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I used to fall asleep without praying.  For decades, I would crawl into bed, arrange my pillows into a fluffy mountain to keep my head elevated all night, turn immediately onto my side with my legs curled in sort of a tree pose, and drift off to a choppy dreamland often marked by sugarplum dreams dosed slightly with acid.  There was something comforting about getting into bed and just being done. Though my mind would often spin with unanswered questions and unrequited longings, those thoughts were never linear and they certainly weren’t planned out and there was a freedom to my nighttime ritual I wish I could reclaim.  Because the thing is, I don’t quite know what happened or even when it happened, but I pray every single night now and it takes me a while to do and, rather than feeling quieted by my prayers, they cause nocturnal anxiety.  I think it’s probably that my prayers, though coated with gratitude, are also motivated by fears I spend all day pretending are not there.  I speak of my family and my wishes for them and I ask for safety and protection for all of us and I pepper my words with a request that those I care about will be alleviated from whatever ails them.  I pray that those I loved who have passed on are at peace and that they are together in a spiritual stratosphere I’m not even sure I believe exists, and I end with thoughts of appreciation.  All of it is done in my head; I do it whether I’m alone in my bed or not, and I never really talk about it with anyone – about how I feel like I have to do it now, about the way it’s almost become a superstition, about how I’m not even sure it helps anything, about the way I’ve convinced myself it cannot possibly hurt. 

If I prayed for you at one point, you probably remain in my nightly thoughts.  I’ve never been all that good at the process of elimination.



The scent of peppermint now wafts through every single room of my house.  Courtesy of a essential oil diffuser I bought late one night on Amazon, the steady stream of minty wonder has grown so enticing that yesterday I contemplated licking the wall – you know, snozzberry-style. 

Everyone’s got an opinion about my new aromatherapy habit:

You know, peppermint is an energizing scent, said the person I call My Most Informed Friend because she knows pretty much everything about anything.  This pumping of peppermint could explain why you don’t sleep so well.

Your house smells like a spa, one guy told me – and I had to inform him the only massage that would be forthcoming was the one he was about to give me.



It’s raining, and I gave away my umbrella to a guy who swore that he loved me. I’d be furious, but I’ve always been the sort of girl who prefers to dance in a downpour instead of running for some shelter.  Besides, I look really good wet.  

I used to be proud of being someone who routinely beckons the unpredictable and the mildly unattainable to inch closer to me, but now I find myself wondering: is the stability inherent in feeling warm and safe worthy of cancelling out the mystery I’ve never been able to stop myself from craving? There has to be a balance that exists between the embrace of the comfortable and the thrill of the unknown.  Sometimes I’m positive I’ve found it, but then a new hunger beckons and I tiptoe away from the light to see what’s crouching in the shadows and reflecting up at me from the puddles and I can no longer even pretend to deny that there’s something undeniably alluring about the torrential grey rain. The sudden exposure, the way it almost feels dangerous – how it soaks you so completely that it’s like you’re newly constructed, a different assortment of cells than you were before.  And there’s a wantonness that comes from being cracked open by all that water.  Your shirt is molded to your body and your hair drips down onto your shoulders and, even with lines of mascara running like indecipherable messages down your cheeks, you know nobody has ever understood you more completely than the way you’re understood during that storm. You also know you have never felt sexier or more alive.  

For me, the barrage of rain has always brought forth a feeling of possibility.  There’s something about the wildness of that kind of weather and the scent it leaves behind that I’m drawn to far more than all those Clean Cotton candles lining my living room.  The patter of water hits my downstairs windows at odd angles and I recline on my couch with a cup of peppermint tea and I stare at the patterns made by the reverberation of the water and I become who I really am:  a dreamer.  And that’s a far more complicated thing to be than some rather fortunate people will ever know.

