Blue Moon

Blue Moon On Riverside

In Issue 56 by Penny Jackson

Blue Moon

Photo by Thula Na on Unsplash

At fifteen years old, I was a pyromaniac. I would try to set my hair on fire with the fancy matches my mother collected from Manhattan’s finest bars: Lutèce, The Carlyle and The Plaza. I would steal them from a back drawer in the kitchen and my mother never noticed.

Right after I returned from my last high school class, I would grab a random book of matches, bring them to my bathroom, and lock the door. No one was ever at home. I would take a deep breath, exhale, and then strike a match.

The orange flames would dance, sway, and pulsate. I loved to listen to the unique song of fire: snap, crackle and pop. The scent of sulfur was as intoxicating to me as Joy, my mother’s favorite perfume. If my hair caught fire, the smell would change dramatically into something animal.

One by one, I lit a match and brought the flickering fire to my scalp. I loved that moment when it was so close – I could practically hear my hair sizzling. Sometimes the sulfur would tickle the inside of my nose. My hand never trembled. Would my hair burst into flames or just smolder? Would the rest of me become a conflagration?

My bathroom, decorated with thick pink towels from Bloomingdale’s, could transform into an inferno that threatened not just my apartment but also the entire building. That would make me not only a pyromaniac but an arsonist. A criminal.

It never went that far. I threw the matches into the sink and turned on the faucets. Each burning match would extinguish with a sigh that said “she lost her nerve again.” I would watch the soggy black sticks spin in a pool of water and then be sucked down into the noisy drain. I was jealous of these matches. I wanted to vanish too.

Why was I trying to set my hair on fire?

Maybe it was because my mother’s chiropractor felt my boobs when he was supposed to be checking my spine.

When I told my mother, she said, “Don’t be ridiculous, Hannah. Doctor Carter is the best in his field, and you were lucky to get an appointment.”

Or maybe it was because my Spanish teacher, Señor Millones, held up my homework and called my handwriting chicken scrawl and started clucking and waving his arms like a bird right in front of my desk. The class laughed so hard that a few students fell out of their seats. After that, almost everyone in 10th grader called me “Pollo,” and when I walked by, they would start squawking like my teacher.

My biology instructor, Mr. Alexander, gave me an F and wrote in big bold red letters: NEXT TIME MAKE SURE YOUR LAB PARTNER IS A BOY.

Or maybe the reason I was playing with matches was because I was obsessed with a sixteen-year-old boy. Jason Brennan. Who didn’t love me.

He showed up at my best friend Mary’s New Year’s Eve party at her parents’ apartment on West End Avenue. No one knew who invited him. Jason Brennan, I once heard a boy say. Wasn’t his nose once broken? And his mouth is too big? Jason was beautiful because he wasn’t perfect. His nose did look as if it had been half smashed a long time ago, but that made him more alluring. Tall and skinny with long limbs that always seemed to get jumbled with each other. Eyes that were green or grey or even blue, depending on the light. His too large mouth made him look like Mick Jagger. He always wore a denim jacket with one torn sleeve. He could be every rock star that stared down from framed posters on my friends’ walls. He didn’t go to our school but The Bronx High School of Science, which was several long and confusing subway rides away. To me, The Bronx could have been another continent.

If it wasn’t for me being drunk on some cheap cherry brandy, I never would have said a word. Yet he spoke to me as he walked into the hallway.

“Hey,” he said to me.

“Hey,” I said back, willing my knees not to buckle.

Jason stared at me in a way as if he was trying to remember my name. I licked my lips, hoping that would increase the shine of my lip-gloss.

“How did you know about Mary’s party?” I asked, trying to keep my voice steady.

“Can’t remember,” Jason answered with a shrug. He wasn’t wearing his usual denim jacket but a sweater that was the color of deep green. His damp hair seemed to be laced with wet snowflakes, and I resisted the urge to push away one recalcitrant lock that hid his left eye.

“I’m...” I began, prepared to tell him my name.

Jason wasn’t paying attention to me but to his watch. “Hey, it’s almost midnight. I promised my mom I would call her. Do you know where the phone is?”

“The fur closet,” I said.

Mary’s parents hid their phone there in order to discourage their three daughters from talking all night to their friends. Mary found it, of course, but it was still a secret.

Jason grinned. “No way,” he said. He had dimples too.

“Follow me,” I said, taking his hand. No one, not even Mary, had seen him enter the apartment. I was determined to get to that closet, which was a few feet away, as quickly as possible.

