From the front right corner table at the recently reopened Piccolo Italia, Mari could see beyond the register into the restaurant’s tight kitchen, where a pair of hands pulled flat loaves of focaccia out of an oven to cool. The hands—Mari could only see the hands, and part of one wrist—sliced two loaves at a time off the cooling rack. The fingers, with their clean square nails, struck Mari as extremely familiar in their movement and shape, erotic in the way they pressed against the tops of the pillowy strips.
“Yoo-hoo Mar!” Katie waved one of her own hands in Mari’s face. Her engagement rock was fat and shining. “You asked to hear this!”
Mari had just asked Katie and Gi, her girlfriends from high school, to detail the whole Manda Shorsky-bank-fraud saga, but had gotten bored halfway through, distracted by those hands.
“Sorry,” Mari said. She’d been transfixed. “I do want to hear the Manda drama but I swear to God that’s Anthony Pask back there on the bread.” Mari made two loose fists she tilted up and out and brought to her eyes like they were binoculars. “My first kiss!” she hissed.
“Are you crazy?” Gi contorted her body to catch a glimpse of the hands, placing her own on the chair, her rock too in Mari’s view. Hers was pavé and silver—the Paramus standard. The three of them had grown up with Anthony Pascarella: Leo DiCaprio’s doppelgänger, all-state football. Mari was the only one who had ever kissed him; a very long time ago, like when they were twelve.
Gi gave up first. “Can’t see a face,” she said, settling back into her seat to rub her neck, grimacing at the muscle she’d pulled while contorting herself.
“No way it’s Pask.” Katie didn’t need to look. Her eyebrows were raised a centimeter over where they naturally landed on her face, reminding Mari of a stern elementary school teacher. Which she was now. Fifth grade. “He stayed in South Jersey after Stockton, and he only ever worked at the Hawthorne spot. He’s also like, a dad?”
“Oh.” Mari sighed as she brought her index finger to her temple and scratched. Anytime Mari was back home time became less measurable: she saw ghosts of her past everywhere. “I always do that.” She laughed at herself and her friends laughed too. “So weird !” Mari thought Katie, the blondest of them, was laughing too hard.
The three of them, reunited for the first time all year, had finished one bottle of wine and were opening another when their server returned to their table with the check to let them know the restaurant was closed. “Ugh, I forgot this is Hoboken,” said Katie.
Gi thanked the server but stuck her tongue at his back while screwing the cap back on the second bottle of rosé she’d brought. “They’re really kicking us out.”
“Remember when they first opened and had a wine list?” Mari said.
“That’s the bad thing about BYOB,” Katie said, rolling her eyes. “They don’t let you sit long.”
Outside, Mari checked her phone for train times. Gi and Katie were taking a cab back to midtown, where they lived now.
“Shit,” Mari said, the blue phone light straining her eyes. “My train leaves in five.” She made it a point to sound bummed, but she wasn’t really. She preferred these reunion dinners to be short and sweet.
“If you run, you’ll make it,” Gi said.
“Aww,” Katie said, frowning at the sudden goodbye. “Wait, take the wine.”
“Yes, take it!” Gi grabbed the loose strap of Mari’s tote bag and shoved the bottle of rosé inside. “We’ll tell you about Manda next time.”
Mari hugged her friends goodbye and lurched herself into a jog, pressing her now-heavy tote into her armpit to steady the bottle. Her peeling Chelsea boots had a slippery heel, so she needed to pay extra attention to her fast strides on the cobblestones.
Think of something you really can't be late for!
Like a train!
No, like a big fat wedding.
Like your fat wedding.
After sprinting two blocks she crossed the avenue and slowed to a jog, but her brain kept repeating: Your wedding, you’re the bride, kind of in rhythm with her feet.
It felt like Vanessa had walked miles, but she still could not find the man’s apartment. She was late and lost so as she crossed the Eastern Parkway she texted him saying, I’m close.
K hurry, he texted back. And then immediately after, as though he had already been drafting it:
Can you pick up olives? Otherwise it’s caper martinis.
Vanessa exhaled down her coat to warm her neck. She was afraid she passed the last bodega, and no supermarkets were open past ten.
Out of bodega territory, Vanessa texted back. Capers are fine I guess.
She guessed? Sure, capers were fine. She patted at her hair, which she had recently dyed a light green after bleaching it a snow white. She took her phone out and switched on the front-face camera to see what she looked like. The tip of her nose was red and maybe she had colored in her eyebrows too dark, but ringlets of curls were still flowing from the carefully constructed updo on top of her head. She had created each curl herself, by twisting a chunk of her wavy hair around a finger, which she’d dipped in gel, and counting to twenty. She had just learned how to do this today — kind of dramatic, but she liked it.
It turned out she had memorized his address wrong, solving the problem by going back in their texts to double check. The building number was 674, not 746.
