Waste Not

By Desiree Cooper

September 28, 2020

Waste Not

My parents are old and inert, their bones want only to be still. There’s not much we can do for entertainment, except sit here, and then for a change of scenery, sit there.

When the weather is nice (and sometimes, even when the rain is gentle), I lift the garage door and we sit just inside the lip and watch the neighbors come and go. Sometimes we sip cokes and sometimes we snack. Sometimes, we have music, a little Motown or Boots Randolph to help us mark the time. But mostly, we sit for hours and say nothing, or listen to the rolling tide of my father’s circling questions.

I remember the years when time was my enemy—invisible and cruel, like gravity. It would barrel forward so furiously I had no idea where it went. It passed in a gust of overwhelm. It had pressure, but no weight. It had seasons, but no flavor.

We are closer to the end of our lives than to the beginning. If anyone, we should know better than to throw away our uncertain measure. We should be scurrying and feathering, but we aren’t. Time stretching languid in the humid afternoon tastes like caramel cake. It smells like pine needles in the rain. Every second it’s a different thing, as the light goes white, then yellow, then crimson, then indigo.

Our days cannot be hoarded. In these last, luxurious hours, we spend as much time as we want.


Desiree Cooper is the author of the award-winning collection of flash fiction, Know the Mother. Her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in The Best Small Fictions 2018, CallalooMichigan Quarterly Review, The Rumpus, and Best African American Fiction 2010. Her essay, “We Have Lost Too Many Wigs,” was a notable essay in The Best American Essays 2019


Photo by Heather Zabriskie courtesy of Unsplash

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