I opened the door and we walked into a universe of mink. So many coats! The fur brushed against our faces, and I fought the urge to sneeze. I knocked over a pile of umbrellas stored in the corner.

Jason groped for a light switch but couldn’t find one. I didn’t help him. Darkness was my friend.

Outside the closet, we could hear the partygoers counting down to midnight. “10, 9, 8 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Happy 1994!”

“Auld Lang Syne,” I said to Jason, and then he leaned forward and that stray lock of hair fell into my face.

I don’t know if I kissed Jason first or if he kissed me, but I tripped over an umbrella and he caught me. Suddenly, we sank deep into the depths of the closet, tangling into each other. My hand was in his hair, his face, his elbow by my shoulders, my mouth discovering his mouth. I was surprised his lips were so soft.

“Happy New Year,” he said, stopping to take a breath, and I kissed him again and again.

I could have stayed there forever with Jason Brennan even if it meant lying very uncomfortably against an umbrella.

“Jesus, sorry,” said Mary, who stared and then quickly slammed the door, but the spell was broken.

Jason stood up and smoothed his wrinkled sweater with the same hands that had been touching me everywhere.

“Damn, I’m late,” he told me, opening the door.

“Another party?” I asked, trying to keep my face, which had been rubbing against his for the last ten minutes, composed.

“No. Not a party,” he said, frowning. “Someone I promised to be with tonight.”

Then, almost in a whoosh of air, he was gone. Out the apartment and into the elevator so fast that he looked like a blur. As I heard the elevator close, I realized that he never asked my name.

The rest of the night, Mary and I discussed every second of our encounter. Was I sure he didn’t know my name? Maybe, in the heat of passion, he said it and I didn’t hear it.

School was still closed for Christmas break and everyone disappeared. I had nothing to do except call Jason’s home. Mary had found his family’s number for me. I was calling twice a day. The phone rang and rang – sad, empty sounds.

Was no one ever home? What would I say, anyway? “Hi Jason, this is Hannah Jacobs. We kissed on New Year’s Eve. Hope you remember me?”

He had to know my name. I felt like I was disappearing that year.

Since I was getting nowhere with the phone calls, Mary came up with a plan. His apartment building, on Riverside Drive on 79th Street, The Lombardy, was only a fifteen-minute walk from my apartment building on Central Park West.

Once school began again for the winter term, I would set my alarm for six in the morning to be sure that I was standing on the corner right outside his apartment building, which luckily had only one entrance. When Jason left his lobby for school, I would “accidentally” bump into him. Then I would know if he knew my name and if he remembered our kiss.

What I didn’t count on was the weather. Riverside Drive was in another climate zone from the rest of Manhattan. Riverside Drive was known as Siberia. Gales that could knock you over in seconds. I knew someone who had to take a taxi from Broadway to Riverside Drive so her grandmother wouldn’t be blown away. Schoolgirls would clutch hands so they wouldn’t lose each other. Wind that was like a mugger pushing you on the ground and stomping on every inch of your body. Jason was worth the punishment.

That first morning when I left my apartment building, it was January cold. Not terrible, not murderous, just cold. By the time I reached Riverside Drive, I literally had to hold onto to an icy lamppost for support.

At seven in the morning, a very weak sun was trying to rise in the sky. I watched the residents come and go. A short, uniformed doorman wearing a ridiculous large gold, braided hat opened the door for them with all his strength against that Riverside Drive gale. There were businessmen, women walking their dogs, and a few kids on their way to the school bus.

My teeth were chattering, my bones were splintering, and I wasn’t sure if I had a tongue anymore. I jumped up and down to stay warm. Where was Jason? He should have left for school by now. Winter break was officially over. I had been there for at least fifteen minutes and had my first class in five minutes. The doorman, who was now standing at his post, glared at me with a cold look that made me shiver more. Suddenly, he started rushing toward me. His coat was open, and his black sleeves were flapping about like bat wings.

“Can I help you?” he asked in a funny foreign accent that reminded me of a villainous, children’s television cartoon character. The doorman was really short – we could look at each other eye level.

“I’m waiting for someone,” I answered. The wind made the hair blow all over my face. But that doorman’s hat stayed securely on his head.

“You’re waiting to be sent to the hospital,” the doorman said. His cheeks were flushed with the wind. He looked the same age as my father. His eyes were very dark – the same color as dates.

My teeth were uncontrollably chattering. I couldn’t take this wind anymore. The doorman turned to open the door for yet another woman walking a dog. I ran down the block, my chest heaving with what felt like massive ice cubes.

