You Would Know

by Lisa Piazza

My neighbor laughs like a barking dog. Open-mouthed, eager, air yapping in and out in a thrust of joy. That’s how I picture it anyway. I’ve never seen her, but I can hear her when I’m in my backyard. We are home all the time now and I take my computer outside to teach under the shade of the grapefruit tree. The grapefruits are huge and bitter—made of pith and dry pulp, inedible—but the tree is leafy and green and moves a little in the breeze. When I sit under it, the world stops ending a little.

Tree rings may contain supernova traces. Harper’s says so on the last page of the October issue, buried in between facts about pessimism, lizards, dementia, and wound patterns. May contain. Not does, but a promise, a prospect. The possibility of tree as depository, the ring as record. The universe as shift or shaft. A shower. 

I am reading in the hammock as my neighbor laughs, hacks (barks, yaps), and my teenage daughters glare, stare (pose, mope) at their screens. They have made permanent friends with their beds, their shuttered windows, the stale shadows that move through their rooms as the day turns to night. 

Six months into the pandemic, my students are making an honest go of it. On Zoom, they meet as clubs and send out video announcements. The leadership class holds virtual contests and rallies. They smile through the screens, and it feels normal now—their carefully curated bedroom backgrounds, their exuberance for Google slides shared in celebration of whatever day Google says it is: Donut Day! National Ice Cream Sundae Day! Cavity Day! I don’t know. They honor it all so that everything is meaningless now. 

Today on Zoom the Debate Club asks if anyone wants to join. The Drama Club is holding auditions for a Zoom production of Macbeth. The Environmental Club flashes a slide about water conservation. You can help! Here’s how!

We are in another drought year. The grapefruit tree sways its yellowing leaves. My neighbor hahahas the morning away while my own kids mute their voices. My cat claws his way over the fence to sit with me here outside. I have to keep my camera on, but I don’t always look at the lens. 

The environmental club ends with a Fun Fact! There are pumas in the Santa Cruz mountains. I picture them there: soaking in shafts of sun, the wells of shade made by towering redwoods. Gorgeous from a distance, like most things we ought to avoid. From far away, the padded paws snap step crunch forward on the forest floor.

Danger, drought, distance. I teach with my jaw clenched.

For years I have been casually seeing a man who doesn’t live here anymore. He texts from time to time to show me he is in Colorado, Montana, the big island, the Dominican Republic. When he lived here, we saw each other a few times a month. We talked in future tense. One of our first outings was a hike in Tilden Park. After, we went to a Vietnamese restaurant off University Avenue in Berkeley. When we were done eating, we used the paper placemats to list all the places we wanted to visit together once he was out of rehab and I was through with the domestic violence trial and the dissolution of my marriage. 

What potential the future holds before you get there. Promise! Possibility! Written in blue ballpoint pen on a paper placement. Did I write out the places? Cuba, Alaska, The Pacific Coast Trail, California hot springs. I picture the list in his handwriting, not mine. All caps, sturdy and confident. A little unlearned. 

Years of grading papers makes me a pseudo-expert on penmanship. The significance of a T: high cross or low? But what of this: the thick boots he wore on the hike, the compass he kept in his pocket. What does that signify? That he always gets lost or never will? 

We paused at a picnic table during the hike and talked about the difference between North and true North. Explanation as poem. There was a hawk in the sky, and we stood on the ridge watching it fly in the gold, green, blue of an East Bay afternoon. I didn’t know him well enough yet to lean my body against his, to step close enough so that he might touch me—even accidentally. 

Later, as we left the Vietnamese restaurant, I stopped at the bathroom. When I came out, he was already on the sidewalk.  

You have the list, right? He asked straightaway.  

No, I thought you had it, I laughed. 

Inside, our table cleared and clean. A fresh white tablecloth with blank paper placements. Our future covered in fish sauce, soaking in the garbage.

This morning the Environmental Club reminds us to care. To recycle and reuse. To cut the straps off our disposable masks, so they don’t end up strangling marine life. To use metal straws or paper if we have to. They flash slides of ducks with masks around their necks, turtles with straws up their noses, fish tangled in trash.

They show us two slides side by side. Juxtaposition—I think—though not subtle, not poetic. Not the way I try to teach them in class. Here we see a charred forest next to a lush one. The Amazon as a set of lungs next to a barren, logged landscape. A living elephant next to a bloody one missing its tusks. 