I’m five minutes away, she texted him, when really it was more like ten.
Sheesh. K, he texted. Was trying to time dinner!
She upped her pace, the heel of her leather boots clicking at the sidewalk. She could not tell if she was annoyed or horny at his impatience.
The Ace is a bar that probably no longer exists. It was the only old-school bar in the trendy neighborhood, and it was huge, expansive for the L.E.S., with two pool tables and a handsome wooden bar front going all the way to the back, space for twenty-five stools. There was a back room for comedy shows and DJ sets partitioned with cheap ropes of plastic beads where they let you smoke. The back room was a couple steps down from the main floor and could pass for a basement. This bar was an entire ecosystem, and it was a good place to hide from a storm; cozy with enough space to roam, how the basements of rich kids felt when I was twelve.
Argentina and I took our seats at the back end of it, laying out our jackets on the stools on either side of us so nobody was invited to sit nearby. Argentina ordered a vodka rocks and I laughed because she was just the one, two hours before, who’d been saying, “One drink only, one drink each.” Now, she was slugging. I wanted to communicate something to her, how admirable I found her lushness, how it was always attuned to mine, but I couldn’t find the words. Pushing through my brain to find good words in that moment was like pushing through that tough, pink insulation that oozes from the foundation of demolished homes.
“My brain is a demolished home,” is what I said to the bartender, another pretty girl, there were so many of them everywhere that night, this one with delicate cursive tattooed across her chest.
“Same thing?” the bartender said, and I said yes, the same thing as Argentina, except a martini, and with four olives instead of three.
The bartender gave me six olives instead of four. Argentina thought this was all so cute. The bartender forgot to charge me for the drink, and the extra olives.
“Did she wink at me?” I asked Argentina.
“Just say she did,” Argentina said back.
I thought I saw Pleiades when I first opened the door to Sophie’s flat in San Miguel, a beam of light or small-boned thing darting around the corner diagonal to the door and out onto the terrace. After I napped and regained a moral understanding of the mess I’d made at home, I walked around the border of the apartment with my finger on the lip of some cat food, and I started to worry. What if Pleiades had fallen off the limestone wall that distanced the house from the street and, having already moved onto its second life, walked into town to make a family?
I had really outrun myself this time. Three hours before my flight, up north, I was doing my hair in the mutely-lit morning when my boyfriend Tom picked my phone up and saw my texts with Jack Dawson. To him, the sexts look really bad. Unforgivable, almost.
“Please,” I begged for him to understand, “Jack and I existed together way before us. The fact that we found each other again after so many years is —"
“My ass,” Tom said, helping himself to my open luggage, hurling my shoe at the window and my purple caftan like a Crimsonette ribbon up in the air. “The fact that you’ve found each other again is, my ass!”
“Tom, listuhnnn,” I pleaded, half my hair wet and clamped in a clip, the other half styled and blond. I cupped Tom’s face in both my hands. He averted my eyes by rolling his around, like his head had just been decapitated. I had been looking forward to this solitary trip for weeks.
“Jack and I died together on the Ti-tan-ic,” I whispered. “Have some respect?”
The man who came out of the bathroom at the Quikstop was tan, hair down to his shoulders, a smile that was lazy and wide. I was seventeen, so he was a man — had I been older, maybe not.
“Hey baby,” he said. “What’s up?”
He looked at my eyes. He smelled like red wine and olives.
“Hey,” I said, really low key. He shook his head, like in disbelief. “Oh man, look at you.” I felt thin and cute and hot. He looked at me, up and down. I wish I could look at me, but there was no mirror. I knew that my shorts were tight around my pelvis and up my butt.
“Give it your all in there,” he said, and then he was gone. I locked myself in the bathroom, one with toilet paper streaming from the overflowing garbage, and now, I wanted to have sex. But I had to pee, so I did that instead, and I gave it my all, per his request. I squeezed my pee out with force, a powerful stream of gold. You’d think I was an Olympic fountain.
I returned to my boyfriend waiting in his Mustang. The Mustang was brown and smelled like Burger King, like dust on fabric. My hands smelled like the cotton flowers of the rest stop bathroom’s soap. I handed Jack a bag of Bugles.
“No pizza flavor? Man,” he said. He opened the bag and the fried chip smell made sense with the BK and the dust. We were making our way back from Wildwood, taking the Garden State Parkway all the way up. It was July, and I was going through a very interesting phase where, for the first time ever, I liked myself. I liked my thoughts, the shirt-and-shorts combinations I wore, the way they looked on my body, my sense of humor.
