An excerpt from Unexploded Ordnance.
Sometimes red currants at the farmer’s market glow like dashboard warning lights, the sugar in my shopping basket drags on my arm like lead, and sweetness, beauty, danger taste the same. Sometimes my eyes project the letters from a sign outside the Licht- und Luftbad in Essen, Germany, onto the walls of a new world. Sometimes my retina and taste buds feel like my grandmother’s rather than my own. I cannot tell the currant story in third person, because, though she lived and told it, it is mine.
The woman stops in mid-greeting, mid-step; I nearly bash her knees with the picnic basket swinging from my hand.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, balancing the basket on my forearm to rummage through blanket, coffee flask, fork, spoon, making sure the bag of sugar is still wedged upright, between the currants and the white enamel bowl. She doesn’t answer, doesn’t move. I look up from the basket, then farther up at her face. She gazes past me; I turn to trace the line of her fixed stare. The entrance lodge to the Licht- und Luftbad looks the same as always: red geraniums, peeling paint, tack-bitten wood around the ticket booth window cluttered with signs—women this way, men that way, admissions prices, rules and regulations, opening times. Even the porter is the same.