Laura is expecting a baby. A twenty-four-year-old literature instructor, she lives with her partner Karl Peter in the heart of Bergen, a city in the westernmost part of Norway. She’s suffering from a strange sort of anxiety, which she suspects has something to do with the pregnancy: everything around her seems double, not quite like what it is.
Laura has more common anxieties as well, including a problem with her apartment. The buildings in her part of town are constructed of brick on the outside and wood inside, which makes them so flammable that they’re called “chimney houses.” If their chimney house were to catch on fire, there would be little chance of escape. Then, there are the noisy students living above and below, a drug dealer across the street, hypodermic needles littering the neighborhood. She decides that she and Karl Peter have to move before the baby comes, but this decision, too, seems to bring her nothing but anxiety.
The piece appears below in both English and Spanish.
When I first read Tomás Downey’s story, “Los hombres van a la guerra,” I reread it. This was the ending’s doing: it called into question all that came prior, as the best endings do (I think here of Alice Munro). So I had an ulterior motive for translating the story: I wanted to understand how Tomás had put it together, how he’d written towards that ending. I’m not convinced I’ve figured it out. But in a sense, translating the story was studying it, and I hope that something of the circular way it works makes its way into my own writing. I hope, too, that readers of “The Men Go to War” have a similar experience: that the ending directs them back to the beginning for a second read.
When you touch me I light up into funereal pyre. In the consummation, by char and carbon, brittle is not my name. I tongue flame and soot and singe. Fire to our forests, fuel for restless fires. Fantastical firebrands undergoing scorching metamorphoses. Oh, love, ether.
I could tell you, If I wanted to, What makes me What I am.
But I don’t Really want to— And you don’t Give a damn.
—Langston Hughes, “Impasse”
There are two cops from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department standing in my grandmother’s kitchen. We are all gathered around the kitchen island silently negotiating the power dynamics. Two Black women, two White cops. The cops have come to collect the details for the report, but I’m doing most of the talking. Grammy bears witness.
From my row house mailbox, I fished
an envelope: no address, just “David.”
scrawled. In my room, I read: e-mails
bounced back,calls orphaned. If you’re alive and don’twant to talk I get it.
Though six hours acrossthe Atlantic is much farther than six along it. If need be, I will kneel before your grave. here’s my number. just in case.
The superiority of Japanese convenience stores—conbini—is no longer a secret to the world. Although most residents of Japan consider these corner stores an unremarkable albeit essential element of daily life, the rapid spread of Japanese soft power in the last decade has elevated conbini from a matter of insider knowledge to a must-see attraction featured in travel guides. Prior to Japan’s strict COVID-19 travel restrictions, tourists would flock to Tokyo’s conbini to bask in the novelty of a 7-Eleven that boasts fresh salmon onigiri and matchapurin instead of slurpees and $1 coffee.