Or what being a college professor and making jelly have in common

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Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

It was the night before the first day of classes and I was down in the dumps. Not because I dreaded the petty politics of the academic workplace. Not because I was getting tired of the pressure to produce new publications with little time to do research or reflect. Not because of the heaps of poorly written student “prose” I knew I would have to wade through before the term was over… OK. Yes, it was because of all those things. But not entirely. And not exactly. And not just because of them.

I couldn’t put my finger on it then and, anyway, I didn’t really want to think about it. So, rather than sitting around moping, I decided to do something different, something productive. I decided to make crab apple jelly. …


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Photo by Stephane YAICH on Unsplash

(a short story)

When the big truck stopped in front of my grandmother’s house on that hot August afternoon, my curiosity whisked me down the two flights of stairs and into the yard faster than a twister.

“What could possibly be in it?” my six-year-old brain buzzed with excitement. A less exuberant part of me ventured that it may be coal for the heating stoves. “No, no, it couldn’t be!” shot back my pounding heart, “nobody thinks about heating stoves in August! Nobody.”

But what, then? What?

The driver sluggishly climbed out of the truck along with two other men in dark blue overalls. One of them carried a thick coil of rope on his shoulder. The men fussed about behind the truck for a while, smoking and scratching their heads. I pretended to play in the yard, poking the dirt around my grandmother’s tomato plants with a stick while my thoughts were bubbling over with anticipation. I had never seen a truck so big outside the house before and I couldn’t wait to see what was hiding inside. …


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Photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash

A simple but unpopular truth

So here’s a fact. It’s past midnight and I just spent two hours writing an email for work. I didn’t realize how much time had passed until I was done, because I had been so engrossed in the act of writing.

At the end of two hours, I had a message consisting of exactly 351 words, each one carefully chosen to convey exactly what I wanted it to convey. That’s right. T-W-O whole hours and 351 words.

What was so important about this email, you might ask? Not much really. It was simply an invitation to an event for prospective students at my university. Part of my job is to recruit students so, yes, I certainly want these people to come. I want them to read my email and feel that they simply HAVE TO come. But, no, in the grand scheme of things, this was not the most important email ever written. …


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(based on a true story)

I arrive in New York and collapse in the back of a taxi, feeling tingly all over as the shimmering skyline moves closer and closer. New York devours me like a monster in its enormous maw and I let myself be pushed and pulled through its endlessly meandering intestines. Sensing my own insignificance in the chaos of the city is terrifying and strangely soothing at the same time. I am an appetizing little morsel in the belly of this beast, a particle of the force of creation which gives it life. I am a part of that life.

The taxi arrives at the appointed address in an expensive area on the East Side of Manhattan. Garlands of lights on the Queensboro Bridge glitter magically over the East River as if to hypnotize me. The bridges of New York are one of my instant love affairs, a romantic infatuation I cannot explain. …


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Photo by Diana Feil on Unsplash

Or how I learned to let go of expectations

When I was five-years old, my mother took me to see The Nutcracker. I don’t remember much of the actual experience, but it must have made a real impression on me because, shortly after, I declared that I wanted to be a ballerina. Not an unusual fantasy for a five-year-old girl, you might say and, of course, it wasn’t. What was perhaps unusual was the way in which my fantasy blossomed over time only to die a sudden, unceremonious death.

I remember the distinguished old building where the opera and ballet were housed in my small European hometown. Its walls were painted in a dark red color which contrasted against the white of the elaborate plaster cornices at the top. …


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Photo by pparnxoxo on Unsplash

(a short story)

Just a couple of hours before midnight, with the most mundane of motions, she flipped the light switch in the bathroom. The bulb flashed on for a second and then, abruptly, everything went dark. The entire apartment was black.


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(based on a true story)

He had been a rising-star bicycle racer in the 1930s, and a handsome one at that. A jealous competitor once paid a water boy to hand him a sponge dipped in vinegar instead of water at the race track. In those days, that’s how racers re-hydrated without stopping. They’d grab the sponge from a long stick that the water boy held out to them and suck the water out of it as they kept spinning before tossing it to the side. Imagine what it must have felt like when the astringent vinegar hit his parched tongue. …


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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

A triple obituary

For a short time in my teens, I was obsessed with William Saroyan’s book, Obituaries. It is a collection of meandering reflections on the lives of people who died in 1976 and were listed in the “Necrology” section of Variety magazine. This was an odd object of fascination for someone who had been just 3-years-old in 1976 and was living in a small country deep behind the Iron Curtain. I hadn’t even heard of the people mentioned in Obituaries, but Saroyan’s irreverent humor and his ability to expose the raw essence of humanity captivated me. I was too young and far too culturally removed from American popular culture to understand half of what he was saying. …


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Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash

I keep thinking about it. My obsessive thoughts are stretching my head from the inside out and I can’t make them stop.

The list of things I promised to do today is staring at me. It wants me to check things off. But I can’t bring myself to do anything right now. Because I keep thinking about it.

The soup I promised to make for dinner is still in the form of raw vegetables in plastic bags, stuffed in the bottom of the refrigerator. I like soup. I like chopping up vegetables and making soup. I even wrote a story about making soup once. …

About

nadia kaneva

Woman. Author. Scholar.

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