Caroline Tracey grew up in Denver, Colorado and since graduating from Yale University with a degree in Russian Literature has lived in California and Kyrgyzstan, where she is a Fulbright grantee researching landscape and the environment in Kyrgyz literature and culture. Her writing has won the Willets Prize and appeared in [PANK], The High Country News, and Trop Mag. She occupies herself thinking about aridity, the economy, and womanhood.
The Splendid Reclamation of the Dynamo
At the end of the afternoon, when the sun comes down the apartment building's window well, bounces off the stucco, and bleeds through the fire escape and into the small kitchen, it turns the walls a shade of orange so warm that Dory thinks she has left the light on. Sometimes, when we're sitting in the living room -- I on the couch and she in the armchair across from me --she gets up to check. She brushes her hand down the kitchen light switch and returns. Within a few minutes, it tricks her again. Her legs twitch away from the chair. She fights them.
She is in the kitchen now, making soup. I am looking in from the doorway. I've just arrived; she's been here all day. She is wearing a black tank top and jeans, both loose on her small frame. Her hair is pulled into a ponytail, but some of the black strands are too short to make it into the loop, so they just hang down against her cheeks and jaw. Each time she moves, little pieces of whatever is on the ground stick to the soft bottoms of her bare feet, and she has to lean down to pick off what new has clung: now, a piece of onion skin. She leans over, and the lumps of her neck vertebrae show through a thin cover of tawny skin. When I was younger—when I was in college, when I slept with a lot of different people in a short span of time—I used to wonder why some girls' spines showed when they bent over and others' didn't.
Tomorrow is Halloween. Dory's apartment is on the fifth floor of a building with no elevators, but there are some families in the building, mostly Mexican, so she'll get some knocks on the door, and, turning on her mother's Spanish, she'll compliment the kids on their costumes.
"Did you get candy?" I ask her.
She points to the pantry. On one of the shelves there's a greenish bag,the kind you unroll in the bulk food aisles of health food stores. I open it. The static interior is lined with sugar—it's probably the same bag she used for crystallized ginger last week. I put my left hand in to see what she's going to give the kids. Pretzels with chocolate coating. I go to sneak one, but feeling the brown coverings start to soften against my warm, foreign hand, I pull out.
"Parents might not let their kids have this," I tell her. "People worry about unwrapped food from strangers." She shrugs.
She needs a slotted spoon. It's in the cabinet behind her, where she keeps all the utensils that came in any kind of packaging piled up together. Her rice cooker and her food processor in their cardboard cubes. Her scissors and stirring spoons still in the vacuum of hard plastic in which they came.
She finds the right package, pries open the incision in the blister seal, and slides the spoon out. after she finishes using it, she'll wash it and slide it back into the nest. Her kitchen liturgy.