Back at school, I was sneezing so much that they sent me to the school nurse.

“Dear God, Hannah,” she said to me, feeling my frozen hands. “Where have you been?”

“Riverside,” I told her. The nurse gasped as if I had just said I shot someone.

Luckily, I didn’t have to explain since the bell rang for class. It took me about two hours to thaw. Mary made me drink hot tea after hot tea in the school cafeteria.

“Maybe you should wait until spring,” she told me.

I shook my head. “It’ll be too late. It’s now or never.”

That afternoon, however, I didn’t feel so encouraged. I took a book of matches, this time from Pete Luger Steakhouse, and headed straight to the bathroom. I lit so many matches that my sink became a bonfire. I leaned into that conflagration and felt my eyebrows singe. Jason Brenner would never love me. Someone that afternoon had stuffed chicken feathers in my locker. My boobs still hurt where that chiropractor squeezed.

If my mother hadn’t arrived early from work, who knows what might have happened.

“Hannah,” she called out. “Is that smoke?”

I quickly opened the windows and turned on the faucets. When I came into the kitchen, her nose was sniffing.

“Sorry,” I said. “Homework. Science experiment.”

“Next time, do your homework in the lab. I don’t want my home to smell like a chimney. Hannah, is that a pimple on your chin? I should call my dermatologist for you.”

No way would I ever see any of my mother’s doctors again. But she was right. I did have a pimple on my chin, which I promptly popped in my still smoky bathroom.

The next morning, I was back again on the corner of 79th Street but better prepared this time with long underwear, four pairs of thick socks, an Icelandic sweater, earmuffs and gloves. But that wind still pushed and pulled and pulverized. This time I clung to a fire hydrant. To my surprise, that little doorman with the big hat saw me and directly walked to my spot.

“You again?” the doorman asked with that funny accent.

“I’m waiting for a friend,” I said.

“On this corner? You want to know what frostbite does to a person’s fingers?” He took off his left leather glove, and I saw that his hand was missing a pinkie. I gasped. “Lucky it was just one finger,” he added.

“Where did that happen?” I asked.

“A place that makes this street feel like Hawaii. You should be in school. What’s your name?” the doorman asked.

“Hannah.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have told him my real name. He could report me to the cops. But I’m glad I did because it changed everything.

“Hannah,” he said slowly. Something in his face softened. My name sounded different, with an exotic emphasis on the last syllable. The wind blew me so hard that I lost my grip on the fire hydrant and nearly collapsed into him. The doorman gripped me firmly by the arm.

“You’re coming inside. Lobby. Now.”

How could I wait in the lobby? There would be no more pretense of “accidentally” running into Jason. The doorman waved his hand with the missing finger. He was right. I didn’t want to lose any part of my body.

“I can only stay for a few minutes,” I said, following him past the awning and to the front door.

When he opened it for me, I could see that the lobby was lit with large golden lamps and there were big red sofas and upholstered chairs. It looked exactly like my building lobby except the floor was marble.

The doorman pointed to one of these chairs. “Sit,” he commanded.

If Jason showed up, I could lie and say I was waiting for someone else who lived in the building. Maybe an elderly aunt. The Lombardy was the type of building where elderly aunts lived.

I watched the doorman greet every person in the lobby by name. The old lady with the walker was Mrs. Schwartz. The woman wearing a long down jacket and a polka-dotted hat was named Farrah. I thought only blonde glamorous actresses were named Farrah. Twins wearing matching red snowsuits tumbled out of the elevator and the doorman chased him.

“Milo” they screamed in glee. “Try to catch us!”

So, the doorman’s name was Milo.

I glanced at my watch nonchalantly, as if I had plenty of time to kill and I wasn’t missing my first period English class. After Milo played with the snowsuit kids, he slowly walked up to me, crossed his arms in front of his chest, and then took out a white handkerchief.

“You’re not the first,” he said.

“What?” I asked.

“Lots of girls show up for Jason Brennan.”

I stood up so suddenly that I was dizzy. Sinking back into the chair, I hoped I had misheard him.

“How do you know I was waiting for Jason Brennan?” I asked.

The doorman offered me his handkerchief. Did he think I was about to cry?

“You must be the sixth girl this year waiting for the superstar.”

“The sixth girl?”

The doorman sighed. I could tell he had this conversation before.

“Look, Hannah. You’re what, fifteen, sixteen? In my country, you would already be married. You’re young. There will be another boy.”