Jack and I chugged small Proseccos while waiting in line at the Port Authority for the seven a.m. AC gambling express. Ticketers on the early bus included us and clusters of ladies off the LIRR, who wore plastic headbands with shamrock shaped lights that dangled off the tops of those steel springs like wild ears. It was St. Patrick’s Day and we sat through the turnpike traffic drunk and perspiring. It was funny that my first trip out of Queens would be back to New Jersey, but I was in love with Jack. When you are in love, you always want to take that person home with you.
Jack I met while working the Kalashnikov at night. He was from Montana, which to me meant mermaid bars and the open range. Jack knew I had moved out of my mother’s house in October. What he didn’t know about me was my age. Jack thought I had just turned twenty-four, but really, I was right at thirty. I wasn’t sure how old he was, so I thought it better to pretend I was young. I looked young for a long time, and I always wanted to take advantage of this before it got too late.
The bus pulled into the Pietà parking lot by ten, the sun nowhere to be seen over the nine oceanfront casinos still standing and the countless construction sites, where hardhats were also hours into their day. While Jack took photos of the empty boardwalk with his Nikon, a new body fit with an old lens, I stretched my legs and my hips in Tall Vehicle parking. It was raw and chilly in the beach town, but I was marveling at the fact that we were here at all. I had the day and the night off from the bar, for once. It was something I never had.
On the way to the San Blas islands the road is rough and my boyfriend is in the back of this 4x4 truck with me. He is tall and lurching forwards, lips tight, motioning with shaky hands for me to hand him a cookie. He can’t even talk, his stomach is so bad. I unwrap the crunchy cookies we’ve just bought at a Super99 and wince at how loud the crackle of the foil is. It hurts my ears, for some reason, like I’m hearing through my nauseous boyfriend what the crackle sounds like. My boyfriend does not want me to touch him right now so I hold out the cookie and he smushes it into his own mouth. I don’t watch. It keeps him from throwing up.
To get to the islands a driver of Kuna heritage drives you an hour out of Panama City and then over and down the isthmus’ countryside to the far Caribbean waters. No road is paved past a certain point, and it is not a comfortable two-hour ride, up and down hills in a truck with bad transmission. To be honest I have forgotten just how bad it can feel. I know that my boyfriend is prone to getting carsick, though I have never seen it happen before today. I didn't know it could be this bad. I wish I had a joint to light for him, and I also am wishing for this ride to end soon. I had been looking forward to pointing out to him the big chunk of dirt road that crumbled and fell off the cliff to the earth below that I noticed the last time I came here, but that seems to have finally been fixed. Either that, or I missed it, which seems both possible and impossible at the same time. After all, it has been two years since I have been back in Panama, and many things are different.
The characters of my story collection THE MOST ANONYMOUS STATE are always in transit, literally and metaphorically. They tend to make big moves before they’ve figured out exactly who they are—culturally, sexually, existentially, and this attempt to discover themselves from the outside in is a source of constant tension and the heart of much of the tragedy—and comedy—in these ten subversive, feminist stories about women in arrested development.
Having balanced my own multicultural identity, my protagonists struggle with unshakeable “in betweenness.” In “Punta Pacifica,” a young half-Panamanian teacher isolated in a dystopian neighborhood of Panama City, crosses blurry lines with an unforgettable student; in the title story, thirty-year-old Kel lies about her age and woos a cowboy to gamble with her in Atlantic City, a seedy underworld she pretends to know; in “Garden Angels,” a social media influencer goes on a date with one of her fans, trying desperately to keep him from getting to know her.
The way I intellectualize this work of fiction changes as I continue to revise. Check back here later for a different explanation :)
Hi! My name is Christina Drill and I am a writer from New Jersey currently based in Chicago. My literary preoccupations include self-mythology, bridge and tunnel culture, and the black holes where intimacy and identity intersect.
My short fiction is forthcoming or has been published in Washington Square Review, Boston Review, Triangle House Review, Bodega, The Florida Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, and Hobart, and my non-fiction has been published in places like The Miami Rail, The Adroit Journal, VICE, and New York Magazine. My stories have been recognized by Nimrod, Glimmer Train, Key West Literary Seminars and Disquiet Literary Seminars and have been nominated for Best of the Net and a Pushcart Prize.
Over the past nine years, I have taught and facilitated creative writing workshops for students of all ages in various capacities and environments, and will always feel driven to help young writers locate a sense of self through the creative process. I currently work as a writer/designer at IDEO.
I have written a short story collection titled The Most Anonymous State. and am currently working on a novel about mothers, daughters, and the malls of Paramus, NJ.
For more information, you can check out my CV.
@stidrill on Twitter and Instagram
I am available for hire for:
For all non-fiction work, you can browse my portfolio to see if my interests and style work for you.
