Andrea Marcusa


“You know, everything’s going up. It’s incredible. Totally ugly apartments are getting amazing prices,” my sister, Inky, says. “My friends who’ve flipped their places are getting rich—really rich.”

As Inky speaks, I start itemizing the features my next apartment must have:

  • My own refrigerator.
  • Sunshine I can see in a window from my bed.
  • Enough quiet to hear the icemaker dump fresh cubes. So much quiet that the voices in my head soften because they sound too loud.
  • Outside streets that are safe. And hallways inside that are safe.
  • Up-to-date inspection notices for fires, elevators, mice.

The sound of my sister’s voice has been rising as I’ve been making my list, as if she knows I’m only half listening. Finally, I look at her and say, “If your apartment was in a better neighborhood maybe the value would go up, too.”

She opens her mouth to speak and then snaps it shut. I don’t know why I’ve just criticized her home, the one that’s she’s opened to me when I’ve had no place else to go. I’m not someone who says mean things for sport.

I push away from the table, open the refrigerator, and take out some peach and lime salsa. Next I find some salted kelp chips and pour them into a bowl, then return the box to the shelf.  “Some of the best things in life don’t cost money,” I say. “Well not that much money. These were on sale.”

My sister looks at me with a slight sneer. “You always go to food for your peace of mind.” Then she runs her hands over her hips to the tops of her thighs, as if measuring to make sure they’re still twice as slim as mine.

My last home before I lost my job and my sister had to take me in was:

  • Rent stabilized and cheap.
  • Cozy with slanted ceilings and exposed brick walls.
  • Intriguing with its secret closet under the stair where I saved thousands of candy wrappers.
  • Quirky when each morning around 7:00 A.M. the radiator banged, “do, re, mi.”
  • Beautiful when it snowed, and drifts made abstract designs on the windows that glittered in the sun.

I stand up for more chips and as I’m lifting the box from the shelf, two other ones crash on the floor. I leave them there staring up at the two of us and return to the table.

I pour more chips into the bowl.

My sister takes one. Then another and another until almost half the bowl is gone. All over the region, chips are being poured into bowls, and people are biting into their salty texture, biting away things like eviction notices, calls from collection agents, greedy landlords, judgmental siblings. And all over the region people are wincing each time their hands reach back into the bowl for another and another fatty caloric chip. But they still reach. Even my sister.

I take a chip, pull it across the salsa and pile a heap so large that it teeters on the edge of the chip, almost falling to the floor, before I shove it into my mouth.

I bite down, hear the crunch, taste the salt, the sweet. Soon, all that is left is the fiery heat striking my tongue.


Andrea Marcusa’s literary fiction, nonfiction and poetry have appeared in The Baltimore Review, Booth, Citron Review, Cutbank, River Styx, River Teeth and others. She’s received recognition from the writing competitions Glimmer Train, Third Coast, New Letters, Southampton Review and Raleigh Review and she’s been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes. Andrea divides her time between creating literary works and photographs and writing articles on medicine, technology, and education. To learn more visit: or follow her on twitter: @d_marcusa.


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