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picture this

Documenting our lives these days — and storing those memories — has become as easy as reaching for our phones. Long gone are the days of actual photo albums (with those lift-up plastic sheets and stick-on pages), of slide carousels (endless hours of summer-vacation viewing), of home movies shot on Kodak Super 8 cameras (“Come on, honey, wave at the camera!”).

But there is one old-school gallery of sorts that remains current for me — my refrigerator door. Because we don’t have kids, we’ve displayed our own “artwork” on it for years. Well, maybe not artwork — more like a collection that defines our life. And with our fridge of 22 years being replaced in a few days (by one that actually works), it’s time to curate.

First, the magnets. From all the vacations, including tons from national parks. From museum exhibitions, tiny bits of Van Gogh or Degas or Rockwell. The champagne bottle magnet. The blue Crayola crayon. The polar bear and the butterfly (sounds like the title of a book — or a comedy team). The one with the saying about pancakes.

Next, the photos. Some of family, some of friends, some of our dog Ilsa, who was the best dog in the world (no, don’t even attempt to argue with me here). Some of B. and me — strips of pics taken in those photo booths you find at the zoo or the boardwalk.

And then the other random bits and pieces that tell our story. Countless cartoons and comic strips, some really funny, others really sappy. A Lakers decal attached with a Lakers magnet. Lists of movies we want to see with titles crossed out as we progress. Fortune-cookie fortunes. Concert ticket stubs, Postcards from the edges of trips.

With a brand-new canvas on its way, it seemed like starting anew made sense. Because there was no way I was going to be able to redo my masterpiece. And that made me, well, not happy. To wit:

He: (seeing me moping in front of the fridge) “What’s the matter?”

Me: “It’s taken 22 years to get all this stuff on here perfectly and now it’s all over.”

He: (trying to tread lightly here, not knowing how much of a drama he’s in for) “Why not just put it up the same way on the new door?”

Me: “Really?!”

He: (cautious) “What?”

Me: “You think it’s so easy to remember where each piece goes? It’s taken me this long to get it looking like this. You think Michelangelo could just re-create the Sistine Chapel on a new ceiling?”

He: “Well, no but … this isn’t exactly that.”

Me: “Now you’re minimizing our life?” (eyes filling, ugly crying about to start)

He: “No, of course not, but it’s not that big a deal, Why don’t you –”

Me: “Not that big a deal?” (hands on hips) “I cannot believe –“

He: “Sweetie –”

Me: “Don’t ‘sweetie’ me! You have no idea –”

He: “Want some chocolate?”

Me: “Don’t try to distract me.” (gulp) “Okay … one piece.”

He: “All I was going to suggest … ”

Me: (giving him a dirty look around the chocolate bar)

He: “… was that you take a picture of the old door on your phone before you dismantle it.”

Me: (swallowing the chocolate and my tears — actually the sweet and salty combo isn’t bad)

He: “Wouldn’t that work? I mean, you’re the expert on the phone / photo thing, but maybe?”

Me: (sniffling up the tears) “Yeah. I knew that.”

He: “Of course you did. All better now?”

Me: “I’m good.”

He: “Great!” (runs into other room to hit his head against the wall)

And that is as much as a snapshot of our life as anything. Me, seeing the trees with all their pretty leaves and blossoms. And B., seeing the forest.

Say cheese.


© 2020 Claudia Grossman




state of the union

I used to say, when I lived in New York, that I knew the subway system like the back of my hand — the alphabet salad of IRT, BMT, A through F, R and Q; the numbered choices 1 through 9; the uptown, the downtown, the Grand Central shuttle — it was a way of life. Now that I’ve been living in LA for over two decades, the freeways are second nature — the 101 to Santa Barbara; the 405 to nowhere you need to be quickly; the 210, the 110, the 10 (could there be any more 10s?). But my ability to navigate a map of the 50 states? Let’s just say I missed that train. Passed that exit ramp. Game over.

It’s not that I don’t know the state of the states. It’s just a few pair that always trip me up. Wisconsin and Minnesota. Colorado and Kansas. Missouri and Arkansas. The Dakotas (I can differentiate the two from each other, of course — once I’m sure of which two they are). And then there’s Wyoming and Montana.