I think of my students—home in their rooms, watching all of this alone through their screens. It’s possible, likely, even, that they aren’t watching at all. That they are logged into Zoom with cameras off and sound down, scrolling TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, or playing videogames on their second screens.

One of the last assignments we did together before the initial lockdown in March was to come up with a “Word of the Year” for 2020.  New year, new decade. It was supposed to be fun. We set it up as a debate—each team proposed a word and created a presentation to convince us to vote for theirs. For one solid week at the end of January, we lived in each other’s pessimism and worry. Images of school shootings and the wildfires in Australia, Trump’s racism, MAGA rallies. Doom and destruction. It felt real yet somewhat distant. Images on a screen. 

We had no idea what was to come. What is still here, now.

I will never see some of those kids person again; this is common for teachers and students but there are usually more natural end points. End of the semester, end of the year, graduation. The other day I saw a former student at the nursery while looking for plants—older, settled now through the eyes, man-bun, but the same goofy smile. I hid behind a large potted plant—mask on, sunglasses, unrecognizable. This kid never liked me much; he came in late, ate his lunch in the back corner. Didn’t try except when we got to Walt Whitman. He memorized Walt’s lines, made a video filming the old and young in his life, put it to music, and showed the class. I can’t remember his name, but I remember that.

I usually hide when I see people I know. Sometimes I don’t act quickly enough, and so there I am: standing awkwardly in Target with a man buying a blender or a pack of Pampers. Lawyer now, married, two kids. 

Great to see you! 

Another one operates her own skincare salon near me. I think about making an appointment but don’t want her to scrutinize my imperfections under a magnifying glass. On social media, I see that a former student (shy, awkward, striving) is offering her services as a healer now. A Guide. Tarot and palm readings at a café two blocks from the high school.

 If I want to know my future, I will have to revisit my past as her teacher, now client. Tell me something I don’t know.

The rehab was in San Francisco. The Man Who Doesn’t Live Here Anymore had to sign in and out. Could only leave every other weekend. Had to be back by midnight. Once, driving him back from my place in Oakland, we cut it too close. The Bay Bridge was down to two lanes for late-night construction.  If you’re late even once, they don’t let you back in. Zero tolerance policy. 11:50…11:52. On the stopped bridge, he said: just let me out here. I can run there faster. I saw the panic in his eyes. But I assured him we would make it.  

I was wrong.

They locked the door and wouldn’t let him in. He came home with me and the next day went back for his stuff. They had it bagged in a large Hefty. 

There was a moment in that upheaval (where will I go?) where we had a chance to redirect our future. Not his alone or mine alone but the idea of a collective future. In my suspicion, when I think about it now, I relive it like a test he set (what will she do…will she take me in?) The question of circumstance, even fate, looms like an eerie moon over that whole night. Was it meant to be? The story is easily resolved by a ticking clock that runs out the hour. Crisis averted—decision made for us instead of by us.

But I looked at what my daughters and I had found after years of chaos and fear: our house now a version of serenity. Mornings as still as Mt. Tam; going to sleep with the calm breaths of nothing wrong instead of a jagged heartbeat in my ear. Nights I believed my ex-husband would like to kill us all. Would new love disrupt this newfound peace? If it was a test The Man Who Doesn’t Live Here Anymore set, I didn’t want to take it. If it was a test set by fate, well. Each moment is not delivered by the divine.  It’s easier to see the calculated machinations of another person in order to avoid seeing them in ourselves. The mirror as manipulation. Fate as failure.

I never saw him with a compass after that initial hike. Was it stolen at the rehab? When he dumped out his Hefty bag of stuff, was the compass missing? He ended up moving to a different program on Treasure Island. We would talk on the phone at night while I washed dishes and my kids did their homework. I would recount classroom incidents featuring my most annoying students, and he would describe the gangs of raccoons prowling the island, washing their hands in puddles, traipsing with their young across abandoned roads. He had roommates who snored. Roommates who stole. Roommates who relapsed. Roommates who disappeared. Roommates who died.

I re-evaluate everything in the dark dawn, the foggy dusk of after

It’s possible I imagined the whole thing. That day on the hillside. The gold hill and blue sky. Directions for the directionless. Our list. Late night traffic on the Bay Bridge. Maybe he did get out—and ran and ran and made it back. Maybe I invited him to live with me and my daughters—and we let the days round into weeks, months, years. Maybe then, at the end of it, we would have some way to count our growth—like rings on a tree—braided into the cosmos and more.

