Author Archives

I'm a writer based in Tucson, Arizona. My writing has appeared in Vela, Guernica, Longreads, Aeon, The Development Set, Terrain.org, The Establishment, Modern Farmer, Civil Eats, and others, as well as the 2016 Best of Food Writing anthology. I am a regular features contributor for Edible Baja Arizona and a writing partner for the Female Farmer Project. I am currently at work on a memoir in essays.

If You Should Find Yourself in the Dark

Illustration by Wenting Li

Debbie Weingarten | Longreads | May 2019 | 14 minutes (3,460 words)

If your son cries in the night, begin a slow insistent hush. With your lips, make the sound of a snake. Even before you are fully awake, place your bare feet on the floor. Say, Mama is coming, and then creep past the purple glow of the nightlight to where he is a ball in his bed.

Lay your hand on his back.

If the covers have gone astray, or if his brother’s pinwheel feet are in his face, or if he has rolled onto the plastic toy he took to bed — fix it all. Place the covers back beneath his chin. Readjust the brother, put the toy on the shelf, kiss the forehead. Feel your way back through the darkness, over the sleeping dog.

***

Long ago, my parents were spelunkers. They would disappear into a hole in the ground, unsure of where the cave would lead, and pick their way along in the dark, their carbide lights illuminating the stalactites and stalagmites. They insist they felt excitement and possibility.

Once they brought my brother and me to a cave they remembered from college. It was supposed to be a family adventure. Together we would explore, and my parents would remember the way out.

What I recall is the surprising totality of darkness. And the terror I felt when we squeezed through the smallest of passageways. And the solidness — the unmoveableness — of the rock. If I breathed out or turned my shoulders in a certain way, I imagined I could be stuck there forever. If anything were to give, it would not be the rock; it would be my girl-sized bones.

Decades later, I still cannot relax into the dark.
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The Currency of Cars: How to Leave a Husband

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad

Debbie Weingarten | Longreads | April 2017 | 10 minutes (2,609 words)

 

The winter that I leave, the desert nights become so cold that cactuses uproot beneath the weight of ice. Old saguaros the size of trees lay like fallen men in front yards and on medians. Under the ink sky, it is so dark that the mountains disappear—even the wall of the Catalinas to the north—and I lose my compass entirely.

I am standing at the door, my breath freezing in punctuated wisps beneath the porchlight. The sky is a low-hanging ceiling, and the city lights have swallowed up the stars. If I could, I would make a bed from the clouds. I would turn like a dog in a rounding ritual before lying down.

Don’t go inside, thrums my heart, and so I stand, idling, inspecting bricks and mortar, the very bones of the house. I do not know it, but the thought of leaving has made a home in my body. It is an animal scratching toenails at the walls.

***

The lady at the Motor Vehicle Department has done-up fingernails stamped with tiny chevron lines. I feel underdressed. She says I need to take the car to the emissions testing center, even though the check engine light is illuminated and we both know it will fail. But she needs proof that it will fail so the car can be transferred out of the ex-husband’s name and into mine. Besides our children, this is the last thread that connects us, and the rope will not fray.

There are inspection and penalty fees, extra paperwork, countless people meddling in one 1998 Volvo station wagon. I am consumed by the work of untethering. I consider giving up, abandoning the car on the side of the road, gifting it to someone in need of a dry place to sleep.

The seat belts snap apart while driving. The driver’s side door panel falls off. The glove box is secured by a jumbo paper clip. The rearview mirror will not adjust. Everything in this stupid car is coming loose. When I clutch the steering wheel, mine are the white knuckles of vulnerable mothers. Read more…