“Soft Peach” by Yadi Liu

It seems hard to believe that she, Darla, has met a Viscount through an online dating service, but he (his name she reminds herself is “Rupert”) has confirmed that yes, indeed, he does have a title. He did so with a self-deprecating shrug as if to say it was entirely out of his hands. They had their first date at a coffee shop near the museum, and he was perfectly charming. That’s what she told her girlfriend, Janet. “He was really charming, and he has an accent. Very Brit.” And Janet, who was grim and practical, told her some ridiculous story about men who courted women to marry them for their money. And Darla said, “I don’t have a goddam red cent because of Jay and his investments. I think he’s different from all the men out there, I think he’s actually a gentleman. And he likes me, Janet. And what’s not to like?”

Quite a few men in Darla’s past have been enraptured by her wide mouth, big lips, sexy curvaceous hips, long curly brown hair, and those certifiable twinkles in her gray eyes. And Rupert does seem to like her. Upon meeting her—first sight chemistry is how she described it to Janet—he actually kissed her hand in the European way. If she marries Rupert, she will be a Viscountess. Why this appeals to her so much is hard to say, but if someone—say her teenage son, Nick—put a gun to her head, she would admit that she has always believed a special man awaited her in this life. She believes that certain women (those with both sex appeal and brains, for example) deserve a higher quality of man than those women who are less blessed. She also realizes she is at the point in her life when such expectations might need to be adjusted.

You don’t have a Viscount to dinner every day, and Darla, who is descended from peasants and other poor people with dirty hands, wants dinner to be perfect. She contemplates her five-hour beef bourguignon with crimini mushrooms, tender and delicious. Also, a salad heavy on frisée because she read about it in a magazine. They’ve seen each other twice already and tonight is the magic night, the one when certain mysteries may be revealed—where Darla lives, a taste of her domestic life—and perhaps, if the evening goes well, a kiss, a feel, a rehearsal for intercourse, which Darla wants to save until later. Far too frequently, she jumps into bed on the first or second date because there seems to be nothing else to do. She’d like the Viscount to understand she is a person of moral fiber. Rupert insists that no one call him Viscount, but it lingers in the air above him, kind of like a crown. Do Viscounts wear crowns?

Darla is wearing a silk dress for this evening, purchased from a catalogue. It is, actually, habutai silk, a name she has practiced saying in case someone asks. The dress has hibiscus flowers painted on it. Hibiscus, habutai, habitual. Yes, it’s true she has worn this dress before in similar circumstances—menu the same—but the gentlemen had been an insurance adjuster on his fourth marriage, and a fellow real estate agent who wore a toupee.

Darla checks her apartment for roaches. She doesn’t see any dead bodies, and the bug spray has left behind a lilac haze. It’s a nice apartment, off Westheimer. Darla makes a good living as a real estate agent, specializing in Houston’s condo market, but she’s tired of selling. And the men she meets at bars and barbeques—she’s tired of them, too. If life is a ladder, then Viscounts sit near the top, and she is still nimble and flexible enough to scamper on up.

This online dating service (for which she paid a substantial fee) is different from the others. More high class. Lots of executives. Rupert is also a ranch owner. A very interesting man, actually, whose foreign breeding might exempt him from the crude exchange of the American dating scene. And Darla is certain he notices just how good looking she is. Too good looking for Jay, her former lout of a husband, who despite her beauty, said in that off-country drawl of his, “Shit, Darla, you are an iceberg.” In that relationship, she’d been fond of the word, “idiot,” which sometimes sounded like “ijit” when she felt particularly furious. Her former husband worked at Brown Petrochemicals, and everyone down there was always buying some fool ass oil field like it was a lottery ticket. Shitty ol’ jerk, she says to herself and then hits delete as these are not appropriate words for a Viscountess.

The image of herself as royalty floats in the air, and she worries briefly about her lipstick. She should check it. But that would entail a visit to the bathroom, and she has concerns about the bathroom. Usually, the bathroom—with its lace shower curtains, old-fashioned pedestal sink, and powder pink walls—is the picture of decorum. But lately, whenever she wants to impress somebody, pictures of naked women start appearing on the walls. The women are young and the positions lurid: cut out from some encyclopedia of pornography. Are they her fantasies, she wonders, or merely an accumulation of excess sexuality that she can’t seem to escape? At times, she’s convinced that the appearance of the women must be connected to the fantasy life of her son, who she is quite certain began having sex at the ripe old age of fourteen. Can a teenage sex dream manifest itself only to the mother of said teenager? Because Nick says nothing about it.…Other times, she wonders if the women have arrived to taunt her with impending menopause.