Most days, after my last Zoom class, I take a walk up into the neighborhood behind my house. It is the one thing I look forward to each day. I always ask my daughters if they want to come, but they seldom do. Mask on, hat on, the sky a low grey. I pass people, and we turn away. I make it up to the top and stare out at Mt. Tam in the distance. The bay and bridges. For years I prayed to the calm stillness of this mountain. For the calm stillness of this mountain. Hers is not a looming form. Not a stoic stranger but a serene goddess—an invitation to stay, expand, head back, hair flowing.

Back on my block, there it is again: my neighbor’s laugh. It sounds different from this side of the street.  A genuine bark followed by a yap yap yap. In the window of a yellow house, a dog—standing up, bounding down, turning circles. Hah-hah-hah.  

A woman is pulling her garbage bins to the curb. She isn’t wearing a mask.

She turns around and shushes the dog in the window. I cross the street—proper etiquette these days. 

In the deepest part of winter, I sink to the center of my body, retreat from the shoreline, and push far past the buoy of loneliness. This way, there is nothing to wade through. No thickness of longing, no tension of regret. Even sadness laps miles from here, at another shore.

I am learning that a knit hat holds everything in. I pull it down low over my head, put my mask up over my nose and mouth so that only my eyes show. I feel like Holden with his hat, and when we get to Catcher, I ask my students what they think about Holden’s attachment to his hunting cap.

His what? Colin asks.

I don’t get it, Kyla says.

Protection from grief, Nelson types in the chat. 

Pretentious prick, Colin adds.

^^^^^ this

No – it’s like he wears it as a disguise, Anika says, the life you imagine v the life you lead. The life you want v. the life everyone else wants you to lead. Their voice crack-crackles over Zoom so that it’s hard to hear.

Sophia: You’re glitching. What did you say?  

And Anika mutes their mic, turns their camera off. 

Come spring, there are monarch butterflies and hummingbirds in my backyard. A hammock in the upper corner of the yard reminds me to recline, and so I do, I do. The cat jumps up and there above us: the blue sky, the palm tree I planted myself, the growing artichokes, the bees on the flowering thyme, sun through the branches.

The sounds of owls, crows, mourning doves. Small brown sparrows darting here and there. I try to keep the cats away. 

On the other side of the fence, my neighbor laughs, yaps. Inside the house, my kids scroll, loll.

I look up at thick white clouds, down at the patio and house. 

The paint is cracked and peeling. The redwood my neighbor planted shades the east side, and plum trees shade the west – only the back of the house is left exposed to the harsh morning sun. In the front, a sweetgum tree planted by the city years before I moved in offers protection. Every year PG + E comes to trim the top away from the wires, so the tree is growing wide in a mess of heavy branches. 

I only know the names of some trees: pine, redwood, oak, dogwood, magnolia. Japanese maple, eucalyptus, coast madrone. Lemon. Apricot, Apple. Peach. Grapefruit. 

Once, hiking in Armstrong Woods with The Man Who Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, we booked a small cabin near Cazadero deep in the woods for two nights. I have a picture somewhere of us leaning against a giant redwood tree, and even without looking at it, I can remember the solidity of that day—warm sun, uphill climb, my relief at a hand to hold. Head on his shoulder, smile like what luck! A sense of redemption at having moved past the rehab and divorce stages of our lives. What grief? The past a long shadow firmly behind us—no need to look back.

I decided (and he agreed) that my kids didn’t need the disruption; he understood that they didn’t want him included in large or small family functions and that I would honor their wishes on this. Our time together was purposefully kept separate from my day-to-day life. Days with him a welcome escape. In this way, he was never going to be a part of my real life, as real as my feelings are for him.

Even from our first overnight together, when we went out to Pt. Reyes and stayed in Inverness, I knew I would create compartments for the segments of my life and that they would not overlap. My mistake on that first trip was choosing a place I had visited many times—first as a kid, with my parents and sisters and later with my own kids and their dad. I couldn’t help but see my past in that collection of cabins spread out over the grassy compound. Ghost-versions of my former life. My ex-husband’s angry outburst at a clogged toilet. A toilet he had clogged but blamed me for. Everything wrong was my fault. With him, my options were to accept responsibility for something that had nothing to do with me or push back. Neither decision ever kept the peace. 

I was married to rage, I was married to heat, I was married to an invisibility that required my reduction. I halved and halved and halved myself until there was nothing left.