It’s interesting that a song titled after a body of water brings a question I’ve often wondered about bobbing to the mind’s surface.  In The River, Springsteen poses, “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?” and I’m here to tell you that, from my perspective, a dream that remains unfulfilled is way fucking worse than a lie.  Those are the dreams that will haunt you.  They will invade your sleep and become the cause of your nightmares and they will reoccur time and time again until you begin pondering why your own subconscious is clearly plotting against you.  The unrealized dreams will stay spinning in your thoughts and they will warp your soul with shooting pangs of pain that whisper and hiss, “This almost happened for you…” while you wince and cower and proclaim to your bathroom mirror and to the most overcast of skies that you will never allow yourself to dream ever again.  You will not be able to keep that promise; it will be just another dream you’ve had that will not come true.

If you’re not entirely vigilant, the unfulfilled dream can end up becoming that which defines you – and that’s a very dangerous slope to teeter on.  What exists just over that jagged cliff is a sea of regret, an undertow of blistering anger that’s cut with a toxic dusting of sadness.  Simply put, it is loss you will be wading through if you allow yourself to fall and you will find yourself drowning in something that never really was.  You have to fight to regain your footing.  You must force yourself to remember what was real and what was just a candy-coated illusion.  Yes, just the idea of it tasted like honey and unbridled fucking delight, but it was never tangible.  You never actually held it with both of your hands.  There were times you had a good solid grip, but there were even more times you watched as it slipped away.  

But cautionary whispers and self-directed ruthless censure aside, I have to tell you that I heard an expression the other day that settled someplace deep inside my head in a manner that feels like it could maybe be permanent. A man was speaking about a friend he’d lost touch with and there was both wistfulness and sorrow lining the tenor of his voice as he described that person as “one of my favorite dreaming partners.”  And in spite of it all, I think if I could choose how some people remember me during those bleak rainy days when memories always feel heightened, it would be as a worthy coconspirator who listened and cheered and indulged their dreaming.  It would be as a person who had her own dreams.  And it would be as the girl who made them feel like they could and would accomplish anything and everything, even as the heavens opened and the rains fell down.      


Nell Kalter teaches Film and Media at a school in New York.  She is the author of the books THAT YEAR and STUDENT, both available on in paperback and for your Kindle.  Also be sure to check out her website at Her Twitter is @nell_kalter




A bunch of years ago, my best friend was muddling her way through a long and tedious stretch of being single.  It wasn’t that she was dying to be part of a couple just then, but she was starting to feel like she was slowly being driven mad from all the cavorting she found herself doing with sociopaths and psychopaths as the sun went down, to say nothing of the emotional kleptomaniacs she associated with during daylight hours.  Making matters even more trying was the way her vacant relationship status somehow managed to weave its way into every single conversation she had during every single meal she shared with every single member of her rather large family.  It happened time and time again.  She would arrive home from THE WORST FUCKING BRUNCH IN ALL OF HISTORY (EVEN THOUGH THE WHITEFISH WAS REALLY GOOD) and, emotionally mauled, she would pick up the phone and call me. As a friend, I made it my business to be supportive.  I tried to offer her solutions to her very real problems.  I suggested, for example, that she put herself up for adoption and maybe find a family that prided itself on its patterns of withholding.  I volunteered to take pictures of her twisted into that yoga pose where her ankles end up tucked behind her ears and then post it online because I was certain she’d land a boyfriend in less than an hour.  But in the short-run, I encouraged her to maybe keep her dating experiences to herself, to not share them with her mother unless the story involved a guy who might actually end up looming large in her future.  I also told her to stop being wooed by the lure of bagels and lox, that she could purchase that shit herself and then enjoy a quiet meal where nobody asked her to pass the cream cheese after guesstimating exactly how many seemingly perfect men she’d allowed to get away from her during her twenties because she’d prioritized sexy stubble over basic human decency back in those hypercrazy days.

