I often dream of houses so big I must explore them. I discover boxes of old treasures, toys in a small room downstairs, a high balcony near the ceiling circled with statues and trunks of shiny dresses. Often they incorporate parts of my childhood house and garden, much enlarged. But here I’m on vacation with my family, staying near the ocean on the Jersey Shore, though the water’s to the west, in one of those big East Coast gray-shingle houses. My mother and I look out at the elaborate mansion across the street. Someone inside is pulling up wooden slatted shades on the exterior to make the windows larger for summer. We have been invited to visit the wealthy owners. I dash upstairs to dress, choosing a black-and-white flowered-shirt, not at all what I wear while awake. Also I’m young, can dash, and have long light brown hair and a lanky body instead of my actual short dark hair and four-foot-eleven height. Another part of the second floor is open to the sky and a round-faced blond woman sits on a lawn smoking a cigarette. “You can’t smoke in the house,” I insist; “I’m very allergic.” But she refuses to stop, and two male friends picnicking with her brandish cellophane-wrapped cigars threateningly. I’m distressed but must leave for the visit. I walk across the street with my group. My friend Frances is among them, so I tell her about the smokers, since she has asked me to rent the room to the woman. “I’ll get rid of them,” she promises. We come to the mansion, and a uniformed maid lets us into a wood-paneled entrance hall gleaming with polish. I’m happy again. From the inner rooms drift music and the enticing smell of food.
Judith Serin is the author of the poetry collection Hiding in the World, and her work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, includingThe Ohio Journal, Writer’s Forum, Nebraska Review, Colorado State Review, Proposing on the Brooklyn Bridge, and When Last on the Mountain. She presents these pieces with gratitude to Betsy Davids.
Masami Inoue, who also works under the name Masa, is a Japanese-American artist who has lived on both coasts of the United States. Most recently she has been studying and working in the Bay Area, where she and Serin began their collaboration. She creates both digitally and traditionally, focusing on watercolor as her medium.