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“Jen Michalski’s second novel is an intense emotional commitment, but a worthwhile one.” – Ploughshares


“Jen is an astonishingly sensitive writer.” – HTML Giant


“Jen Michalski excels in subtlety that is made possible by her nuanced understanding of voice.” – The Rumpus


“Jen is a writerly heavyweight.” – Nate Brown, American Short Fiction


“We’re lucky to have Michalski before the rest of the world discovers her. But they will.” – Baltimore City Paper

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When You're Gone

A dear friend is vising from the west coast because his father passed away. He spent last night here at the house, and will spend a few days here again next week before returning home. It's not the optimal way you'd like to spend time with someone you haven't seen in two years, but sometimes you just have to take it. As excited as I've been (I didn't think I'd see this friend for a few more years, since neither of us planned to be on each others' coasts anytime soon), I've been equally depressed. I'm turning 40 next year and woke up a few months ago with the fear. The fear that every health scare, even a rash, means I have cancer or every call from my brother means that my mom is sick, that my friends are growing older (gasp: middle-aged), and that people I have loved on the way up to here may not be around for the slow stumble down.

I know everyone has these feelings, and I'm certainly experienced my share of death in the past year, but you don't want to think about your friends passing, getting older (excepting those few who already burned out spectacularly—or not—at a young age). I don't want to think that, when my friend boards the plane next week, it might be the last I ever see him again. But I do. It's paralyzing at times, to feel like some dark matter has made a rent in the universe and threatens to snatch any person standing near it. You feel the breeze on your heels and you close your eyes and you whistle, whistle while you work and hope it's just a friend opening the door to say hello.

I have always had trouble with goodbyes. These days, I feel like nothing I do will ever be as important as learning how.