, she became alien to me.

When Chloe and I were together, I always worried about smothering her. I didn’t want to fail to give her the space she needed. I was wrong.  It was within that space that our relationship died.  Love is about being close, not about creating space.  So I don’t give the people I love that kind of space any more.

bokeen is a Chicago writer, storyteller, avid dater and a former avid drinker. His book, Near Mrs: Essays About Dating, will be published later this year. You can find more of his work at


Hand to Hand

My nephew and I are on the carpet in his room. His olive-green plastic toy soldiers are lined up against mine. He has nine with their long guns at ready.

one soldier

“Maybe this war is over,” he says, “but want to play again tomorrow?”

Well not exactly ready. The guns are pointed up towards the wall. I have fourteen soldiers, all in the same stance, their guns at the same angle. In between our two armies is a jumble of small toy cars of all makes and colors, piled up high. If one of our troops shot his rifle, he would hit the cars but not the opposing army.

“What’s going on?” I ask Adam.  “Is this war? My army is sure to win this battle because I have fourteen soldiers and you only have nine.”

While Adam and I talk, my soldiers are waiting for the go-ahead from their sergeant. In the meantime, Adam is reaching into the box that contains more plastic soldiers. He grabs four that are crouching and sets them in front of his line of troops. Then he grabs seven running soldiers and places them on either side of his battle line. After his grab, he has twenty soldiers and there are none left in the box to join either army in this war.

Adam says, “Who will win this war now?  My army is much bigger than yours.”

I say, “I’ve got strategy on my side.”

Adam and I talked about strategy before we started this game. I told him that strategy is a plan for how to win a war and requires thinking before taking action. I said that sometimes a smaller army can win over a larger army by using strategy. I said, “Each soldier might not start moving or shooting or running until he knows where his army-buddies are going and whether their actions will make them win the war.”

Three of his soldiers with their long guns are now climbing on the cars and my soldiers’ guns are angled upward, aiming right at his men.

“Bang, bang, bang,” I say as I knock them down. Two more soldiers climb the barricade and get shot.  I push them down along with some of the cars.

“Five are dead,” I say.  “Now what?” I challenge him.  A few more cars topple over and the car-barricade is not as high.

His running soldiers move around to the side of the barricade.

“Bang, bang, bang, bang” he says and topples over four of my soldiers. I straighten out the guns held by some of my soldiers so they are level with his running soldiers and just like that, four of his running soldiers are down. Adam backs up the ones that are left and they join his army behind the few remaining cars.

All is quiet for a moment.  I say, “Let’s count our troops.” He has eleven. I have ten.

The barricade is now about even with the crouching soldiers.  Our armies face each other straight on. Adam pushes his army towards mine. I push my army towards his and moveable guns fall out of the soldiers’ stiff arms.

All that is left is a pile of soldiers, scattered guns and a few cars. “Now for the hand-to-hand combat,” I say.  Except we can’t tell which soldier belongs to whose army.

“What’s the strategy now?” Adam asks.

“I’m hungry.” I say. “Let’s see what’s in the kitchen for lunch.”

Just like that we leave the war front. Later, after lunch, we line up the cars by color and size. We return the soldiers to their box and the war is over.

“Is it peace?” I ask Adam.

“Maybe this war is over,” he says, “but want to play again tomorrow?”

“Sure.” I say.

Years later, Adam goes to college and takes two classes on war.

Now in his thirties, he is a researcher at an organization whose mission is to protect refugees, advocate for victims of torture, and defend persecuted minorities. Military generals are on the organization’s board.

When I visit my sister, I sleep in Adam’s childhood bedroom. I always check out the books from the college classes he took on war. And I think, if only the books described war as ancient history. If only war could be a game, played on the carpet in a child’s bedroom and could be resolved before lunch.

Betsy Fuchs is the author of the prayer memoir Pulling the Pieces into Prayer: And Bringing Their Blessings into a Jewish Life (or Any Life) and features prose poetry, photography and other writing experiments at her blog,