But I didn’t want any boy. I wanted Jason.

The elevator opened. An old man with a walker tentatively took a step.

“Give me a moment,” the doorman told me. I watched him adjust the scarf on the old man’s neck and then help him get into a black car that was waiting outside the awning. When he returned to me, he was blowing on his hands as if he was not wearing gloves.

“You know Ol’ Blue Eyes?” he asked.

“Who?”

“Frank Sinatra. My favorite. Every time I see one of you girls, I think of the song 'Blue Moon.' The saddest lyrics in the world.” The doorman sang softly, his voice echoing in the now empty lobby. “Blue Moon/You saw me standing alone/Without a dream in my heart. Without a love of my own.”

The song affected Milo more than me and he wiped his eyes with the handkerchief.

“What time does Jason leave for school?” I asked. The doorman’s song did not deter me.

Milo must have heard the determination in my voice. He shrugged. I won.

“Jason leaves for swim practice at five. So, I would say you should show up in the afternoon.”

“Will you be here?” I asked. In my apartment building, there were at least three doormen who had different shifts.

“I’m always here,” Milo said, heading to the front door where a woman with a suitcase waited for him.

At school, Mary pestered me about Jason. I just shook my head, not wanting to confide about Milo. During my library hour, I studied Spanish. I would get an A on my next exam. Señor Millones would be the one squawking.

I returned the next day at four. There was a different doorman standing by the door, very tall and skinny. I was heartbroken. I turned around and there was Milo, walking down the block, holding a Styrofoam cup with gloved hands. He nodded at me.

“Have you seen Jason?” I asked.

“Not yet. Maybe I missed him during my break. He’ll show up.” He blew on the top of his coffee. “You sticking around?”

I was sticking around all right. The wind pushed both of us into the lobby, and I sat down in the same red upholstered chair. No one seemed to notice a teenage girl with a backpack in the lobby. There were many girls who looked just like me in that family building.

That January afternoon began my month with Milo. He loved to talk, and I was his audience. When he was in high school, he wanted to be a chemist. Although he was now a doorman, it was like the same job. Handling all these people in the building was like experimenting with the different elements in his lab. You never knew what would happen when all these ingredients were mixed. Mrs. Schwartz of 5B couldn’t stand to be in the elevator with Mrs. Levin of 6A. Mr. McCarter of 12D hated dogs which drove Mrs. Rivera crazy since she had three poodles and a Lab.

“What about Jason’s parents?” I asked. I was growing bored about hearing about all the other residents.

“My favorite people. Mrs. Brennan...” He stopped, bit his lip and looked away. “A true gem.”

That’s all the information he would offer about the Brennan family. I was getting frustrated that I never once saw Jason. When I asked Milo, he always had the same reply. “Patience is a virtue. My favorite English expression.”

When he wasn’t too busy with his doorman duties, he’d tell me about his life. Milo lived in a building filled with families from all over the world – “The United Nations of Queens.” He met many friends at an ESL class. But Milo was way ahead of them.

“Still, there are some things that confuse me,” he said, opening up a folded piece of paper in his uniform pocket and pointing to a phrase. “This expression – 'What am I, chopped liver?' What does that mean? Is chopped liver bad?”

“I never tasted it,” I told him.

“What’s happening?” Mary asked me each night on the telephone. “Operation Brennan is so stalled.”

“He’ll show up,” I said, thinking of Milo’s promise.

Mary did some reconnaissance work with her cousin at The Bronx High School of Science. Jason was not in class. No one had seen him since January. Since I was hanging out in his building, I needed to find out about his mysterious disappearance.

That next afternoon, I didn’t waste any time. “Where is Jason?” I asked Milo. “No one has seen him for at least two weeks.”

“Oh, he’s around,” Milo answered. He was sorting through a pile of packages and didn’t look at me.

The tall and skinny doorman opened the door that led to the basement and began speaking to Milo in a foreign language. This doorman scared me. He had a scar on his face, thick eyebrows, and never smiled.

“Milo, where are you from?” I asked him after the doorman left. It surprised me he had never told me before.

“Queens, New York.”

“No, really.”

“A place that doesn’t exist anymore,” Milo said quietly. I would learn not to pursue it any further. Milo had a dark side. Sometimes he would sink into a deep silence that I knew not to disturb.

My parents asked about my grades and nothing else. I told Milo about my Spanish teacher making fun of my handwriting, and he said that if I were his daughter, he would wait for that teacher after school and teach him a lesson. I told him how my biology teacher wanted the girls to have male lab partners since only boys understand science.