So, in an effort to solidify what’s where, we’ve tried a number of learning techniques at home. I should preface this all by saying that B. loves maps, loves geography, and can list the states from north to south, column by column, or east to west, row by row, or in any other combination you’d like. It’s annoying. Anyway, back to me.

We’ve tried jigsaw puzzles — the images only last in my head until it’s time to break down the puzzles in order to eat dinner at the coffee table (three nights later). We’ve even tried those color-in-the-states kids’ place mats. The result? Unfortunately, I appear to be more interested in the colors than the states (that one makes left-brained B. nuts). Then there were the flashcards — those somehow rapidly descended into a game of gin rummy.

The solution came seemingly out of nowhere. It started with an itch that needed a scratch. B. couldn’t reach the spot on his back so I offered to help.

Me:     “Where?”

He:      “Colorado.”

Me:     (waiting, pondering, tentatively scratching)

He:      “Lower and to the left. That was Minnesota.”

Me:     (aha!)

He:      “Now over to Nebraska.”

Me:     (clueless)

He:      “Hello?”

Me:     (taking a shot)

He:      “Not Nevada — Nebraska. Head right and up a little.”

Me:     (moving right and wondering if it wouldn’t be easier just to buy him a back scratcher)

He:    “Ahhhh.”

The technique seems to be helping, although I do still get a little bit lost between New Hampshire and Vermont or between Iowa and Ohio. The good news is that despite the (fewer now) mix-ups, B.’s back does get scratched. The better news? Occasionally, I even surprise myself.

The other day he thought he’d challenge me with a please-scratch-me city location. “Portand,” he said, the gauntlet thrown down. Not even blinking, I coolly came back with, “Oregon? Or Maine?” He looked at me admiringly. “Nicely done. Oregon.” I grinned, bowed, and proceeded — to the opposite coast.

It was worth it to see the look on his face. Game, set, and scratch.


©2020 Claudia Grossman





going bananas

One of my new habits now that we’ve been quarantined for several months has become baking. Banana bread, specifically. And I’m not sure why. Yes, I like it well enough, but there are certainly other things I like to bake more. Maybe it’s because we seem to have a plethora of bananas at the end of each week — too soft and sweet to eat as is — and I feel as if I’m doing something virtuous by saving them in a loaf with sugar.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about these strange times it is that inexplicable things seem to be happening (beyond the obvious, that is). Like why are there painters suddenly painting the exterior apartment doors in our building? Why can I not stop watching Friends reruns every night — and why are there actually episodes that I’ve never seen before? Why is my supermarket out of garlic and gingersnaps? For weeks?

And so my banana bread chronicles have had their own strangeness attached — loaf by loaf. To wit:

Loaf #1 The Low-Fat Version  You know how the first rule of Fight Club is “never talk about fight club”? Well, the first rule of banana bread is “never talk about low-fat banana bread.” At least, not the recipe I found. You know how really good banana bread is velvety and moist? Yeah, me too. But not this recipe.  Moving on.

Loaf #2 Grandma’s Banana Bread  My first clue should have been that I know nothing about any recipe called “Grandma’s Banana Bread.” My grandmother never made anything resembling banana bread — mandel bread, yes (think biscotti, sort of); sponge cake, yes; rugelach, sure. (I’m thinking that bananas weren’t a big thing in the shtetl world she came from.) So, not knowing what to look for, I ventured blindly into a banana bread fiasco that came out tasting blah. But with a craving for chocolate rugelach like nobody’s business.

Loaf #3 Chocolate Chip Banana Bread  Okay, now we’re talking, I thought. The best banana bread I’ve ever eaten was in San Francisco, at a diner that served it prepared with cocoa nibs. Oh. My. God. On a scale of one to ten, a luscious 100. At any rate, after finding a recipe for chocolate chip bb (I feel like it’s okay to abbreviate, we’re all friends here), I baked what appeared to be an excellent loaf. It looked perfect — lightly golden brown — and smelled delicious. Ahh. But.

B:    “I don’t taste any chocolate.”

Me:  “What do you mean?”

B:     “I mean, the banana part is good, but there’s no chocolate taste.”

Me:  “Of course, there is. I put in almost a full cup of the really good chocolate chips.”

B:     “Maybe they melted away? There’s no chocolate in here.”

