Someone on Goodreads wrote of Lunch in Brooklyn, “But where was the fooling around with Neil part??”
This was my first published story, in Sassy, July 1992. It takes place in 11th grade, as the small Quaker school years are coming to a close. The story was built backwards from a note my husband had left me one day, of the “going out, back 5ish” variety, where at the end he scrawled something, which could have been “love” or “later,” I really couldn’t tell. In the context of the note and our relationship, it was insignificant, but what if this were something a boy had written in a girl’s yearbook?
The other day I did a search on the story title and up popped a blog of the same name with a stated (and very much unfulfilled) intention to create a screenplay based on the story. The story was 22 years ago, the blog 10, but who doesn’t like to write something that has been remembered?
Today in gym, Lisa DeSilva fell off the ropes. At first they thought she lost her footing, but it turns out she had fainted. Luckily she was only about five feet up and there was a big mat underneath. They ask me to take her to the office so Gary can call her mother to come get her.
I wonder if she still lives in the same house. When we were in lower school, Lisa had a Halloween party in her basement. Her father or stepfather stood at the top of the stairs, making ghost noises through the door while everyone ran around screaming. The floor was sticky with apple juice and squashed candy corns. My cat tail fell off and got lost. Witches hats were mashed. Even Lisa, dressed as a blue fairy, seemed unsure of what would happen next.
I sit with her in Gary’s office. She’s lying on the couch under an International Year of the Child poster. Her hair is dark brown, almost eggplant. She used to be really cute but now she wears glasses with peach-tinted frames that make rest of her face seem small and indistinct. She looks defenseless in her gym clothes, tiny blue shorts and a decal shirt whose decal has been bleached out and is now just a white plastic shape.
“Feel my hands,” she says, laying one hand upon my arm. They are cold and clammy. I still remember the day we were huddled around her in gym, asking, “Does it hurt? Do you bleed a lot?” Lisa was our resident expert. She was the one with the experience. I want to thank her for telling us about it, to tell her that, three years later, I finally got my period, but it has been a while since we were friends.
Unhexed=Bites of Lunch that were cut from the final manuscript. As I slowly, slowly make my way towards creating a print version of the book I may include some of these cuts. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. In an effort to not confuse the reader with too many characters I cut out minor ones.
Read a little more of Lunch on Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood.
“The Gift of Tongues” combines the New Yorker’s love of rooftops with the middle schoolers love of the grotesque and overtly sexual.
And in the spirit of NYC 1970s autobiographical realness, here’s a picture of me in 7th grade, holding a light meter for my father, who was a photographer. New Yorkers will recognize the Fox Police locks.