“Didn’t this idiot ever hear of Madame Curie?” Milo asked.

Mary was still confused about what was going on at The Lombardy. She even wanted to join me, but I emphatically said no.

“But what do you do – just wait?” she asked.

“Yeah, I just wait.” Which was not exactly a lie.

Sometimes, during his break, Milo would help me with my biology homework. I wrote on top of my test WITHOUT THE HELP OF A BOY. When Mr. Alexander returned the test to me, with 100 circled in red ink, he smiled and whispered, “touché.”

“Congratulations,” Milo said when I told him my news. He shook my hand. I looked again at the missing pinky.

“Milo, where is your pinky?”

“Left it in a field very far away. Probably some bird’s breakfast.”

Milo certainly intrigued me, but I couldn’t wait in the lobby forever. There had been no news about anyone seeing Jason for the last two weeks. Whenever I asked Milo about Jason he would shrug and say again, “Patience is a virtue.”

One Monday there was a major announcement at my school. Señor Millones had taken a leave of absence. A new Spanish teacher, Senorita Lopez, was his replacement.

I ran to the Lombardy that day, curious if Milo had indeed threatened my teacher. When I arrived, nearly breathless from my sprint, I didn’t see Milo but instead, the tall doorman with the scar. I felt brave. Maybe this doorman could give me more information.

“Is Jason Brenner home?” I asked.

The doorman didn’t answer and looked past his shoulder.

“Why do you want to know?”

“I’m his cousin.”

“If you’re his cousin, then you know he’s not here.”

“Not here?” I couldn’t be sure if I heard right since he had a thicker accent than Milo.

“Whole family gone. Since January third. Excuse me.”

The doorman went inside. I stood there by the building, my body shaking as if being battered by Riverside’s most ferocious storm. When Milo appeared, sipping coffee from his Styrofoam cup, I startled him so much that the coffee spilled all over his uniform.

“Hey!” he shouted, trying to mop up the liquid with his handkerchief.

“You lied to me. About Jason. He was never here!”

“Come inside, Hannah. Too cold here.”

I noticed his eyes refused to meet my own.

‘No,” I said loudly. “I want to know the truth.”

“The truth?” Milo walked over to a nearby garbage can and tossed out his coffee cup. When he returned, he seemed like a different man. His body seemed broken, as if the Riverside wind had finally beat him.

“Why did I hang out here day after day, waiting for Jason?”

Milo looked at me. His eyes were streaming with water. I didn’t know if they were tears from the cold or from somewhere else.

“I am sorry, Hannah,” he said in a voice that quavered. “I am selfish. I am thinking of her.”

Her? What was he talking about? I was so angry that I could feel my face burn.

“So, you won’t tell me where Jason and his family are?”

Milo shook his head, wiping his bleary eyes with the back of his palm.

“My job is to protect the privacy of the building residents,” he told me.

“Thanks a lot for wasting my time.”

He stumbled as if I had just punched him.

“Was it a waste of your time, Hannah?”

“Absolutely. God, I feel so stupid!” I shouted.

I walked away without looking back. In my apartment, I headed directly into my mother’s drawer of matches and chose one from The Rainbow Room. I opened the book and counted all of the matches. Twenty. I could burn so much. Then I heard Milo’s sad voice, asking me if he had been a waste of my time. Even though I was still furious, I didn’t want to hurt him. Staring at that matchbook, I realized I didn’t want to hurt myself either.

Later that night my father told me that my grandmother in Miami had just had a heart attack. We were all leaving tomorrow morning to visit her. The news was too much for me that day. When my father saw me sobbing, he told me my grandmother would be fine and we would enjoy the Florida sun.

My father was right. My grandmother was fine, and I loved sitting on the beach, feeling the warm rays. It was hard to remember that in New York it was still winter. My parents decided to stay a week and I could miss school. On the last night in Miami, I called Mary.

“I’ve been trying to find you,” she exclaimed. “I have big news!”

Mary, my diligent detective, discovered what had happened with The Brennan family. Someone’s cousin, whose father was a headmaster at a private school in Dallas, told his son to be kind to a new 10th grade boy from New York City who would be enrolling in January. His father explained that the boy’s mother had cancer and was being treated at a famous hospital in Dallas. She was obsessed with privacy and hated pity. Only her immediate family knew.

At first the cousin said the new boy’s name was Josh. Then he realized his mistake. Jason Brennan was the correct name.

