Creative Nonfiction

After all these years

When my son was three years old, he told me a story. He described being in utero. Swimming, his hair floating in the waves. The whooshing sound like a heartbeat, like his drum. A feeling like when the cat makes bread on his chest and purrs. He said there was a bright light and a man wearing a mask and he was very cold. I wrote the whole story down, as close to verbatim as I could, in his baby book

A year later, as we sat looking through the book, I asked him about it. A vacant stare, the…


NONFICTION

A story of loving two men

It wasn’t love at first sight or anything so profound. Instead, it was a gradual process of getting to know one another. Nigel was a biologist. He’d written his doctoral dissertation on the milkweed bug. I learned many interesting facts from Nigel. When I complained about the critters that were feasting on my milkweed, he explained in great detail the non-sex life of the Oleander aphid. They give birth to themselves, or rather clones of themselves without actually having aphid intercourse.

I found all of this fascinating. My husband, Hugh, did not. Bugs were of no interest to him except…


CREATIVE NONFICTION

What do they know?

I met them at a writer’s conference, my first ever. They have become my muses. The people I go to for inspiration, validation, celebration.

There were 12 of us in a memoir workshop at Writers in Paradise, the annual writer’s conference at Eckert College. Each of our 25-page submissions were dispatched by group email weeks ahead of time, providing ample opportunity for intimidation. I read bios filled with MFAs, published books, impressive university teaching credentials and a two-time recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts. I looked for a reason not to go. There was the cost. Then I…


Humor

That’s a Tomato Plant, Sweetie

I was proud of that “Dare to Say No” T-shirt that mom picked up at the JS (that’s what we called any of the myriad of thrift shops where we bought all our clothes except for shoes and underwear (it’s short for Junk Store).

An impressionable, eager to please kid, I wore that anti-drug campaign slogan with pride. …


NONFICTION

What’s changed in a year?

As a home care nurse in Baltimore, I learned years ago how to get in and out of a house without touching any surface with my bare hands. My first AIDS patient had open sacral wounds and explosive diarrhea. I was nervous, so I called my supervisor for a reassuring pep talk.

“Are you planning to have sex with him?”, she asked.

I assured her that hadn’t entered my mind, or his.

“Well, are you going to share a needle with him?”

I hoped not.

“Get over yourself then and go see him. Just wash your hands.”

I’ve been stuck…


FICTION

To make up my mind

Phyllis had always had a difficult time making up her mind. Her mother never gave her much chance to practice, and so that particular skill just never fully developed.

Regular or decaf? Chocolate or vanilla? The white socks or the blue ones? Simple choices people make hundreds of times every day were burdensome to Phyllis. It wasn’t for lack of intelligence. It just took more time and energy than Phyllis had to spare. That waste of time was what made her nervous.

She’d managed to graduate from community college, having majored in something called “General Studies,” taking classes recommended for…


PARENTING

But once, I did it anyway

He was in love with the crossing guard. Each day, when we walked the two blocks to take his sister to kindergarten, he would watch in rapture as the guardian saint of children held up her white-gloved hand and commanded the cars to stop.

To his three-year-old eyes, that was as impressive as Moses parting the Red Sea. He loved the shrill sound of her whistle as she made the big kids stop in their tracks and again as she set the masses free with a tweet and a wave of her hand.

So, when I came across the policeman’s…


NONFICTION

A community of grievers

I once read of a man who grieved so for his wife that he put her ashes into capsules and took one with the rest of his medication every day. Others thought that was disgusting but I understood. If I had my daughter’s ashes, I might not be able to let them go. I might rub some in my hair, have a little snort now and then. Lick my fingertip and taste just a pinch. Bake some into brownies. Anything to keep her with me.

You never know what we’ll do. We’ve lost the filter that kept us behaving like…

Eileen Vorbach Collins

Baltimore native battling fire ants in Florida. Award winning essayist. Pushcart nominee. Writes because it’s cheaper than therapy. www.eileenvorbachcollins.com

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