The doorbell clangs again. She pops into the bathroom to confirm that the ladies are, indeed, arriving on the walls. Darla quickly checks her lips in the mirror and hangs a hand towel over the blonde sex kitten, who leers at her above the sink.

Rupert, oh Rupert, she sings to herself. At the door she sniffs under her arms. The silk can make her sweat in unappealing ways, but she has applied two layers of heavy-duty deodorant. She marvels at all the chemicals she has to put on her body to help herself not smell. Sometimes the bathroom is thick with aerosol, dense with chemical fog. She squirts a quick shot of minty breath spray in her mouth and opens the door with a grand flourish. Only, there, ruining the view, is Marvin, her stepdad.

“Marvin, what the hell, I’ve got a date.”

“Hey, baby, you look like a house on fire.” Marvin steps inside. He’s wearing two kinds of plaid, and his thinning hair has recently been combed—she can see the too vigorous marks of the comb on his scalp.

She blocks the door with her body. “Marvin, I’m having company tonight.”

“You sure look like you are, and it smells fantastic—son of a gun! Is that your five-hour beef?”

“Marvin, Marvin. Will you listen to me?” But he’s already found his way into the kitchen and pulled up a stool to the slow cooker.

“I’ll tell you what,” Darla bargains, “you want a quick taste? And then I want you to leave. I’ve got a date. An important date.”

He sticks his tongue out and pants, pretending he’s a dog. Darla moves quickly and gets him a small serving. She has made extra, so there will still be plenty for tonight. The beef is falling apart, succulent, and very savory. Her mouth waters as she looks at it. She tastes it—oh, yes, delicious. But her hand slips and a small brown spot gets on her dress. “Damn it,” she exclaims, “look at this mess!” She can’t have Rupert to dinner with a big brown stain on her chest. She’ll apply the spot remover as soon as Marvin settles down.

“You got any bread?”

She gets him two slices of white with some heart-healthy spread. He’s got to watch his weight, Marvin: she’s certain he’s going to have a cardiac event soon. She worries about him. He’s the only parent she’s got left, even if he’s not biological, and he wanders around like a lost pet. He is anxious he says because everyone he really loves dies. He looks at her when he says this, which is virtually every other day, and pleads, “Don’t you go dying on me.” Darla isn’t ready to die, but Marvin’s obsession, his constant reminders of the looming bucket at the end make her feel slightly frantic, and tonight she responds to his request to not die with a pent up, “Sex and death, sex and death, that’s all anyone talks about!”

Marvin’s been helpful with her son, since the divorce. Nick. She bolts to attention. Where did Nick say he was going to be? He has a date. That means he’ll be out late, way past curfew. Nick is a total sex hound; his desire has become a constant reminder of her own misspent youth. All of it makes her supremely uncomfortable. And her friends agree—it is more than strange to wake up in the morning to discover one of their son’s or daughter’s special friends in the bathroom.

The bathroom! She’s got to get this spot off her chest, and she’s got a Tide stick in the medicine cabinet. She heads for it, the doorbell rings again, she calls out, “just a minute,” pops in and notices another beaver shot, this one near the toilet paper. She wants to rip it off, but the pictures will not release from the wall; they have been burned in, a permanent tattoo. She’s getting flustered and forgets the stain on her dress, washes her hands, and exits to the foyer to discover Marvin shaking hands with her Viscount.

“I see you’ve met my stepdad, Marvin Crowley.” She smiles at Rupert, who is wearing a suit with a very charming yellow tie.

Rupert is the kind of guy—she will tell this to Janet later—who knows exactly what to say in a tense situation. He smiles and ever so gently pats Marvin on the shoulder and announces he is glad to know there’s no reason for him to feel jealous.

“What the hell, why on earth would you be jealous?” asks Marvin. Darla sees Marvin about to sit on the plum sectional, and so she grabs his arm and pulls. “Because you aren’t my date, this gentleman is.”

While Marvin ponders the complexities of this statement, Darla tries to navigate him to the front door. He’s acting like a guard dog, and he breaks free, teeth bared in a smile, and says, “I’d like to know your intentions, sir, on account of what this lady here had to endure with her asshole of a first husband.” This makes Rupert squirm a little. And in Darla’s moment of embarrassment, she loses hold of her stepfather, and he sinks down on the couch next to Rupert, who seems charmed by the old guy.