Since I too have made several romantic choices that were based almost entirely on some guy having the kind of scruff that caused my knees to buckle whenever I caught a glimpse of it across the room or gazed up at it while I was reclining between his open legs, I maybe wasn’t the best person to turn to for advice.  Still, I wanted my friend to be happy and I knew that sometimes she wasn’t even looking for advice or answers; she just really needed to decompress and talk through her stress.  I recall particularly how our conversations after holiday dinners tended to be especially long since as she would recount every insane comment her mother made over the entire evening. (Passover was always the worst, what with all that time spent at the table before even a fucking bit of food is served.  And the Israelites thought they had it rough…) But probably my favorite comment of all time was made by my friend’s mother during one particular Seder and it’s when she asked her daughter, “Aren’t you proud of me for not even bringing up that you’re still boyfriendless?  Aren’t I handling your loneliness so well?”  To this day, I cannot believe there were knives and electric turkey carvers on that table and nobody ended up in the hospital or in prison.



I used to sit in the passenger seat of my father’s tan car, stare hard at the blur of forest green woods just outside my window as we drove by them, and wonder if there were any dead bodies hidden back there.  I was always somewhat certain that at least a few had to be buried underneath makeshift heaps of brown leaves that had turned a little bit grey from the rain.  

I would walk across the docks in the harbor town where I grew up, the planks of old wood bending and creaking beneath the sneakers I used to wear then.  I’d gaze out into the distance by squinting my eyes against the rainbow-colored glares of the sun.  Far off, I could see glinting flecks of light that looked like silver sparkles dancing on the water’s surface that I knew were caused by the sun but I couldn’t help wondering if perhaps a mermaid had formed them herself when she took a break from brushing her long hair while reclining on a rock. 

I went to sleep every night only after bracketing my body with stuffed animals.  Cookie Monster slept on one side of me while my bear, Mr. Gerber, reclined on the other.  I felt safer somehow if I wasn’t alone in my bed.  I guess I still do. 

I moved into my sorority house as a junior in college right after I’d spent part of the summer going on a true crime reading spree.  Despite a rather overactive imagination that might have caused my parents great concern back in my toddler years, I grew up into a person who was able to talk myself out of getting too freaked out by the scary stories I enjoyed consuming for entertainment.  But the tales about Ted Bundy freaked me out entirely because I just knew I was the kind of person who would have stopped to help carry some books if a nice-looking guy appeared to be struggling with them and I also knew that’s how Bundy got some of his victims.  Lose that lining of naiveté you’ve still got surrounding your heart and your mind like Tupperware, I told myself once as the Bundy story kept me awake well into the early morning and I pulled my Cookie Monster closer.  I finally managed to get over that fear.  I just promised myself I would never stop to help some random person ever again and sure, I’ve struggled with such a proclamation, but I’ve comforted my tortured soul by explaining to it that at least it wasn’t being tortured in some psychopath’s basement.




I rounded the corner that leads to my school this morning and saw a thick layer of fog covering the football field like a coalition of ghosts had chosen to have an early meeting near the fifty-yard line.  On any other morning, I might have reacted simply to the aesthetic of it all – I’ve always been perversely drawn to things that appear generically spooky – but today, on this first day of a new school year, all I could see in those foggy shadows was a collection of days and people that have already gone by.

I’m not sure that I will ever be a person for whom beginnings won’t immediately cause me to connote the haunting imagery of endings but it’s not all bad.  Gone are the days when I felt anxious and chilly-tummy-terrified before the first day of school.  I mean, I actually slept last night without having even one nightmare about arriving at school braless (which actually happened once, but thankfully it was a chilly day).  The only part of my first-day outfit that I really put a great deal of thought into was my shoes.  (They’re these insane new strappy, studded booties and I love them, though I will probably have to amputate a toe or three by day’s end.)  But what remains in the location where I used to store my pre-school anxiety is a level of awareness of how much has changed – and how much I have changed.  The changes aren’t necessarily negative though I guess maybe they’re not fully positive either.  They just are, and so that means that I better start understanding them. 