Me:  “What’s wrong with you? Of course there is.” (Taking a bite)

B:     “Well?”

Me:  (looking around wildly and spying the cup of chocolate chips on the counter) “Oh.”

B:     “And…?”

Me:  (in a small, quiet voice) “I forgot to add them in.”

B:     “What?”

Me:  (in a not so small, not so quiet voice) “I. Forgot. To. Put. Them. In. OKAY?”

B:     “Okay, okay! It’s still really good!”

Me:  (tearing up) “No it’s not! It’s not chocolate chip banana bread!”

B:     (pivots) “Look, sweetie, Friends is on again!”

Lesson learned? One, time for a new hobby, and two, the neighborhood bakeshop that we pass on our daily walks makes amazing banana bread.

You say banana, I say nirvana.


© 2020 Claudia Grossman

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enchanting news

Dear Reader,

I’m thrilled to announce that my first novel, The Mermaid Mahjong Circle – A Fairy Tale for Women, has just been published! (For those of you who have already heard this news, thank you so much for your overwhelming response! I beg your indulgence here, as this is just a chance for me to reach all followers of my blog with this update.)

The Mermaid Mahjong Circle follows two lifelong friends and artists, Evie and Hannah, as they embark on an adventure that takes them from the present to the past and back again, thanks to a tale about a mysterious mahjong tile crafted a century ago. From the moment they discover the extraordinary tile on a beach near San Francisco, they are caught up in the adventure of their lives, an amazing journey that tests the parameters of how far they can open their minds and their hearts to the power of friendship, of art, and of believing in something outside of reality that will change them forever. Smart, funny, and whimsical, with a touch of magic, it’s a nod to women empowering themselves through the things that matter most to them. Enter the circle and become enchanted.

The Mermaid Mahjong Circle is available as a paperback and an ebook. You can purchase it at amazon.combarnesandnoble.com, and lots of other online booksellers.

I hope you’ll give it a read and tell your friends to pick up a copy too! If you love it, please say a few words on those websites or here in the comments section. And please like and share on social media.

Thanks so much for all of your support!

Mermaids and mahjong and magic — oh my.

© 2020 Claudia Grossman


home field advantage

One of the most common changes that this time of quarantine-at-home-except-for-essentials has brought is that of working remotely from home. For those of us who do that all the time (like me), what makes it so different now (aside from the awfulness of the world situation, of course) is that now my college-professor husband is doing it as well. In the same home. At the same time. For the indefinite future.

In short, the playing field has changed.

[Before I go on, I need to say that, given what others are going through and doing, these are not complaints. Merely humorous observations about my current situation. To the medical professionals who literally put their lives out there everyday; the first responders who do not wait even a second to rush through that proverbial front door; the delivery people and store personnel who keep us stocked with what we need — we owe you all the gratitude in the world. And then some.]

Class has been in session in our home for the past three weeks. Four days a week, anywhere from three to six hours a day. And since two of those days have three-hour classes in the evening, you could say that I can be caught lurking at any time.

To wit:

Sneaking from my bedroom office into the kitchen to score a snack (then running back to the bedroom to unwrap it — too much noise otherwise in the dining-room area, which is B.’s office). Popping up in the background of his computer screen to flit in and turn up the thermostat when it’s too chilly. Creeping in through the front door with my groceries as quickly and quietly as I can so that Zoom doesn’t zoom in on my antics.

And antics they are. Because our fridge is on the fritz, we’re talking mostly pantry items, particularly cans of soup. Cans that roll out of bags and onto the floor if you’re not careful. Cans that stack up nicely on pantry shelves unless you misjudge.

Then Newton’s laws take over. The law of gravity, of course. And the law that talks about how an object in motion stays in motion. Until you manage to trap said object under the legs of a kitchen chair and crawl around after it, all the while attempting to maintain some semblance of quiet. And some sense of balance. Or not. And trying not to curse when you prove Newton right. (Gives new meaning to the idea of calling an audible.)

To his credit, B. doesn’t miss a beat. The lecture continues, the answers to the students’ questions go on uninterrupted, and I am learning quite a lot. (This week, specifically, about torts in one course and personal property in the other). Of course, being the student I am, I find myself wanting to shout out the answers. I did that once — then sprinted away in my bunny slippers before anyone figured out it was me.

