One afternoon I was passing the time at the Macy’s on thirteenth and Market. I walked in through the large columns and leisurely strolled the white marble floors, passing by the large glass display cases and cosmetics counters when I smelled it. The scent made my cheeks flush with warm blood. I detected a spicy mixture of ginger pepper, black basil, and amber that I knew intimately. My inner thighs tingled. Immediately, I turned around looking for him — my giant, my Bear — but he wasn’t there. I picked up the square glass bottle, holding it to my nose and closing my eyes.

The most recent man I thought I could love wore Calvin Klein Euphoria. I’d press my nose into his neck when he hugged me and get intoxicated by it. He’d spray some on my pillow, so I could pretend I was lying in bed with him at night. I’d wake up in the morning to that scent and imagine my face pressed against his broad chest.

Bear had a thick beard that I was insanely attracted to. It was long, unkempt, and reddish, and I would twirl the ends of it between my fingers when we talked close, our waists pressed together. He drove a truck and wore camouflage cargo shorts with work boots. He was a man’s man and looked like he just got finished hauling logs, or powerlifting, or some other heavy duty man stuff. He looked dirty, like an outlaw biker. I think that’s what I liked the most.

We travelled the city at night, going up and down 76, listening to Led Zeppelin at high volume. Between What is and Never Should Be and Since I’ve Been Loving You, we would find a spot in East Falls. We’d sit in the back of his jeep and make out old-school style in the August heat, while listening to Babe I’m Gonna Leave You. Bear’s nose was particularly slanted, broken, and reset several times from his boxing days, and because of that I’d have to turn my head to the side to kiss him fully, my lips overpowering his. He’d return my kisses, sucking on my bottom lip and flicking his tongue in my mouth, until my lips hurt and I ran out of breath. We’d lay out on the back seat, and I’d affectionately call him my giant, threatening to climb his tall ass like a tree. “Go for it Princess,” he’d say daring me with his stormy blue eyes.

He took me to play laser tag and mini golf in Manayunk. We’d go to the gym and lift on the weekends. He had catch phrases like, “I’m born ready,” and “boom.” We’d lay on the couch at his place off South Street and watch Mark Wahlberg movies. At night, we’d make dinner together with his George Foreman grill. He’d place the plate down on the table, then simulate an explosion with his massive hand. “Boom.”

I started calling him Bear the first time he took off his shirt. I was mesmerized by the abundance of hair as my hands followed the patch of fur on his muscular chest down the trail to his belly button. I loved running my fingers through the thick hair. I loved the feel and warmth of it. We’d cuddle and I’d press my face against him, letting the fuzz comfort me.

On Sundays, we’d sit on his large window ledge, our legs dangling over the roof. He’d hold his gigantic hand out in the air, covering the sun. I’d put my hand out, pressing my palm to his, my hand dwarfed in comparison. “Your hand is so small,” he’d say and close his fingers around mine making a fist. “I just want to sling you over my shoulder and save you every day.” Then he’d compare our various body parts, noting that his calf was as big as my thighs. “I’d bust down doors, torch buildings, and save you every day.” He’d lean over and kiss me to the soundtrack of the Eagles defensive line and the busy city below.

“Would you like to buy one ma’am?” I open my eyes to an eager saleswoman. “It’s a great scent.” I place the bottle down on the counter noting the slight clinking sound it makes on contact. “No thanks, I need something a little less intense.”

Originally published in The City Key.

Prose In The City


My MFA nonfiction workshop was held in a small room, surrounded by bookcases with hardcovers and their yellowing pages. We sat around an oval, oak table listening to an older man with a sparse beard and black turtleneck. Among those plush chairs sat archetypes of stereotypical writers with their bushy beards, thick glasses, and self-proclaimed alcoholism. One of those writers was the man I fell in love with.

Our first assignment, explained to us by our hoarse-voiced teacher was to share a two-page story about something that happened in our lives. The subject matter was open, and each student presented various types of narratives and writing styles. We emailed our finished creations to each other, and in the following class, we sat shoulder to shoulder with our papers, marked in red with revision ideas and comments like, “I don’t feel this paragraph is necessary,” or “Add more dialogue.”

We all read aloud and opened ourselves up to being critiqued. Authors were not allowed to utter a word in defense of their piece. Seated directly across from me was Brian; he had dark-grey eyes, and long, jet-black hair which was greying at the temples. He would come to class wearing designer gym clothes and smell of Ralph Lauren. As he read his words aloud in class, I felt myself getting dreamy and enjoying every minute.

I found Brian’s prose to be just as striking as his looks; it was filled with unusual, yet perfect-word choices and flawlessly structured paragraphs. I read in awe, imaging myself growing up with him in a tiny, New England town and embarking with him on his childhood adventures on the sea. In my mind, I’d professed my love to him as I read his passages.

This was not the first writer that made me feel this way. I’d declared my love for Junot Diaz the first time I read Drown. I fell in love with the raw feel of his words and the interweaving of English and Spanish languages. I scoured the internet to read his pieces in the New York Times and just about lost it when I heard him on NPR.

I had felt this way before.

By the middle of the semester, Brian and I ate at a Japanese restaurant on Chestnut, talking prose over a bowl of Miso soup. He had my paper next to him, scanning the page deliberately and looking for a passage.

“I love your voice,” he admitted, putting the ladle down into the murky clouds of the soup and moving a strand of dark hair away from his eyes.

“You have a sharp wit, and lots of observation, yet it comes off very soft and feminine, but not annoyingly girlie. I haven’t heard anything like it.” He points to a paragraph and reads it to me. My words sound different coming from his mouth.

After that “date” we would email each other our work for proofreading and offer comments like, “Delve into this more”, “Show me, don’t tell me,” and “Flesh this scene out.” This was a level of intimacy I’d never experienced before.

The last day of class, Brian walked me to my car, and we spoke for a little while until it became slightly awkward. There were no more papers to edit or encouraging notes to email. The city was quiet. Brian gave me a small hug, enveloping me in his Polo-laced skin and wished me luck on my future work. I conveyed similar wishes and waved to him when he turned around for the last time. I sat in my car watching him lower the top to his BMW.

He graduated that summer, and I never saw him again.

First published in The City Key Magazine.