Microjourneys | Multiple Authors

As the Eastern sun sinks, its final rays sharply penetrating the day’s unsettled dust, the call to prayer wails hauntingly from minaret loudspeakers. It undulates through the slender alleys of Damascus, winding into bedroom windows, and slithers across the sea of roofs, licking deeply into homes with open courtyards, waking every napping thing in its path. Lights flicker on across the city, and feral cats, hungry-eyed kings who wear matted coats, stretch their sooty legs, preparing to resume their nocturnal reign. Scrappy kittens who know how to steal emerge from their palaces, the underbellies of rooftop water pumps and diesel tanks. Soon the city will be theirs. –Vicki Valosik

Swaying as she struggled to hold her balance in the orange vinyl seat and praying as the train careened along the narrow steel rails, she read her book. To her left, liquid the color of dishwater, rain that had not made it to the earth, was trapped between the panes of mud-smeared glass, dismal portals that framed the graffiti of the outside world. In the metro station, the dreary concrete bunker where she had left her car, the stench of urine had threatened to permeate the soles of her shoes; now in this section of the lumbering silver bullet where she had found a seat, the aroma of fried chicken invaded her nostrils. Tortured the core of her vegetarian nature. She looked around for the offending KFC, the KFC that had assaulted her senses more than the metro’s sway, dirt, or urine, ruining what had been a lovely day, destroying what moments of peace she had found. -Lisa Lance

In a few hours, happy shouts and laughter would rise and fall, as plastic sleds ferried children down the hillside toward the school; for now, the only sounds were the sweep of easy wind, which coursed across the blanketed fields; the muffled ching-ching-ching of tire chains, which were affixed to passing plows; the whining my two cairn terriers, which strained at their leashes. Like the children asleep beneath their comforters, dreaming of the snow day that awaited them, the sun remained tucked behind the clouds. A flock of starlings — a peppery shake of birds — seasoned the amethyst sky with flecks of iridescent purple and black as they swooped in unison from the power lines and settled in the bare branches of a nearby oak. The scent of cinnamon wafted from the McCormick factory, a factory that had produced its world-famous spices, herbs, and flavorings in West Baltimore for more than a century but now perfumed the air of my neighborhood in the city’s northern suburbs. Overcome by unexplainable sadness, I wiped away tears before they froze upon my cheeks and allowed the dogs to pull me forward, chasing whatever they sensed, following wherever they led. –Ann Eichler Kolakowski

The waft of waffles reaches me on the London rain, and the coffee in my hand begs for their company. The beautiful people must eat nothing, I think, as I watch them walk busy along Oxford street – slick, suave, cool – always perfect. In all this busy-ness, it is only an outsider like me who stands aimless, watching. Shall I bask in this anonymity, or buy that pair of killer heels so I can feel tall (surely, a step closer to coolness) – even if I am only an admirer of their cavalier beauty; all these gorgeous countries that pass each other on the pavement, not saying hello. Doing nothing, I stand amidst the crowd – holding my lonely takeaway americano, being rained on, and smelling waffles. -Ujwalla Bhandari

I have six Vivians, three Annabels, an Edwina, some Belindas and countless Wendys. Then there are the Cindys, Candys and Missys. And we mustn’t forget Rapunzel, Cinderella, Barcelona, Snow. As a foreign teacher it’s strange – and often hilarious – to hear the names that your students have chosen for themselves. I still haven’t decided on my Chinese name. – Susanna Wickes 

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