But the biggest learning curve came on day one when I decided I wanted to sit in on the class (out of Zoom’s way, of course). So there I was, curled up on the living room love seat, playing Candy Crush on my tablet while I listened to B. teach. All was going well — for both of us — until his video went out. Uh-oh.  Because — who knew? — our internet speed is too slow to support two devices fighting for that much WiFi at the same time.

Oops. Looks like my candy crushed the connection.

Remote control.


© 2020 Claudia Grossman


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keep calm and try to laugh on

It’s one of those moments that make history  — unfortunately, for a scary reason. With the advent of the coronavirus and all the fear it brings, these are very tough times indeed. And trying to find the light — and the lighter things — about these days is not at all easy. So we muddle through, we make every effort to be aware and try to be safe; we hope that the experts find their way to getting us past it and keeping us healthy; and we do our best to take care of ourselves and each other.

And I truly believe that that includes looking for a laugh, or even a giggle, wherever we can. To wit:

After doing my weekly supermarket run yesterday — my first hint that it was going to be a long day was that at 7:30 am there were far too many cars in the parking lot — I ventured to take my mother-in-law out for her supermarket run. The item high on her list? Toilet paper. (Go ahead, laugh. It’s funny.)

I couldn’t find any for her at my supermarket so, before picking her up (and after packing up a few rolls from our place for her), I headed over to Target. It wasn’t even 9 am and, when I arrived, I saw people on line to pay, their carts overflowing (I kid you not) with packs and packs of TP — 12-roll packs, 24-roll packs, 72-roll packs. (Seems like a bit of overkill but whatever makes you feel better, right?)

So, feeling optimistic, I approached the paper goods aisle — only to find it empty. Not a single roll of toilet paper to be found. Not a sheet. No two-ply, no one-ply, no reply.

On my way out of the store I stopped at customer service to suggest that perhaps they might want to put a limit on TP purchases per customer?

“Oh, we do,” I was reassured. “The limit is six packages.”

“Six packages?” I was incredulous. “That means people are walking out of here with anywhere from 72 to 432 rolls of toilet paper.” I paused for effect. “Don’t you think that’s a little excessive?” No reply.

Okay, now the hunt was on. I grabbed my mother-in-law and we headed off to her supermarket where, to no one’s surprise, there was no toilet paper. Huge, 45-minute lines, though, and a pre-K teacher in front of us who explained adorably that tissues were her back-up to toilet paper and that napkins were her back-up to paper towels — as the lines backed up all the way to the back of the store.

And then the main event. From seemingly nowhere, a woman’s voice rang out. She was confronting another woman, whose only crime was that she had inadvertently and mistakenly thought she was getting on the end of the line. Unfortunately, she was wrong. The end of the line was way further away; in fact, the line was broken in the middle by a space for carts to get by and then continued beyond that space.  

And Ms. Aisle Rage was taking her to task. “I’m sorry,” the other woman said, pointing at the line behind her. “I didn’t realize that the line continued from here.” “You didn’t realize?” Ms. Aisle Rage bellowed before threatening, “You better get that finger out of my face or I’ll bite it off!” Figuring it was best not to inform the bully that the finger wasn’t pointed anywhere near her face but behind her, the other woman retreated. Very nice. I wondered whom Ms. Aisle Rage had run over to get the multi-pack of toilet paper in her cart.

But it wasn’t all bad. There was the lovely woman we had met at the fish counter. (For no one but my mother-in-law would I stand at a fish counter. It’s just … ugh. The only fish I’ll eat is tuna on rye and even then, meh). This woman informed us that there was plenty of TP at Home Depot. “Toilet paper, water, and paper towels,” she pronounced. “And you know why? Because only men shop there and they don’t buy any of that stuff.” Okaaaay.

So after the supermarket, that’s where we headed. Did I mention that by now it had started pouring? It doesn’t rain in southern California for months and months at a time but now, when the entire region was out buying toilet paper, it chose to do so. Maybe the heavens were crying over the world crisis — or maybe they were laughing so hard that they were brought to tears.

Anyway, to no one’s real surprise, Home Depot had no toilet paper. “Maybe we should ask someone if they have any in the back?” my mother-in-law piped up. Gotta love the enthusiasm, but no. And no.