Cut into me, and you would find fifty tiny boxes, forty-nine empty and one taped shut. I was in there – hiding. The Man Who Doesn’t Live Here Anymore found me that way. In Inverness, we soaked in the hot tub, and I leaned my head back—steam circling—while he talked of his tasks back when he was a Marine. The sense of security it gave me—to be there, with him (a tall, sturdy man who had been trained to scour the scene, count the exits; who understood danger and was prepared to combat it) and not my ex-husband, a small, pugnacious man with a traumatized past, unable to flush his own shit.

The Environmental Club is hosting an online event. I am half-listening to the Zoom announcements, grading essays via Google docs on one screen, Zooming with my camera off on another. In the kitchen, my younger daughter is spreading tinfoil on a baking sheet so she can heat up some lunch.  She doesn’t like to light the burners (our broken gas stove requires matches to light them) so she cooks everything on a cookie sheet in the oven. Dumps out last night’s leftovers or pulls out something from the freezer.  I can’t help her because I’m working, even though I’m home. Even though it looks like I’m just staring into a computer.

Her timer goes off at the same time I finish reading an essay on the Pear Tree scene in Their Eyes Were Watching God. It might be the only book we study that doesn’t end in tragedy—Tea Cake dies, yes, and Janie is heartbroken, but she lives, and the book ends with her joyful memory of the journey. The kids like this book much better than Chopin’s The Awakening—convinced I am teaching them that drowning is a form of survival. A form of freedom. I try to explain symbolism, imagery, and metaphor, but they keep writing about the literal: facts, plot, and events stripped of subtext and meaning. She kills herself to avoid her marriage. She could have made it work. She could have left him. What about her kids?

Mom! Are the dishes in the dishwasher clean or dirty? My daughter calls out. 

I’m on mute, so I shout back: I don’t know, check.

Can’t you just tell me?

I don’t know.

Well, I need a plate.

Outside my neighbor laughs, barks. 

Inside, my daughter scowls, yowls.

I burned myself. Are you happy now?

I don’t dream about him often—this man who doesn’t live here anymore. But I did have a dream early on in which he gave me a gift. A necklace. Delicate, gold. I loved it. Considered it precious. And promptly threw it in the bag I was carrying: a brown paper bag from the grocery store, full of food. Like any other commodity. Like something I needed but couldn’t treasure. Didn’t deserve. I knew even when I woke from it the first time what the dream meant. That I didn’t cherish what I had. That I wouldn’t take care of what I’d been given. That because I couldn’t treat it better, I would lose it.   

I have more conversations with him in my head than I ever had with him in person. This was true even when he lived here. I was not going to give him my life, half or even a quarter of it, even though I loved him. Love him. It’s true—that he guided me out of a catastrophic marriage. That in many ways, I owe him the peace I have now. 

It’s also true that he was never going to stick around here forever. That one of his idols is a dead kid in a Sean Penn movie who wandered off unprepared to Alaska. He loves that I teach the book the movie is based on when we study romanticism with a capital “R.” In my classroom, we become transparent eyeballs, we talk about living deliberately. We celebrate ourselves, and I make the kids recite at least one chunk of Whitman. It’s a lesson. A study conducted in desks from a basement classroom. Three, four weeks max, and then we move on to post-war disillusionment, modernism, Gatsby. 

I admit I get stuck in a loop with Whitman—drag out the unit diffused into my own eddies and jags.

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then.

The Environmental Club is selling tote bags—different designs, sizes, and prices. I get up from the table to get my daughter a plate even though I know she can do it herself. I am not used to working this way: home but not home, working but not able to fully work. There’s the laundry, the cats, the kids, the garden, the neighbor with her hahaha.

When I sit back down, the Environmental club members have shared their screen to play a video. I don’t give it my full attention, but I do hear this: how to date a tree, and my first thought is not about stumps and saws or rings showing year after year. My first thought is a wash of sweat on my forehead. My first thought is relief because: oh yes, that’s what I’m doing. That’s my answer. I am dating a tree.  

How simple!

Date as in visit; date as in bask in the bark’s protection, the shade and shadow. 

And it is so swift, this thought, that I stop breathing for a second. I am no longer at my kitchen table, no longer listening to my daughter bang dishes around behind me, no longer listening to a Zoom presentation delivered by a high school Environmental Club. No longer stuck on my neighbor’s backyard bark-laugh.

I am being Delivered. I am being Spoken To. I am being Given a Message: It’s Time and Here’s How. 

