Balcony, by Sarah Marian Seltzer


As Carl readied himself for Theo’s party, he reflected on his three-day gap in communication with Maya. They were on some sort of break, triggered by a fight over her refusal to come out tonight, or any night, anymore. Carl missed Maya’s warm skin, her eyebrows arching with amusement or provocation. He even missed their arguments: over The Great Gatsby (Carl pitied Daisy Buchanan while Maya blamed her as spineless), and Impressionism (Carl preferred modern art, so much more to say about it), and about which films to see (he liked “smart” films, she would see anything playing at the local multiplex)—and really, at the bottom of it all over the fact that Maya, each day, shut him further out.

The very word “break” unmoored him, so he anchored himself to this party. Theo had invited him. Broad-shouldered, rugby-shirt-wearing Theo, whose father produced movies and owned a penthouse apartment. Who didn’t enjoy movies and penthouses? Besides, Carl wasn’t like Maya; he didn’t “know everyone” in this city. And he hadn’t gone to an Ivy League school; he had gone to a state school, which still left him with loans—no trust fund for him. So yes, he had to get to know people, because how else did you build a future. How else did you begin to fit in?

He had felt once like he belonged with Maya. Carl first saw her when someone pointed her out at another party, a less elegant shindig in someone’s grimy walkup. In a corner, she rode the arm of a couch as though it were a horse, or a man. She made faces; her friends guffawed until they spilled drinks. Dark circles ringed her eyes. She projected brash, vulnerable, hotness.

“That’s Maya Siegel, the one I told you about…”

“Oh, her…”

Carl had read about her dad’s infidelity and her parents’ high-profile divorce, regular fodder for the gossip columns he checked daily. He also already knew about Rina, Maya’s best friend killed by a subway train, an accident that had dominated the local news for days.

Carl, a transplant to New York, saw in Maya another soul isolated amidst the throng. He took her home that night and called her again, even after the postcoital brunch when she warned him of her “baggage.”  How stunning she’d been that morning, in her T-shirt with the collar cut out, her dark hair falling across her face like a pixie girl in the movies.

His friends from home had said stay away when he mentioned the divorce, the dead friend, but he’d ignored them—no, he’d defied them. Her pain opened a doorway Carl could enter. She always patted the seat beside her with nonchalance, yet it always made him feel like she had reserved the space for him.

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This is one of my favorite stories in the novel-in-stories, partly because it’s less heartbreaking and more gossipy than some of the others,  partly because it hasn’t changed that much from its original incarnation in summer 2010, partly because I never go to parties like this anymore.

A Few Pieces of Note

I wrote about Josh Lambert’s book, “Unclean Lips” for Lilith Magazine (it’s about Jews and Obscenity) and interviewed him at the Lilith blog.

My thoughts about Dylan Farrow and Woody Allen can be found in the Sisterhood and (quoted) in the LA Times.

More bylines soon, I hope, as I rev myself up for the next cycle of creativity.

A Year In Writing: Some Things I Scribbled in 2013 Which I Liked

A few of my personal faves from 2013. Stay tuned for my year in reading.

  • Replacement for a Child Lost.” For the Forward I profiled memoirist Judy Mandel, who was born after a plane crash that killed her sister.
  • My  short story, “Ironing,” was a winner of the 2013 Lilith Fiction Contest. Read it here.
  • I also had a flash fiction piece at S-Tick, a new feminist e-zine, that I really love and is a bit of a departure for me. It begins: ”Sherry ought to have been having a good time at Jessica’s pool party, sashaying around in her caftan and oversized shades, but the dead girl at the bottom of the jacuzzi made it hard.”

Happy new year! Here’s to 2014.

"I don’t know exactly how to get the message through: contraception is not a Benz, but a basic need. I think that somehow my opponents believe that a fancy car is supposed to help men get a woman to go to bed with them, and the pill serves the same purpose for a woman. My depo-provera brings all the boys to the yard, or something. This is absurd"

Birth Control is Not a Cadillac – The Sisterhood –

"We are ebullient types, me and Bridge — we color outside the lines, blurt things out, knock vases over, and remain superficially convinced that if we just tried harder, we could transcend all that, and become like those coiffed and manicured mommies, the ones who never have a hair out of place."

Vol. 1 Brooklyn | The Reading Life: List-Making with Bridget

"I have long also secretly patted myself on the back for my intermittent indifference to beauty culture, chalking it up not just to laziness and boredom, but also to feminist resistance. And that’s because even if on the surface I feel guilty about not conforming to standards, deep down I genuinely believe that untamed hair, extra weight here and there, and skin, free of goopy makeup are completely fine — great, even, made greater by their insistent naturalness in a coiffed and plucked world. Fashion and beauty labels literally profit off of female insecurity. To refuse to participate may be a personal choice, but it’s a bold one."

The ‘Meh’ Generation – The Sisterhood –