For a very long time, I knew the first and the last lines of the book Less Than Zero by heart. I think that if I sat down to think about it for more than twelve seconds – my maximum attention span of late – I bet I could still recite those words that once felt branded on my soul and in my mind in the ways a suburban girl from the east coast who has never gone through a real drug phase shouldn't actually be able to remember. There was something about being afraid to merge on freeways in the beginning and the last line of the book included the words "after I left." I might not remember the cheekbones of a guy I kissed three months ago, but words?  Those tend to stay with me.



If evolution is all about altering the facets of what you once were so that you can become who you need to be, I think I might be evolving.  And I can only hope that one day there’s a life-size model of me standing beside the skeleton of the T-Rex in the Museum of Natural History and that the model is wearing a cute and flowy summer dress and strappy sandals with a five-inch heel and that there’s a Tab clutched in one hand and a Diet Coke gripped tightly in another because everythingevolves, even diet soda, and that pink can of Tab will hopefully match my outfit though, growth aside, I still mostly wear black. But how perfectly will that pink soda can work as a pop of color?

It’s sometimes hard to track changes.  Life moves in speeds that can feel both plodding and then wildly frantic and everything is more or less cyclical and I have spent a lot of time cautioning myself that yes, I will definitely continue to make some mistakes, but they’d better be different mistakes than the ones I’ve already made twice.  I guess there’s just something about fucking up in a novel way that makes me feel okay about things in the way that repeating patterns and trying to fling my arms around opportunities that have already drifted away connotes failure.  And I think realizing that I don’t need to live my days without missteps has started to make me feel more free.



My only months-old phone died instantly when I clicked on a link to an E! News story about the breakup between Kourtney Kardashian and that drunken guy who fathered her children. 

On a happier note, I have now come to fully believe in both God and karma.

The summer, once just a hazy figment in my intended imagination, has become something real and the days and the events have begun sliding into one another in a way that feels almost like magic.

I went to a burger place that was noisier than any school cafeteria has ever been and ate a salad and then almost a platter of tatter tots by myself while two guys – one in a Red Sox tee and one in a Yankee shirt – sat across from us and ordered beer and wings and watched a baseball game.  They hardly said a word to one another and I wondered if the rivalry was really that intense or if some people just don’t have all that much to say when there are wings involved.  For a second I though it would be very funny to inquire as to who they were each rooting for, but the second passed and it wasn’t funny anymore and besides, I was very busy fashioning a blanket out of paper napkins because the place was also the most freezing cold restaurant I’ve ever stepped foot inside.

I returned to a monthly movie trivia competition with a friend and we were determined to win this time around after losing by a single point at our inaugural try.  I was hopped up on a bunch of cold medicine and felt a little bit foggy, but that’s not the reason we lost so spectacularly.  There was a category of anagrams, just a mess of letters we were meant to unscramble to form the name of an actor or an actress, and it destroyed us.  First of all, that’s not trivia; that’s a skill I just don’t have.  Second of all, I had a moment of antihistamine-fueled positivity that one of the names definitely unscrambled into Dweezil Zappa.  Third of all, I was very wrong and the anagram was actually of Denzel Washington.  Fourth of all, here’s a message for the trivia host:  OG*CUFK*LFYORUES. 

I got my hair straightened and smelled like chemicals for two consecutive days.  I think I saw my dog shake her head at what my vanity had done to the scent of our home.  A few days later, some sexy scruff rubbed off an entire layer of the skin on my chin, and that new layer proved to be very pale and so I set out on a quest for the perfect bronzer. I tried Bobbi Brown Aruba and Smashbox Baked Starburst before I realized that there really is no such thing as the perfect bronzer and instead just lifted my face towards the blazing sun.

I forgot what day it was faster than I have in any summer that has ever come before.  I felt the differences between what it means to be Tuesday and what it means to be Friday slipping away from me like I’d just blown hard on a dandelion and forgotten to make a wish first.