When I realized I had to leave my marriage, I often went to a trail in the hills above my house. There, oaks and redwoods and coast madrones welcomed me back like no time had passed. Even though I had been missing from my own life for years and years. Only way to discover the cosmos is to cut the tree open—to study the years you have to end the growth. To know the past, destroy the future.

I first met The Man Who Does Not Live Here Anymore when he was a boy. We were sixteen, taking the same class. We were friends who talked in school or on the phone mostly—our circles never overlapped. He was an athlete who partied. I was shy. I went off to college, and he joined the Marines. We kept in touch a little. Later, in our twenties, we saw each other once or twice.

In my thirties, I ran into him in my neighborhood after my second baby was born. He was in the Peet’s coffee on Fruitvale with some woman. I was sweaty after a morning run. He lived in the neighborhood—what are the odds? We hugged briefly. Said we’d find each other on Facebook.

I never saw him around town after that. I heard he’d moved to Florida.

Then, he was back in San Francisco. At the rehab. I was still in Oakland, separated from my husband.

In those days, I returned to the trail often to stand in the center of a circle of redwoods and look up, closing my eyes, letting the trees whisper and sway: it’s okay, it’s okay

Running the trail in the late afternoon, I once saw a burst of glittering gold-orange-red through the trees, and I was sure the world was on fire. The hills were dry, the trail dusty, leaves and twigs crisp and brittle. It was only a matter of time. I heard a rustle in the bushes next to me, matching my pace—convinced a bobcat or puma was stalking, ready to pounce. I readied myself for disaster: a ball of flame, a sharp claw. I welcomed the end if only to avoid taking my kids to family court, testifying to the violence of our lives, convincing a stranger in a robe I knew my own truth.

The beating in my ears forced me to stop—and there, of course, were the trees. That circle, those branches as arms. The swaying assurance: it’s okay, it’s okay.

I ask my students over Zoom if they’ve ever been saved by a tree. It happened by accident—before I could think it through—during a discussion of…what? I can’t remember how we got there, but I was careful to record their reactions to the question. The kid who nodded yes immediately; the kid who tucked back a little, tentative, deliberate in their response. The kid who scoffed: Saved by a what? A tree! And laughed and laughed.

The kid who said: I don’t know.

The kid who responded: You would know.

Yes, I agreed. You would know.

And then we moved on. 

Today my daughter says: I don’t know what you’re talking about when I ask her if she hears our neighbor laughing in the backyard. I don’t hear any lady laughing.

Sounds like a dog, right? 

Mom, that is a dog! 

It is?


Are you sure?

Oh my god, Mom.

When the Zoom school year ends, I get a text from The Man Who Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. He is in town briefly. We make a plan to meet for lunch. We haven’t seen each other for eighteen months. We are both vaccinated now.

When he lived in San Francisco, we regularly met at one of the wooden piers along the Embarcadero. We would walk to the end and back—swinging our hands together, talking over the days, weeks, months between visits. We’ve gone seven months between visits before. Eighteen, never. I loved meeting him on the pier—always it was at night, with the dark sky and the floating fog. It felt conspiratorial—to sneak away from being a mother, being a teacher, to walk the wooden pier with him. 

The Bay Bridge with its blinking lights, the inky water, the fishermen smoking. Once, we saw someone catch a bat ray and swing it up onto the pier with a thud. It flopped around while the fisherman got his knife. A crowd gathered. I had to turn away, but The Man Who Doesn’t Live Here Anymore kept his eyes open.   

What’s he doing?

Don’t watch.

A whack and cheer.

What’s he doing now?

Cutting off the tail. 


Yeah. Let’s keep walking. You don’t want to see this.

It was easy to love him—he made it easy.

Where we meet for lunch, there are no trees. This is my fault. He asked me to pick the place, and I did: a café with outdoor seating in an industrial part of West Berkeley. Far from my own Oakland neighborhood, far from my house with my kids still sleeping inside.

