Jessica Alexander

Crawl Space 

It was always 5 in the morn­ing when I lived there.

The drug­store sold post­cards of a tall brown build­ing, and dirty snow melt­ing around the base of an elm with bare limbs.  The sky was tap water white.   The post­card said, “Administration Building,” in block letters.

I bought one every week.  I wrote, “Avery, come see me.  I am most­ly free always,” and sent it to New Mexico.

Sometimes, the snow­drift blocked my entrance.

I dreamt once a week of New Mexico or being near New Mexico, in an adobe train depot with no phone.

My sis­ter called the morn­ing black­birds appeared, dead in the snow.  A brick wall went up around my apart­ment com­plex.  Somebody, maybe yes­ter­day, maybe last night, paint­ed the wall white.  My boots went miss­ing.  Sometimes the stove was on, and I couldn’t, for the life of me, remem­ber the last time I cooked something.

My sis­ter said, “Maybe, it’s like Avery and her hus­band.  They got an apart­ment in Los Angeles.  After she moved in with him, the cere­al box­es were emp­ty every morn­ing.  Cans of soup went miss­ing.  Broken pret­zels, crack­er crumbs.  Avery thought her hus­band woke up and raid­ed the pantry.  He thought she did it in her sleep.  They got out the scale.  But no one was gain­ing weight.  He installed a camera.”

Someone says Trotsky died in Mexico and I see a dusty box­car, a cracked win­dow.  I smile faint­ly.  But Los Angeles has no image.  It felt like swal­low­ing.  I thought I was the ghost in my own apart­ment and my apart­ment was Los Angeles.

A tiny woman had been liv­ing in the crawl space above their pantry.

Like I had not been pay­ing enough atten­tion.  Like I lived, missed, was miss­ing too much.

My sis­ter called to wish me a hap­py Valentine’s Day.  It was Valentine’s Day, she said.

Happy Valentine’s Day, I said and got off the phone.

I fin­ished my glass of water, set it by the sink, walked over to the bed and went to sleep.  When I woke the next morn­ing the glass had been broken.

I had been liv­ing alone too long.  Thinking and speak­ing had become the same thing.  I looked at the pantry and all I could think was, “Do you love me?”


Jessica Alexander is a can­di­date for the Ph.D. in Creative Writing at the University of Utah. The two pieces in this issue of Blip Magazine are her first pub­lished work.