We finally drove back to her place and I helped her unpack, leaving her with a total of three rolls, three boxes of tissues, and three wishes that I could find just one pack of two-ply. Sigh.

So, because I have a hard time admitting defeat, on my way home I took a detour to one final supermarket. Walking in, I saw people with TP in their carts — not excessive amounts. My heart beating faster, I took off to the paper goods aisle. And there it was. Not Charmin. Not Cottonelle. Not even Angel Soft. A few four-packs of the store brand — double rolls! the package exclaimed although they were puny — awaited. I grabbed one and drove the treasure back to the woman who had done me the enormous favor of giving birth to the love of my life.

A little bit of laughter in the face of all this fear was just what we needed. (I could have lived without the long lines, but what are you going to do?). We’ll just have to grin and bear it.

Life rolls on.



© 2020 Claudia Grossman



just seventeen

I Saw Her Standing There by the Beatles. That’s what was playing on that June day 45 years ago — at the mailboxes at Cornell — when B. and I met as high-school kids. And for all these years, whenever he hears that song on the car radio, he never turns it off until it’s done. Or if it plays while we’re out and about (in the grocery store, on line at the movies, at the airport) he’ll always grab my hand for a few dance steps. “She was just seventeen …” So was I.

Everyone’s got their life music, of course. I just thought I’d play a few bars of ours here:

Feels Like Home — Linda Rondstadt  This is the song B. introduced me to when I first visited him in Santa Barbara, when we reconnected after lots of years. We knew I’d be moving there from New York to be with him, and there was no more perfect way to welcome me into our life together. “All the way back where I belong,” indeed.

In the Mood — Glenn Miller  A bit of a non-traditional “first dance” song for our wedding, but then again, our wedding (just us, a judge, and two friends) was way beyond traditional. We learned to swing dance for the video. Sort of. If you don’t look too closely. Let’s just say that a dress with a bit more of a full skirt would have helped. And only 22 years from the day we met: “Don’t keep me waitin’ when I’m in the mood.”

If I Should Fall Behind — Bruce Springsteen  Just a beautiful, poignant, tender song about moving through life together. And for two Springsteen fans like us, it couldn’t be more perfect or telling about how we view ourselves and each other. “I’ll wait for you / And if I should fall behind / Wait for me.” Gets me every time.

You’ve Got a Friend — Carole King  Because we’re each other’s best friends, pure and simple, with all the comfort that holds. And also because if that’s what’s playing in B.’s ear when he comes home from walking, he’ll put one of the buds in my ear so we can share it. (I know — I’m very lucky to have found him. I also know that we’re annoyingly adorable, sorry.) “You know wherever I am / I’ll come running / To see you again.” Lacing up the Nikes right now.

What did I think when I saw B. standing there all those years ago? “My heart went boom.”

Still does.


©2020 Claudia Grossman


weeping purple and gold

I was never a basketball fan until I moved from New York to LA — a move that coincided with Kobe Bryant joining the LA Lakers. And then nothing was ever the same.

Kobe was much more than a legend, much more than an icon, much more than “not human” in his capabilities and the magic he spun each night on the basketball court. His was the heart of a champion, the heart of this city. And our hearts are broken.

His being human became only too real yesterday when we heard the devastating news of his death, made even more tragic by the fact that his daughter died with him. And the loss to his wife and three other daughters is something I cannot even begin to fathom or to imagine getting through. The loss to this city is merely a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of the holes left in their hearts. And to them we can only extend our deepest condolences and the hope that they find the light they need in the memories of their love.

To this city, Kobe was more than the favorite Laker of all time, the most brilliant Laker of all time (and the pool to choose from runs incredibly deep), or even the most driven Laker of all time. In a city that bleeds purple and gold (sorry Clippers), Kobe was ours. Our brother, our son, our guy. He was always there, always invincible (even in defeat), always a fearless leader. His spirit was indomitable, his competitive instinct pure black mamba, his eye to win unblinking. Kobe was LA and LA was Kobe’s.

To think of him as no longer here is not yet possible; he was just too much a part of our lives. And while his loss reverberates around the globe, it is particularly devastating for Angelenos. The city’s favorite son is gone and we are left reeling.

Godspeed, Kobe.