She has vacuumed earlier in the day and the carpeting, a nice synthetic, looks like freshly mown grass. The photographs, framed in shades of peach, illustrate various good times spent on beaches. She has carefully selected the images to show no sign of Jay and to offer a view of her legs, which are still cellulite-free, without blue veins. She and Nick went to Mexico just after the divorce, and the photos are proof of survival, of life after death. Rupert, she notices, crosses his legs but first hitches up his trousers. Marvin watches his every move and then offers the man a beer.

“Oh, no. No beer. No, thank you,” he says, with a smile that reveals a set of very pink gums.

Darla offers, “I have some nice Chardonnay?”

And he nods as one might nod to a servant, and Darla scuttles out to pour the Chardonnay, wishing to high heaven that Marvin could be air-lifted out of the room.

She pours just the tiniest amount in the glass, conscious of too much liquid for her guest. It will be easier for her if he doesn’t use the bathroom tonight. When she returns with the wine, she finds Marvin stuck in an eye-lock with the Viscount. He is fond of showing how he has a kind of hypnotizing effect with his eyes. The world is filled with so much to believe in, and lately, Darla has recognized that it’s simply okay to think you can hypnotize with your eyes. Certainly, explaining otherwise to Marvin would be a tedious process. When Marvin stares like that his eyebrows, which look to Darla like something she might want to exterminate, fuse together, creating a kind of hair shelf above his eyes. The Viscount is looking worried, and Darla leaps in, wondering if he has had a good trip. He was just in London for a week.

Rupert brightens up his British accent and says, “Righto, duckie,” and Marvin, not missing a beat, letting go of the eyebrow trick, parries with, “What is that voice, anyway?”

And Darla explains that the Viscount, excuse me Rupert, is from England originally, and suggests that it would be a good time for Marvin to skedaddle. The last thing she wants is for Marvin to get in some kind of political discussion with her date.

“What the hell do you think of this war?” Marvin’s son, Leonard, his biological son, the one he had with his first wife, was killed in a roadside bombing ten months ago.

The Viscount clears his throat. He has probably read in some etiquette book that it is intensely rude to bring up politics the first time you meet someone. Darla deftly changes the subject to the hors d’oeuvres, which she explains as “Italian savories,” cantaloupe slices wrapped in thinly sliced smoked ham. She asks Marvin once again if he might be leaving soon and he says, “Not if you’re serving ham,” and shoots to the bathroom for a piss.

What Darla has not realized until now is that the convenient layout of the condo puts the bathroom near the living room, and the Viscount and Darla can hear the sound of Marvin’s urine hitting the toilet bowl, one of those sounds that cannot be mistaken. Marvin seems to wield some kind of garden hose in his pants, and Darla thinks to herself it can’t be good for the kidneys to hold so much pee for so long. The time is not right for Nina Simone but Darla puts her on anyway to help cover the pour and splash. Rupert is looking at his fingernails, which Darla has admired on their earlier date. His cuticles shine like crescent moons in a flesh sky. He seems older than he did in the coffee shop. He is very clean. He emanates a translucent pink health. He looks up and winks at her and says, “You look beautiful tonight, Darla, and the scent is really marvelous.” Sometimes he’ll do this, use a word so that Darla has just the slightest confusion. The “scent:” Does he mean her perfume or the smell of the meat in the kitchen? She demurs and says, “Oh, really, you are the most charming.…”

He kisses her hand and his eyes look kind of moist and, in the background, the sounds from the bathroom conflict with his deep pearly voice. Darla breaks away, feeling slightly weak in the knees.

“Was it a successful trip?” she asks.

Very, he assures her. He collects commodes, which aren’t really what they seem like, at least in the South but more like armoires, and he explains that a very special commode was for sale in London, and that he has purchased it for the ranch house.

Every time Darla tries to imagine the ranch house a kind of visual cacophony begins to pound in her head. How could this special commode work in what she envisions as a low-slung house with dry scrub and probably cacti all around? But then she too has tried to transform her bathroom, once cool and contemporary, into a kind of Victorian fantasy with eyelet curtains and a carved wooden toilet seat and wallpaper patterned with warm pink pansies. That’s, of course, what she’d prefer the bathroom to be, only it seems to have another idea of what it should look like. Houses are, and Darla knows this because she sells real estate, projections of our fantasies about our lives. So, he is a cowboy, and she is a feminine, ladylike creature from another century. Only in her house, that vision is continually intercepted with visions of crude, crude flesh as if there’s some kind of invisible flypaper that has to catch every dirty thought in its glue.

Marvin exits the bathroom wiping his hands on his pants. He’s got a big smile on his face, and Darla wonders if he’s been admiring the exhibition on the bathroom walls.

