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Photo by Andrei Terecoasă

“My brother will be here at a quarter to 11:00,” she says.

“I’ll be downstairs at 10:45 sharp,” I assure her. In a few short hours, the seventh floor of this Bucharest flat will be empty. Anka will head to London, while I head south to Bulgaria; a country I can say with certainty I never thought I’d step foot in.

I’m visiting my friend in her native Romania. The two of us met another life ago in a dark theater in the basement of a church. …


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Photo by Nathan Dumlao

Three missed calls, two texts, and an email.

You joke a search party will be next before realizing with her it’s actually a possibility.

Your mom — the woman who gave you life, taught you right from wrong, whose heart you’ve broken more times than you can count is worried.

You wrack your brain trying to figure out why. After all, it’s only been a few days since you last talked to her.

Okay, maybe two weeks.

But you were out of town.

Which means what? your voice of reason chimes in.


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Photo by Jonathan Petersson

A can of dip sat in the cup holder, for how long was as uncertain as when the man started chewing in the first place. Contracts, blueprints, and candy wrappers were strewn across the dusty dashboard, the floor mats sat caked in mud, trekked in from one hard hat area to the next.

The man checked the clock which read 11:12 pm, which really meant it was 11:17 pm. Whether the man was indifferent or incapable of changing the time was anyone’s guess. Still, 11:12 and 11:17 weren’t 11:00. His friend was late.


Fiction Friday

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Photo by Matthew Peters

Ifinish the last of my udon as a waiter drops off my bill. I’m seated high on a stool staring through the window of a popular ramen spot in Little Tokyo — Los Angeles. Late night shoppers stream in and out of the supermarket five flights below as teenagers sporting cosplay costumes mill around the courtyard. I think about taking a look inside Kinokuniya, but I know I won’t buy anything. The books are too strange even for my taste.

I pay for my meal and start to walk off the two cans of Sapporo I downed before eating. I don’t know why I decided to drink on an empty stomach. It never ends well. My tolerance for alcohol has always been pitiful. Even when I was drinking several nights a week in college I was a wreck after two beers. I would say it’s genetics, but even my petite mother could drink three bottles of saki without feeling a thing. At least I’m a good drunk, which is to say a quiet one. …


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Photo by Katy PH

The email instructs me to take a bus at the Romanian Athenaeum, a 130-year old concert hall in the center of Bucharest. It’s only two blocks from where I’m staying, which should make it harder to get lost. Then I remind myself I once drove to the wrong state.

I’m greeted by a 37-year old man named Serban. He’ll be my guide for the day. He’s a native of Bucharest, or at least claims to be. He exudes a kind of energy you want from a tour guide, but that’s also kind of jarring at 9:00 am in the morning.

We make our way through the city as he points out notable historical events including the assassination of Nicolae Ceausescu on Christmas Day. …


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Photo by David Sinclair

How are you? I hope you are well, the message reads. My mom officially texts now, which to me, is still weird. I know the strangeness is self-imposed. Every parent I know has swapped depth for convenience. Why should I hold my mom to a different standard? The world has changed and so must I.

I call back. “We were just thinking about you,” she says. She always says this, but I know it can’t possibly be true. We speak for a few minutes about her travels, what it’s like to be home, and how my elderly aunt is feeling. If I call while they’re away, she puts me on speaker phone as one parent summons the other. “John! Nicholas is on the phone!” The pressure is on. …


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Photo by Alex Vasey on Unsplash

The call to prayer pokes me from a light sleep as the words of the Takbir echo through the thick summer air. Colorfully lit minarets draw me in like the sirens of the Odyssey as I wipe the sleep from my bloodshot eyes. For a moment I wonder if nearly being arrested for eating in public the night before was a dream. I’m in Jordan in the middle of Ramadan.

I lift my wearied body off my bed and somehow make it curbside on a desolate road. It’s 6:00 am when I hail a cab. I’m picked up by a man who looks to be in his sixties. His face is gaunt, his body lean, but my eyes go straight to the long fingernail on his pinky finger. …


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Photo by Mikael Stenberg

I arrive on a desolate night, my father’s question ringing in my ears. “Why go to Stockholm in December?” he begged to know, as I packed my bags just days after Christmas. From the back of a hushed cab, I check the time. It’s 4:45 pm, only no one told Sweden. Darkness envelopes the land, my presence a speck of white on an infinite chalkboard.

I wander waterfronts, alleyways, and museums with numb toes, my fingers buried deep in my pockets. Non-distinct faces buried beneath scarves pass without pomp, their temperament as cold as the weather.

It’s the last day of December in this strange land. I waffle between how or if to ring in the new year. I’m older now, the angst around twelve thirty-one’s finally allayed. I’ve seen enough fireworks, jello-shots, and made plenty of hazy midnight toasts to make this night like any other. At least that’s what I tell myself. …


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Photo by David Enzel

I walk the streets of Ljubljana one last time. It’s never easy to leave a place that’s made an impression, particularly as you get older. Eventually the days behind outnumber the ones ahead. The brevity of life and the breath of the world are enough to understand the first time somewhere new could be the last. It’s a realization not dismal, but freeing. Nothing is trivial and permission is granted to lose yourself in a way home doesn’t permit.

Nina and Ines, Slovenian sisters I met the night before, invite me to join them at Ljubljana Castle for Film Under the Stars. It’s an annual festival where movies from around the world are shown on an eight hundred year old courtyard. Communication with the girls has posed a problem, the fact neither of them own a smart phone the most pressing. …


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Photo by Carli Jeen

During my junior year of high school, my best friend Alex and I were president and vice-president of our class. One of our more distinct and less vague responsibilities included leading students in spirit week. For reasons that escape me, our theme was “Juniors Jump to the Islands.” Nearly twenty-five years later, I still have no clue what it meant. Miraculously, our lack of creativity was further illuminated by our senior year theme: Senior Supermarket.

One afternoon, Alex and I went to the historic Claremont Hotel, a club nestled in the Berkeley Hills where Alex’s family had long been members. We decided it was the perfect place to steal fallen palms from the parking lot. For about fifteen minutes we frantically gathered dozens of unruly fan-shaped leaves before stuffing them into the back of Alex’s Toyota 4 x 4. …

About

Nick Maccarone

Storyteller.

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