I texted the following sentence to my best friend during a date:  holy fucking cuteness.  I laughed when her response back was to try to keep all of my clothing on in his presence.  

For the first time, I saw both The Boondocks and American Dad.  I giggled almost uncontrollably during both.  I started watching Ray Donovan but I'm really behind on the promise I made to a friend that I’d watch all of Sons of Anarchy. I really hate breaking promises, but there have been Real Housewives to watch and besides, maybe it’s just too ambitious to make a promise to watch something like five full seasons of a show I wasn’t automatically drawn to while it was airing. I think I'll go ahead and terminate that promise and instead admit defeat and hand over several members of my family who own some impressive real estate as payment and consider the deal closed. 

I have managed to carve out time to watch Big Brother, and I can say this with some certainty:  I have seen the signs of the End of Days and it looks like a person in sweatpants and a knit beanie hat talking directly into a camera in something we’ve all agreed to call The Diary Room. One of the guys in the house sounds exactly like Bobcat Goldthwaite.  He can only either scream or whisper and he legitimately seems to lack an indoor voice. Another contestant woke up half the house at four in the morning to make sure they were all loyal her and I fully expected someone to kill her by sunrise Lord of the Flies style, but it's a nonviolent and non-racist group this year because apparently CBS has finally figured out how to properly vet people who are recorded around the clock.  I listened quizzically as a player who has a penis said, “I don't trust nobody in here that has a damn penis,” and sure, I'd feel free to move forward and start hating everybody on that show, but I'm really too busy experiencing high levels of self-loathing while the show is on and I’m watching it – three times a week.

I splashed around in my parents’ pool and I talked to my stepfather about the debt crisis in Greece. As the day grew hotter, we both agreed that lawyers make the worst politicians, that my mother is the nation's finest cook, and I might have convinced him to get a fire pit for the back patio. I was less successful convincing him to build a small moat, but I'm not giving up yet and I won't until a crocodile named Bethenny becomes our newest family pet.

I got my carpets cleaned, my toenails polished in a shade of pink that defies comprehension (it's not a pale pink and there's no rose in there and I guess that maybe it’s closest to the color of the bubble gum ice cream from Baskin and Robbins) and I bought new sneakers that I hate as much as I hate my old sneakers. They do not look natural on my feet and I know that they never will, but I put them on anyway. Hills that challenged me last summer no long cause me to even slightly pant this summer. 

I've decided to see that as an important metaphor. 

I drank sangria while sitting on patios and I ate pizza while leaning against a building in the moonlight. I sipped black coffee in bed. 

Above line aside, I haven't listened to a single song by Squeeze, because it's no longer the same summer it was when I was sixteen.

I spoke for a long time the other day with someone I loved when I was sixteen. We talked about movies and about life and about how we both miss the same beach and about how quickly time goes by. We had similar conversations when we were sixteen; that's why he's the one I loved then. That's why he's still my friend today.

I read The Girl on the Train and a book about a girl who used to claim to be in love with Hugh Hefner before she turned into a woman who now either knows better or wanted to capitalize on what’s brought her name recognition. When she hit #1 on The New York Times bestseller list, I stopped questioning her exact motives and instead officially included a "sleep with an aged millionaire" on my own subsequent to-do list. 

I have also considered that maybe I should just start writing fiction.

I revealed to someone my fear of things that fly that are not supposed to fly and that I believe the terror stems from my first movie theatre experience with Pete's Dragon and he laughed and told me that the dragon in that movie is adorable, not scary, and that his name was Elliot and I Googled the title of the movie later on and I felt a genuine cold grip of fear just before the images came up and then when I saw a green and pink dragon who all but has dimples similar to my own, I realized it might be time to reevaluate my psyche.

I had cravings for donuts and ice cream and mango and yodels. I gave in to the yodel craving and I know for sure now that there's true goodness in this world. To compensate for my rediscovered love of all things Drake and Hostess, I have an appointment with my mother this week to learn how to make gazpacho with no calories from the blonde master. The woman is a dynamo and it's time I started paying more attention.

