Keeping Each Other in Check

Not as in strange men. Not as in catcalling or wondering who in my train car might come to my aid if I were attacked. Those are tired vignettes—ubiquitous—the plight of womanhood. Not those. I mean, like: Once, in a McDonald’s, a homeless man tapped me and said, “Are you seeing this?” He was staring at a woman in the corner booth with a rabbit in her lap. I said, “Oh, yeah. That’s real.” He sighed with relief and returned to Candy Crush on his iPhone. I mean: Once on a downtown bus, the overhead digital display read October 15, 2025. Every person who noticed did the same double take, then blank stare ahead, then sudden glance out the window. And I knew what they were checking for. Like, once on the same bus, I was peeling a clementine, and the smell was so powerful everyone was scanning the crowd to find the fruit. I started to hand out every other slice, which they all clearly thought was weird but ate anyway. And even, once my brother had to stand next to the expressway entrance to practice the trumpet because it was too loud for our apartment, and a woman yelled, “You suck,” out of her car window, but he said it didn’t make him feel bad because he wasn’t performing. It’s that ephemeral showing up as each other’s friends or enemies—that buzzing of people-ness. It’s the fact that everyone thought we might have burst through spacetime together on the downtown bus.


Violet Piper is a writer and camp director living in Brooklyn. She has published essays, poems, and hybrid works in Slate, Olit, Blue Mountain Review, and Reductress.