"A Conditional Heart"

(280 words)

Published in The Rumpus, April 2015

In college, Joey called me often to wring his hands. When I answered, I always said the same thing: I’d like to follow those thoughts of yours down their dark alleys so you can sit in the kitchen drinking lemonade and watching the dogs, but you won’t tell me their coordinates. I need to look for those places you can’t find if you’re not alone, you know?

As friends, we stewed in that paradox over tater tots and ketchup while he recovered from his humanities seminar. Biochem was his thing – biochem and fly-fishing. He didn’t trade in binaries, and he burned for it. He didn’t say he loved me, but he burst in my room at 5 one morning to put my hand on his chest.

“You feel that?” It was thumping like a broken centrifuge. “My heart doesn’t beat like that for just anyone. Only you.”

I thought I might kill him, but Joey marveled at his body’s psychosomatic truth. Pleased at the alliance between emotion and body, he smiled, breathless.

After graduation, he called to wring his hands once more. His right ventricle had gone rogue, he said. He had passed out in graduate school. He had to get a defibrillator. He couldn’t safely raise his heart rate. “You remember those athletes who died after fainting? That’s what I’ve got: ARVD.”

A thought–a casualty of misfired memory cells–crossed my mind: perchance, it wasn’t me making his heart beat so fast years ago. By chance, the excitement could have killed him.

“Remember freshman year?” I began to say, but he already knew: his heart wouldn’t beat like that for anyone else—he couldn’t risk it any more.

© Sydney Ribot 2016

© Sydney Ribot 2016

Postcard from Istanbul: No Time for Tourists

(2,400 words)

The White Review, May 4, 2016

On March 19, at 1pm in a café off Turnacibaşı St., an Italian man could be seen summoning the courage to ask two women if he could take their picture. Like most Istanbullus in Beyoğlu then, we were making fevered use of our phones. “I suppose so,” my friend looked up, “but I’m a bit hungover.” Even with dirty hair, she was radiant enough to make anyone invent excuses for a longer look.

It was a Saturday. The man said he was a journalist. Four hundred meters away, limbs were strewn over European Istanbul’s main shopping street. Ninety minutes ago, someone blew himself up on Istiklal, but that wasn’t why the man was asking. He didn’t know Raja looked distressed for someone who counseled activists in countries that pitched on the waves of foreign opportunism and domestic corruption. He couldn’t know that, poised as she was, it was not unthinkable that she would rather credit her fraying composure to intemperance than shock at the government’s crumbling security façade. He just pulled his Nikon D300 off the table and started fiddling with the settings.

For the first time in three years, surveillance helicopters flew over the neighborhood...

Click here for the entire piece at The White Review.