I sent my niece and nephew letters to their sleepaway camp and shoved candy necklaces inside that I hope will not be crushed and then appear as a sugary form of anthrax.  I made sure the necklaces did not originate from the same factory as one where any nut has once resided.

I've been awake later than the dawn and slept clear through one early evening. I had that sore throat thing that has cut through this area like wildfire. I drank water and green tea with honey and I tried to remember what it used to feel like before someone apparently took a vegetable peeler to my throat. I recalled how nice it was when I wasn’t aware of every swallow. Even a yodel hurt going down, but I ate it anyway because I think it's very important to face the challenges life throws your way.

I've gotten tanner and my hair keeps getting lighter. I'm not sure how I feel about this yet. I strongly suspect that I don't really care one way or the other.  I'm pretty sure I care about things way more during the autumn and the winter.  I think that maybe I’m just more reflective after the sun goes down behind the trees.

I ate in a Greek restaurant I haven't been to since I was little.  I used to go there with my father. We'd walk in, him reaching his whole hand down and me reaching my entire arm up to grab onto his pinky finger, and we'd sit at a high table, which is on my top 10 list of Things I Love, along with stuff like seeing an Old English Sheepdog and Sunday nights when I don't have to go to work on Monday. Yodels have shimmied their creamy way onto that list.  A friend or two were knocked off the list in that process, but priorities do shift in life and I think we all should just accept things like adults. At the restaurant, I didn't have the experience I sometimes have when I visit a place I used to go in that sometimes I think that I can almost see a wisp of a former vision of myself when I look up quickly. I would have liked to have the moment; I wish I knew why it only happens sometimes, but it’s probably so I remain sane.

I sat in a child's car seat on the way to dinner with friends, found myself agreeing to the idea of going hiking at night, and I still sometimes hear the pop and the sizzle of leftover fireworks shooting off in the distance after the sun goes down. I'll bet some of you hear them too and it's a mini reminder that we're all living underneath the same darkening sky and I guess there's some poetic comfort in such a thing.

I embraced the lack of a traditional structure in my days and received a recipe for brussel sprouts that actually made me like brussel sprouts. I thought I had a lot in common with a guy, but even having that hunch didn't make being able to say, "My father had polio too!" any less odd. 

Hearing the important news that Brandi Glanville is leaving the Beverly Hills Housewives brought me more of an unadulterated joy than hearing that Ennio Morricone is coming out of retirement to score Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. I think it might almost be time for me to sit in a dark closet and watch Sergio Leone movies on a loop before someone shows up at my door and insists that I hand over my degree.  I figure, though, that I can do the closet thing on a rainy day in late August.

I saw two dead birds on a lawn, one dead deer that broke my heart, and an entire family of geese cross a highway as passengers came to a dramatic standstill.  It might be the finest example of collective humanity I’ve witnessed with my own eyes in a long while.

I felt myself grow more alive under the gray of a sky where there were no stars and I heard myself murmur that I hope summer never ends.



Remember this, I told myself right then.

I memorized the exact location of the paint chip on the wall and filed it into that place in my mind that is sometimes where I sprint to for comfort but, far more often, it comes running towards me as though intending to cause me some harm.  I memorized how the cords on the television were somewhat hidden from view.  I put it somewhere deep inside of myself that the toilet paper in the bathroom was always put on the roll in the opposite way than how I do it in my house, with the flap on the bottom.  He placed his the same way my mother did; I think I found that almost comforting.  I leaned over then and felt once again that spot on his head that almost seemed misshapen, the one I’d smiled at quietly the first time I touched it because it reminded me of The Coneheads and because it also made me realize that you only find out those kinds of things about someone sometimes.

The symbolic card cataloguing of variables and quirks was part of my plan, the one so ill-formulated that I didn’t even know then that it was a plan.  But I knew enough to know that I should definitely have one.