I remember Jason at The New Year’s Eve party asking to use the phone so he could call his mother. That was the reason he had to leave so quickly.

I wanted to tell Milo that I knew why Jason wasn’t there. When I returned to Riverside Drive in February, there was a warm spell. The temperature was almost forty-five degrees. There was no punishing wind. And no Milo.

“He is gone,” the tall doorman said. His accent was stronger than Milo’s, and I wasn’t sure if I understood him correctly.

“Gone?” I asked. “Where did he go?”

“Bosnia. Finding his family.”

“Finding?” I wondered if this conversation was so confusing because of the language barrier. The doorman shook his head.

“No, that is the wrong word. Identifying. Milo does not talk of war. You should leave, little girl.”

He waved his hand dismissively. I turned around and ran away from the building, fighting tears. That doorman was right. He might as well have said stupid little girl. I knew nothing.

Later that night, I asked my father about The Bosnian War. When he asked why, I lied and said my history teacher had mentioned it in class and I wanted to learn more.

“It’s a terrible war, Hannah,” he told me. “Once the country was Yugoslavia. Then it was broken into several different parts, often divided by religion. The conflict is among people who were once neighbors. Now Muslim families being forced to move or are victims of ethnic cleaning.”

My father saw the confusion in my face.

“Genocide.”

I knew what genocide meant. We were Jewish. My grandparents had barely escaped Nazi Germany when they were children.

“So many families have disappeared. And what they do to the women...”

My mother gave my father a warning glance. My father pushed away his plate. “I can’t eat,” he told my mother, as he stood up and went into his study.

The next day I returned to the Lombardy. I wanted to tell the Bosnian doorman that I was sorry what had happened to his country. If he had heard from Milo. If he had found his family alive.

I also wanted to ask the doorman if Milo had a daughter. But he was busy opening the door of a taxicab.

A teenage boy jumped out from the back seat and the first thing I saw were his long legs. His hair was cut short, and the boy wore a denim jacket with a torn sleeve. Jason Brennan.

He walked with a bounce and a confidence that made me think his mother was better. Outside on the pavement, I could see him through the glass lobby door. He pressed the elevator button impatiently, as if someone upstairs was waiting for him. Suddenly, Jason turned his head to me. His eyes squinted, and he focused on my face. Milo was right – Jason did show up. I saw his lips move. I could have sworn he said my name.

Did I follow Jason into that lobby I knew so well? For a few moments, I was tempted. But I realized I had moved beyond Jason. I had wanted him to say my name because I thought I had vanished. But I was visible even before he returned.

I did not stay. I turned my back to The Lombardy and braced myself against the wind of Riverside Drive.

I never saw Milo again. I visited the Lombardy a few more times, but he was never there. Neither was the skinny doorman. There was a new building superintendent who was Polish, and men from Warsaw replaced all the Bosnian doormen.

At Wollman Rink in Central Park, I met a high school Junior named Adam. We skated every Sunday, and on the first day of spring in March he kissed me and said, “Hannah, you’re beautiful.”

Milo was right – there were other boys. And patience is a virtue.

So yes, this is still a love story, but a different kind of love story. A love story that a fifteen-year-old girl would never believe. A stranger from another country befriended her and made sure she did not disappear. I stopped playing with matches. I didn’t hate myself anymore.

I would later learn about the horrors of that war. The Srebrenica massacre, where over three thousand Muslim men and boys were murdered. About the systematic rape and murder of women and girls. (My father had spared me those details.) What Milo returned to must have been hell.

I also know that families survived. I can only hope that instead of having to identify the bodies of his loved ones, Milo discovered them again, alive and safe. I like to believe that Milo’s daughter’s name is Hannah. I like to imagine Milo singing his favorite Frank Sinatra songs to her. But not “Blue Moon.” That song is just too sad.

About the Author

Penny Jackson

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Penny Jackson is a writer who lives in New York City. Her stories and poems have appeared in The Pushcart Prize Anthology, StoryQuarterly, Real Fiction, The Croton Review, The Edinburgh Review, The Ontario Review and other magazines. Her stories have been published in the collection L.A. Child by Untreed Reads and her novel, Becoming the Butlers was published by Bantam Books. She has been a MacDowell Colony Fellow in Fiction and also a Mireliies Fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford University. Penny is also a playwright and a screenplay writer — her most recent play, The Battles of Richmond Hill, was produced at HERE Performing Arts Center in New York City and her short film, based on her published short story, My Dinner with Schwartzey, recently won best drama at The Manhattan Film Festival.