On art with a capital “A”

Gael is in the middle of making beer, shoveling wet, steamy hops from a steel keg to a plastic bucket.

“This will go to my friend’s chickens,” he says.

“Will they get drunk?” I ask.

All four of us chuckle.

Santi and Pablo begin to act it out. Pok-pok-bleeargh-pok-hiccup! Cock-a-doodle-twerk! Haha! They dance, a silly chicken dance, like the one we all did when we were kids, and everyone laughs, until Gael gets a buzz on his phone — which none of us notice but him. He stops shoveling, lights a cigarette, and gets real quiet. …


And what they’ve taught me about love

Years ago I stayed in a relationship for far too long. The kind where you make yourself smaller continuously, until your needs don’t matter anymore. For a long time I wanted to get a writing desk, and it was always a problem. It didn’t “fit in” anywhere in his beautifully decorated apartment. So, I propped a laptop up on a pillow and convinced myself it was no big deal.

When I moved out, the first piece of furniture I bought after a mattress to sleep on was a writing desk. Oh, I loved that thing. It was recycled from an…


Thoughts from a Hospital Hallway

Photo by Bret Kavanaugh on Unsplash

Her name was Mary, but uncle Teddy may as well have introduced her to us as “Not-Donna”, since that’s how we all treated her. Vivian hated her. The other sisters didn’t hate her, but said they thought she was “a lot”, which meant the same thing. Not-Donna was big and fat, half-deaf, and so rude. She’d just plop down at the kitchen table while the rest of us were talking and yell at him about what time did he want to leave. Except she wasn’t really yelling at him, she just couldn’t hear how loud her own voice was. We…


You’ll Never See It

You were walking just ahead of me at sunset, closer to the water, your skinny, white chicken-legs sticking out of your dress shirt. You were wearing a straw hat, as old white men on Mexican beaches do.

You walked in the sand as if it were the first time you’d ever been on a beach. When a bigger wave ripped through and you suddenly had water up to your thighs, you stopped, stunned, and looked around you, perplexed. I watched your confusion turn to awe, like a child feeling bubbles around his ankles for the first time. …


It was almost October when Ruby decided to learn how to do the things that scared her.

She’d told a counselor at Haven House that she dreamed of someday going to Mexico, but that she was afraid. The woman had tilted her head and peered over her glasses.

“Life’s a series of terrifying things,” she’d replied with a cold shrug. “What are you going to do about it?”

So the first thing Ruby did was go to the movies alone. In the dark, no one could feel sorry for her.

She spent much of the movie staring at a couple…


It was the last day of the tour. Just cool enough outside to make you shiver and zip up your jacket. June in the Bay Area was like that, warm sunny days preceded by heavy coat mornings. I hadn’t put mine on, because I knew I’d only take it off later and have to lug it around. I’d folded it into my suitcase, and put an extra sweater in my backpack for the flight home. I kept warm in the lobby, by the door. My passengers were trickling out of the hotel and onto the bus.

Photo by Donald Chodeva on Unsplash

“Be careful, you’re boarding…


Ignorance is bliss, but not when it comes to hereditary illness

Photo: Adam Kuylenstierna/EyeEm/Getty Images

The bogeyman: In Quebec, we call him Bonhomme Sept Heures; in France he’s Croque-Mitaine. In Spanish, it’s El Coco or Cucuy. Whatever you call him, he’s a mythical monster used around the world to scare children into good behavior.

Adults like to pretend there’s no such thing as the bogeyman when the truth is we just have other names for him.

My bogeyman’s name is cancer.

It took my father when I was 16. Then it took his brother, too. On my mother’s side, cancer is sprinkled around like fatal confetti: too many relatives and varieties to list.

The bogeyman…


Art by Tom Sibley

Oh, how I loved you, B.

From the first time you flashed that show-stopping smile I knew I’d at least enjoy looking at you. You greeted every day with sunshine on your face and sand on your toes, toes that moved to the rhythm of the opposite coast.

We were all from elsewhere, fast friends in a house full of gypsies. For weeks I came and went, pulled back like the tide, and for weeks you smiled. I’d watch you sail into the kitchen and dance back to the patio. You would sit with me and chat, but there were…


​Let me begin by telling you the most important thing: it’s not your fault, and there is nothing you could have done to prevent this. Do you hear me?

It’s not your fault.

There is nothing you could have done to prevent this.

I promise you that.

“Another Scream” by Joey Feldman

As I sit here on a Saturday morning contemplating the inevitability of death, it strikes me that I must acknowledge out loud the rather high probability that mine will occur by my own hand. After all, I’ve lived with suicidal thoughts for as long as I can remember. They are no more shocking…


One minute I was being raped in a public bathroom and the next it was Thursday morning. Sunlight streamed through a slit in the curtains, and I kicked off the covers and stretched. It’s bizarre how normal that felt.

It was the casual way in which I woke up from a rape dream that set me in a mood for the day: a combination of detachment and hyper-awareness, and curiosity great enough to squash the sense of panic that should come from something Freud made a career of.

I made coffee. What else is there to do when you’re trying…

Olivia Semple

Gypsy lady, chocolate fiend. Forever dizzy at Kierkegaard's abyss. I should be editing my novel but I’m procrastinating here instead.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store