A girl always remembers the first corpse she shaves. It is the only event in her life more awkward than her first kiss or the loss of her virginity.

I seldom have nightmares. When I do, they are usually flitting images of the everyday things I see on the job: crushed and perforated skulls, lopped-off limbs and severed heads, roasted and disolving corpses, hanks of human hair and heaps of white bones…

Mom, my depression is a shape-shifter. One day, it is as small as a firefly in the palm of a bear. The next, it’s the bear.

I am afraid of the cops. Absolutely petrified of the cops. Now understand, I’ve never been arrested or held for questioning. I’ve never been told that I “fit the description.” But that doesn’t change a thing. I am afraid of cops the way that spiders are afraid of boots.

Let’s get one thing straight: in order to live in Tehran you have to lie. Morals don’t come into it; lying in Tehran is about survival.

Love can only be described the way it is lived: in parts, hoping that the whole makes sense even though we know none of the pieces do.

Imagine your house is on fire. You have exactly one minute to grab what you can. What do you choose?

They had told her what to do if the police ever came. They had run drills—first thing in the morning; in the middle of the night; halfway through a meal—until she could get to the trapdoor in the closet from anywhere in the house in under a minute.

I sent one boy to the gaschamber at Huntsville. One and only one.

Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough, and looked don’t-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time.

I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm. And I lost about a year of my life and much of the comfort and security I had not valued until it was gone.

I can count the number of times I’ve prayed on one hand.

There were 117 psychoanalysts on the Pan Am flight to Vienna and I’d been treated by at least six of them. And married a seventh. God knows it was a tribute either to the shrinks’ ineptitude or my own glorious unanalyzability that I was now, if anything, more scared of flying than when I began my analytic adventures some thirteen years earlier.

They threw me off the hay truck about noon.

Hey, bitches! Today I acquiesce to the peer pressure of my educated, professional, affluent female friends and start ending every sentence with “bitches,” bitches.

Context is everything. Dress me up and see. I’m a carnival barker, an auctioneer, a downtown performance artist, a speaker in tongues, a senator drunk on filibuster. I’ve got Tourette’s.

Let me tell you about the last time I saw my dad before he was sent to prison.

There were men in my room, and it was bright, too bright, and I was being lifted out of bed.

I didn’t like my mother, and I certainly didn’t love her. The only time we actually had anything in common was when I had my own daughter—but by then it was too late, since my mother was to die before we really could compare notes.

Started with a dollar and a dream. Ended with two pennies and a nightmare.

I am lying in bed next to my brother, Lupin.
He is six years old. He is asleep.
I am fourteen. I am not asleep. I am masturbating.
I look at my brother and think, nobly, “This is what he would want. He would want me to be happy.”

For the rest of her life, Charlotte Cleve would blame herself for her son’s death because she had decided to have the Mother’s Day dinner at six in the evening instead of noon, after church, which is when the Cleves usually had it.

The bedroom is strange. Unfamiliar. I don’t know where I am, how I came to be here. I don’t know how I’m going to get home.

This is how your life can change in an instant: A stranger with a gun walks in your door.

Out here, I can feel the dead in the trees.