University of Miami, Coral Gables,
MFA in Fiction, Michener fellow
Thesis: The Most Anonymous State and Other Stories
Committee: A. Manette Ansay, Patricia Engel, Elizabeth McKenzie
New York University, Tisch School of the
New York, NY
BFA Dramatic Writing, English Lit minor
The Tenderfoot in Washington Square Review (forthcoming)
The God Gene in Boston Review (forthcoming)
Small World in Triangle House Review
The Goddess Isis (Just the Head) in Bodega
Fridas in Wonderland in Blue Earth Review
Jack and Rose in San Miguel in Chicago Quarterly Review
The Most Anonymous State in The Florida Review
The Way Our Hearts Know How in Chicago Quarterly Review
Josh for Dollar Stories
Quick Stop in Hobart
Two Pound Thing in Cheap Pop Lit
You Danced With Me All Night in Dogzplot
"Cooking Show" in Queen Mob's Tea House
"Wedding Ring" in Word Riot
"How to be" and "Karaoke" in Glitter Mob
NEW BOWS (winner of the Five/Quarterly 2013)
Review of Connie Mae Oliver’s Science Fiction Fiction in The Kenyon Review
“An Exquisite Archaeology: A Review of T Kira Madden’s Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls” in The Adroit Journal
“Rust and Blood: A Review of Jennifer Clement’s Gun Love” in The Miami Rail
“Dale Zine Miami: Mall as Community as Art” in The Miami Rail
“Why Did the Internet Fall Out of Love with Cats?” at GOOD
“One Company's Attempts to Make Broccoli Rabe Cool” at GOOD
“A Beginner’s Guide to Meme Making from the Internet’s Best Artists” at GOOD
“The Power of Petty: How One Small Word Came to Represent Black Resistance” at VICE
“TFW I’m Latina: How Instagram Comedian LeJuan James Helps me Navigate my Identity” at New York Magazine
“Posting and Deleting: The New Social Media High for the Snapchat Generation” at Revelist
“Senior Scavenger Hunt” at The Kindland
"Dying for Some Action" at Narratively
“The year pop music’s soap opera became self-aware: how Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez wrote their comebacks” at Salon
“Abe Lincoln’s Loveliest Spy: a profile of Pauline Cushman” at Narratively
Honorable Mention for manuscript The Most Anonymous State, Miami Book Fair Emerging Writer Fellowship
University of Miami James Michener Fellowship
Second place in the Fred Shaw Short Story Prize for “Punta Pacifica”
Semi-finalist for Nimrod's Francine Ringold Award for New Writers for “Small World”
Semi-finalist for the Key West Literary Seminar Cecilia Joyce Johnson Award for the Short Story for “Small World”
Notable entry for the 2019 Disquiet Literary Prize for story “Punta Pacifica”
Southampton Writers Conference Fiction scholarship, teaching assistant to Amy Hempel
Top 25 December Fiction Open for “Toon,” Glimmer Train
Winner of the Five/Quarterly Poetry Chapbook Contest for NEW BOWS
Storyboard at StoryStudio Chicago, Chicago,
Advanced Fiction Workshop
Instructor: Manuel Gonzales
SUNY Stonybrook Southampton Writers
Fiction scholarship, teaching assistant
Instructor: Amy Hempel
Sackett Street Writers Workshop, Brooklyn,
Advanced Fiction Workshop
Instructor: Sophie McManus
92Y, New York, NY
Advanced Fiction Workshop
Instructor: Christopher Sorrentino
University of Missouri, Summer
Instructor: Marly Swick
Oral History Summer School, Brooklyn, NY
Oral History Winter Intensive
Instructor: Suzanne Snider
University of Miami English Department
ENG 105, English Composition I
ENG 106, English Composition II
ENG 209, Introduction to Creative Writing
ENG 290, Beginner Fiction Workshop (2 sections)
Multi-genre writing workshop instructor for students aged 8-18 in creative and expository writing
Girls Write Now
Senior program coordinator and curriculum co-developer of the Digital Media Mentoring Program / Program coordinator and curriculum co-developer of the Writing and Mentoring Program
Weston Prep, Panama City, Panama
AP English Literature, College essays, SAT Verbal and Writing, TOEFL
Freelance Essay Editor and College Applications Coach, University of Miami Writing Center, Schwartz Athletic Center for Academic Excellence, Girls Write Now
The Miami Rail
Girls Write Now
Production editor of Voice/Voice, (R)Evolution Digital Anthology
Pieces of Cake
Founder and editor-in-chief
JAN 22, 2022
An Inconvenient Hour: literary reading with Kim Brooks and Aarti Monteiro, at Metropolis Cafe, Chicago, IL
Panel Facilitator: "The Future of Latinidad" with panelists Richard Rodriguez, Margaret Garcia, Omaris Zamora, and Ed Morales, IDEO
College essay writing workshop, Arab American Association of New York
University of Miami MFA Thesis Reading, Coral Gables, FL
Girls Write Now WMP Workshop: Guest Speaker