Excerpt from

Earth Room


The day after we’d met—
in a bar where his ex-girlfriend was on stage—
I ran into him again, asked for his number,
later texted
the only other Chris in my phone.

Hey, what are you up to?
He was sitting by a fireplace in Canada
with his wife and child.

I took a train to where
the new Chris lived,
in Providence. I cried when he asked
about my mom, emphasized
my great love for my dad,
told him I had nothing going on
and didn’t mind about the distance,
tore up several cocktail napkins
and left a pile of snow.

Then boarded the train on to Boston,
slept beside my childhood best friend
beneath a blanket
photo-printed with her face—
a joke-gift from her old love.
Dreamed that in my dreams I saw the future.

She had that pink Bruce Nauman poster
they used to give away at Dia: Beacon: Press as much of the front surface of
your body (palms in or out, left or right cheek)
against the wall as possible.

Press very hard and concentrate.

I told her I doubted I’d see him again.


As I descended the stairs of the overpass,
glassed-in and greenhouse-hot, to access the platform
where I’d wait for the train, I saw the cars
parked in the lot behind me, reflected in the glass
through which I looked out at the river, so that
the cars were—all of them—submerged
below the water’s surface, wavering.

Often, Chris woke screaming.
That night, he saw my ghost
in the corner of our room.

He called out my name
and since I was—in waking life—
alive, I answered him.


Outside the house, I found I’d lost
even my ability to flirt. The more I tried to charm,
the more I felt myself adopting
Chris’s intonations, his various little ways.
I repeated jokes. Everybody fell for him.

Rachel Mannheimer was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, and lives in New Haven, Connecticut, where she works as a literary scout and as a senior editor for The Yale Review. Her first book, Earth Room, was selected by Louise Glück as the inaugural winner of the Bergman Prize and will be published by Changes in April 2022.

Thumbnail by Maggie Dunlap.

© 2024 Forever Mag
All Rights Reserved