Nostrand Station

brownstonephotoBrooklyn—Nostrand station, broad daylight. Above ground, overgrown beards or red lipstick holds shaggy hipsters together like central connective tissue. Pinterest-worthy succulents sit in renovated windows, watching abandoned couches decay in the empty lot below. Black and white elbows rub and clank through charming coffee shops or dingy corner stores. Trash bags line the street, their origins impossible to differentiate. Dogs of all sizes sniff at their openings before being tugged away by organic hemp or dollar store leashes. The in-between fades into the background. As if finding the greys in Brooklyn’s transformation is too inconvenient and confusing.

Above ground, Bed-Stuy continues to gentrify.

I am not sure how to make sense of it mapphotodown here, below ground.

I stand at the platform, watching a rat weave under and over the vacant tracks. That morning, I decided forgo brushing my hair. My purse is stained and my jacket missing half its buttons. But I don’t have to fix it. I can walk into a strange restaurant and use the bathroom no matter what I wear.

I am contrasted with the woman next to me—older, well dressed, more put together. She balances her iPad on one arm, bags from a day of shopping dangling below. And her hair is nicely done. And she’s got all her buttons. And she’s Black and I’m White.

A third woman runs our way, trotting along the platform, looking for help. She flags me down; our hands match. White. Nail polish peeling because it can. She asks me a qalleyphotouestion about train connections and I reveal that I’m a tourist. She gulps in air, her eyes worried. “This is going to be an adventure,” she says. And continues to look around for an answer. The other woman next to me looks up, but does not get asked for directions. And we all stand in silence until the train comes. And when it pulls up and men of color move over to offer the lost woman a place to sit, she stands, huddled by my seat, clutching the cold railing on the journey to Manhattan.

I wish I had said something then. My silence was hurtful. I continue to regret it.

Valparaiso, Unbound

Below is a contribution I made to a collaborative writing project with Patrycja Humienik and Callie Sumlin about the gritty, inspiring city of Valparaiso, Chile. It is also an excerpt from my forthcoming novel, Valparaiso, Barefoot. I hope you enjoy this sensual wandering. [Excerpt from Valparaiso, Unbound, Twine Magazine. Find the original at ]

Valparaíso was unmade. She was that artsy girl in high school who never brushed her hair, who had holes in her clothes but whose affection even the straight girls lusted after because of the way she played guitar; the way she held the edge of her sleeves up to cover her dirty finger nails like she was clutching the skin on your back; the way she sketched the raw secrets of the universe on the edge of her homework assignments if only to be lost in the depths of her backpack. Her wires hung tangled in every which direction on the verge of a dreadlock.

Her streets and sidewalks looked like they DSC06078had been sewn together last week with scraps found in a bucket of rags: tiles dropping into cracked cement into a square of marble into a patch of grass. Unwaxed and unshaven, her cracks sprouted with bitter aloe plants and swirling red blossoms in the dirtiest places where no one walked but me (or so it felt). Every spare wall of her body was tattooed with murals of love or birds, broken mirrors or communist stencil art, swirls of spray paint that everyone but she was too old to understand. Sometimes the unwashed skin of her streetlamps and benches would find itself overgrown with bursts of tile mosaics, adorning her like rubies and sapphires by admirers to whom she had barely given more than a wink. Sometimes she would surprise us all by giving one of her tiny hilly streets classy cobblestones or a dozen papaya trees or guardrail for young lovers to sit out of the eyes of all but the ocean’s.

And the sun was obsessed with her, even in winter.

She wrapped her legs around the Pacific Ocean until it was at her beck and call. She giggled as it brought her colorful crates from all over the world like long-stemmed roses, splashing playfully in hopes of tickling her feet. From every part of her body, one could look the ocean in the eyes. At night one could see its neurons bringing Valparaíso’s lights through its body, letting its waves become electric like her. Her curves folded into messy hills; there was not a patch of Valparaíso’s flesh that was not seductively rounded and voluptuous. She was a woman forever unbound by corsets, Chinese shoes, hair ribbons, whitewashed walls, and fire escapes. She was the moon that would be howled at—that would take away all sense of space and time until life was nothing but an infinite fraction of a second. They said she was the Valley of Paradise, though I knew already she had been seduced from paradise long ago. And there I stood in front of her: terrified, hungry, already obsessed.

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Rachael Uris, MA, LPC is the owner of Atacama Counseling, LLC, offering sex therapy as well as individual and couple's counseling for issues surrounding sexuality, love, and pregnancy. All services are located in downtown Boulder, Colorado, and are provided in English and Spanish.
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