©2020 Claudia Grossman



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role call

Awards season is here in full swing and, I’ll confess, I do love it. While New York has Times Square on New Year’s Eve and Chicago has its green river on St. Patty’s Day, awards season belongs to LA (spoken like  someone who has called this place home for nearly 24 years). Because the season is so much about acting, I’ve got actors on my brain. And because my brain loves to play name games (I’ve spent 20 years naming nail lacquer colors), today’s name is Brad.

Ready? Let’s play.

Bradley Whitford  Among his multiple Emmy wins and his chilling turn as Dean Armitage in the film Get Out, it is Whitford’s role as Josh Lyman in West Wing that stands out. As the brilliant, cocky, quick-witted, charming, and, yes, vulnerable, Josh, Whitford created a character who proves the point that smart can be sexy. And Josh was very, very smart.

Bradley Cooper  With four Oscar acting nominations alone, Bradley Cooper is amazing to watch onscreen. His range is extraordinary and his audience connection is powerful — never more so than as Jackson Maine in A Star Is Born. If you caught him in that movie (please say you did), he won your heart and then shattered it into a million pieces. All while proving that two-day scruff, long hair, and a raspy voice are why we’ve always loved our rock stars. And the man certainly is that.

Brad Pitt  There’s a good reason that Pitt has won both the Golden Globe and the SAG award for his role as Cliff Booth in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — and I’d bet on his taking home an Oscar as well. The man is an absolute natural in front of the camera (as proven by so much of his work), making it all seem effortless. There’s a confidence that comes right  through the camera and lands with a “wow.” One of Hollywood’s golden boys (he’s in good company — ever hear of Robert Redford or Paul Newman?), Pitt is a movie star in the full sense of the word. Being rakishly handsome (ever hear of Robert Redford or Paul Newman?) only adds to the charm.

Full disclosure — I might have once named a nail lacquer I’m with Brad. As for its namesake, I’m not talking.

LA confidential.


© 2020 Claudia Grossman




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time after time

When it comes to movies and books, there is one genre that I love to hate. And that would be time travel. While its intention, I believe, is a good one, and its creation comes from a good place, no other genre can make me quite as unsure, unsettled, and unwaveringly uninterested.

First of all, the idea that someone can, in a blink, be transported back (or worse, ahead) to a strange time and place just flat out terrifies me. You mean one minute I’m walking along, minding my own business, and dropping in for a hot chocolate at the place down the street, and the next I’m in ancient Egypt, being told to walk across an enormous sea to some mysterious new land with neither hot chocolate nor whipped cream even a twinkle on the horizon? No thanks.

Or how about this — I’m sitting courtside at a Lakers game (of course I haven’t done that, but play along here) one moment only to find myself at the court of Henry the Eighth the next. Suddenly, instead of cheering at a pick and roll, I’m hoping I don’t get picked for the role of wife number seven.

Aside from the whole being displaced thing, there’s the chance that you could change the course of history in a bad way if you inadvertently alter some detail. What if I get transported to 18th century Boston and I accidentally step out in front of Paul Revere’s horse on that fateful night? One if by land, two if by sea all of a sudden turns into never mind, it’s too late. And there goes the American Revolution. What, you think it couldn’t happen?

And finally, there’s the whole confusion of it.

Take The Time Travelers Wife, for example. B. read it, I declined. But given that we talk to each other about every single thing every single day, he ended up telling me the story as he read it. By the end, I was crying hysterically. The idea that Clare spent her whole life up until she was an old woman waiting for Henry to return as a young man just left me in a pool of tears on the floor. But that wasn’t the worst part — having B. try to explain to me that Henry and Clare first met when she was a little girl and he was middle aged, but they married when she was older and he was a younger version of the man she had originally met — aghhh!

Or the original Back to the Future. Even though B. and I saw it on a very romantic date, these days it can make me run screaming from the room. Marty McFly going back in time to the 1950s was fun — until he met his future parents. Turns out his mother had a crush on him (ugh!) and Marty had to make sure that his parents met and fell in love so that he would be born in the future. Whaaat? I was one mixed-up, messed-up chick trying to figure that one out.

B. would love it if we could time travel. And while I would go anywhere with him, I really would prefer to stay in this dimension. The chances of finding ourselves in the Twilight Zone are just too great.

Good times.


© 2020 Claudia Grossman



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