Driving over, I realize I have kept up an ongoing conversation with him in my mind. A conversation he knows nothing about. I have stopped myself from calling, texting, writing—since the very beginning. So he has no idea how often I think of him—what I share with him—because none of it gets to him. He has sent me letters, photos, articles. Only once did I send him something in the mail, and it contained the lines from a William Stafford poem:

Some time when the river is ice ask me/mistakes I have made. Ask me whether/what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into/my thought, and some have tried to help/or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

When I get there, there’s a line of people, all wearing masks because, despite the vaccine, the COVID numbers are rising in our area again. He is usually early, but I don’t see him out front, and for a second, I think about leaving. How easy it would be to drive away and wait another eighteen months. The last two times we saw each other, I felt his restlessness, his eager dismissal of my job, my kids, my choices to maintain a house, a car. I am conventional compared to him; he is creating a life that is temporary by design. Air b-n-b for life. Hertz forever. Come and go and come and go and go and go.

Before I can leave, I see him walking down the sidewalk toward me. He has grown out his facial hair into a slight beard—the way he knows I love it. We hug. I touch his face; he doesn’t duck away, but neither does he lean in to linger. Why should he? Eighteen months. The last time I saw him, we had dinner on a Monday night in December. I had intentionally kept the visit short. I was tired; it showed. The time before that, he bought me a pee-stick pregnancy test, and we read the results together. I knew my period was one, two, three months delayed because of perimenopause but when I told him I hadn’t gotten my period, he felt instantly trapped, tied to me in a way he had never intended. If only turning to what if turning to never mind.

We stand in line, order our food, sit down. We talk easily again. Like it hasn’t been eighteen months. Our hands touch—briefly—and the familiarity is instant. I am pulled toward him in the same way I always am; in the way, I know will never change. We talk on the surface—about our families, my work, his travels—until he is finished with his prawn salad, puts his fork down, looks me in the eyes, and says: I met someone.

I hear him say this and I hear myself say: I’m happy for you. I am. 

And I keep repeating this phrase—out loud and in my head—as he talks on, telling me more, but I am not listening. My face grows hot, my ears ring, buzz. I look at him but also down at the two of us from above, watching the way I put my fork down, readjust the napkin on my lap. Smile. I’m happy for you. I am.

He uses the word marriage—that much comes through the detached haze—and great girl, and South America. He shrugs with a sorry grin, but he is not sorry. 

You’ve barely eaten anything. Not hungry?

How long has he waited to tell me this? Surely he knew when we texted earlier this month. He knew a year ago, maybe. But waited until this summer day, on this patio, under the shade with the trickle of a fountain nearby. He wanted to set it up. He wanted to see my face.

How relieved he must have felt, walking away after it was all over. How ready to move forward, to see it through and leave it behind. Out on the sidewalk, we hugged, kissed. He said he loved me. I told him I loved him, too. 

None of this is untrue. What other way to end something that never started? I felt married to him is all. Is this what Fitzgerald means with this line from Gatsby? Pulled in, connected, tied by some inexplicable force. By years that circle around each other, catching up time in their rings? 16, 25, 34, 40. I knew him four times (for a time) and lost him once. 

Can’t repeat the past? But of course, you can. Over and over again.

I am dating a tree. A tree grows from the center out. A tree contains multitudes. A tree doesn’t trick you. Doesn’t allow you to trick yourself. A tree catches the supernova in its rings, sings out across the centuries. A tree knows how to pull you in. And why. It only works when you stop resisting, and I mean all the way. Clenched jaw, closed eyes, fisted hands, too.

A tree will breathe for you. Deep breaths. Solid blocks of air so you can go about your business: head up, back straight, walk across San Pablo Avenue away from that café. Get in your car, turn it on. Play that stupid sad song everyone is listening to. 

A tree wants to hold you. Wants you to lean back in the shade. Wants you to feel safe. A tree is not a man you’ve never met.


A tree wants to show you how. Look there—at the converted shack hidden down a narrow alley. It wasn’t here before when you drove up and parked. It emerged out of your tingling heart, your slow beating yes, I’m still here heart. Doesn’t it feel good to know you can still feel? Even pain is a sign of life. Outside the shack: a painted moon. A quarter full. An eighth. It is not your former student’s palm reading place. It is not a backward glance or an act. Here you are not Teacher. Or Mother. Old Friend or Lost Lover. 

Here you are standing in the doorway of a self-serve joint with warm lighting, wooden walls, and an open window. On the floor, an arrow points you forward. Step up. In the center, a redwood stump—centuries old. And in its center a pulsing light, star-shaped, glowing. 

Press here to start.

About the author

Lisa Piazza is a writer and educator from Oakland, Ca. Her work appears in Porter House Review, Longleaf Review, Cordella Press, and quip literary review among others. She is a Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions and Pushcart Prize nominee and is a reader for Fractured Lit.

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