Personal Essays

By Joy C. Ashford

This Good Season

The year was 2012. I was ten years old, sitting in a Starbucks in an unremarkable suburb of northern Chicago. Snow piled in bluish mounds outside the window, and I etched a hasty star on the fogged glass. It was January. Half-frozen customers stumbled into the store and shook frost from their hair, grumbling for Pike Place Roast and a caramel macchiato with no whip, please.

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Goodbyes in G Major

With or without a metronome, I can’t help but measure time in music.

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To 'Fleabag,' With Grief

I started “Fleabag” at the beginning of quarantine last March, and, suddenly faced with very little to do, I binged it with a fervor. I laughed, smiled, and gasped my way through two seasons of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s brilliant portrayal of the show’s eponymous protagonist, a slightly unhinged, daringly witty, sometimes-narcissist. When I got to the end of the 12th and final episode of the show and Fleabag looked meaningfully into the camera one last time, I shut my laptop and burst into tears.

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Celebrity Saviors

I split my childhood between woodsy creeks in Pennsylvania and the forests of Narnia. The line between where I ended and Lucy Pevensie began was blurry; I cut my hair in her same British bob and used her favorite healing potion on my siblings. I learned how to will myself onto a lion’s back, feeling the soft strands of Aslan’s hair falling through my hands.

When Narnia drifted away with adolescence, I found a teenaged fantasy world just as enchanting: the world of Dodie Clark. I crawled inside her songs with the same abandon, living in her universe of yellow flowers and smeared makeup and sunshine the next morning. But this time, I devoured more than just the words themselves. I devoured her life — the people she was friends with, her favorite playlists, the way she put little eyeliner dots under her eyes.

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