Rupert, she notices, is enjoying her savories. His wine glass is empty. She takes it with the pretense of getting it filled—she needs to check on the bathroom—when there’s a rustle at the door, the kind of thunk that happens when bodies fall against it. And Marvin, alert to possible burglars, draws his gun, and opens the door slowly to find Nick and his girlfriend making out. They fall into the vestibule, which makes the Viscount stand up and Darla shout, “Put the gun down, Marvin, you’re scaring me to death!”

Nick does not make the best first impression, which is perhaps the reason Darla avoids introducing him to her friends. He is seventeen going on five. His hair, which he dyes himself in the bathroom, is very black like a doll’s black hair, and he keeps it long. He has his father’s large feet and skinny legs and Darla’s fat insouciant lips. He looks like the devil got hold of Mick Jagger and offered him eternal youth. Thankfully, Nick hasn’t developed his father’s horrible temper. He’s handsome, and up until recently, has been a nice kid. Lately, though, he’s become so sullen…and then that girlfriend of his, Zoë, who is a “filth dancer” for a band called Faggot. Darla sincerely hopes this doesn’t come up. The two of them look wrapped in a cocoon of spun hair.

“Didn’t you have a date?” she asks him pointedly.

“Movie doesn’t start until nine. Anyway, I thought you had a date,” he says.

“That’s right, I do have a date and he is sitting right there,” she explains in the voice she reserves for the mentally challenged and her relatives. “And dinner tonight is for my date. And me. Me and my date. That’s it.” She expects this will clearly convey to Marvin, Nick, and Zoë that it is time for them to make their departures.

“Chill, Mom,” says Nick. “How’s it hanging, dude?” he says to the Viscount, and to Marvin, he just plain salutes. Marvin tells Nick he’s looking fine and winks at him. He’s put his gun back in his knee holster. The Viscount wants more wine, and he entreats Marvin to pour him a full glass.

“Hey, Mom, it smells really good,” Nick says.

“Smells really good,” echoes Miss Filth Dancer like some kind of sex-craved parrot. When Darla first met the girl, she asked Nick what she actually wears to do this dancing. His answer—a fish taco—still rings in her ears. How can you wear a fish taco wonders Darla, who doesn’t want to think too hard about it.

The kids head for Nick’s bedroom, entangled in one another’s arms. The Viscount sips from a full glass of white wine while navigating an onslaught of questions from Marvin, now on his third Michelob, about his ranch: what kind of cow, “longhorns;” where, “outside Brownsville;” who works on the ranch, “cowboys, immigrants,” etc., etc.

Darla attempts to derail Marvin from his detective work and insists loudly, “Time to eat!” This stops the conversation in its tracks and lures Nick and his girlfriend from the bedroom. They walk in, draped over each other, her hair now boasting an enormous rat’s nest. Marvin deftly adds plates and cutlery to the romantic table she spent hours setting. Darla wants to blow a whistle. Then she wants to reach for Marvin’s gun and point it at these unwanted guests and insist that they leave. But she won’t do that because she would like to make a good impression on the Viscount and potential Viscountesses don’t threaten to shoot their relatives.

Marvin reaches for the beef and immediately begins serving himself, while Nick and Filth Girl grope one another under the table. She cannot help but notice that Rupert has not yet made a trip to the bathroom. She imagines that the walls must now be covered floor to ceiling—the ladies multiplying like mold. She tries to focus on the dinner but half expects the women to come to the table hungry for some of her good cooking.

Everything is tasty, that is for certain, and perhaps why the conversation takes a sharp turn south towards that awful place, Lull. The silence at the table is, Darla knows, a conspiracy of men. She wishes she could ally herself with the girl, and she half gets the idea to ask her a real question when she catches Zoë looking at her. Hatred always surprises Darla. Zoë must notice that Nick finds his mother attractive, and they’ve always had a sweet relationship—kind of like best friends, people who survived that dangerous amusement park ride of her first marriage, and who are inextricably connected because of that. Until Nick’s hormones kicked in just at the time her hormones kicked out. Now both of them are repulsed by the former attraction. But the girlfriends always know, the same way animals know these things, that Darla was in her way, competition.

Marvin is getting that look on his face that signals to Darla that he is going to talk about his dead son. She brightly offers more food, but Marvin interrupts with, “Leonard wanted to join the army and goddamnit why, I asked him, you don’t have to be a hero, son, you are a grown man! There’s got to be more out there for you than going to some hellish country to make more hell.” The shadows from the wilting Ficus tree in the corner loom enormous and threatening behind him. He traces an imaginary target on the tablecloth, a spot for his tears to fall and they do. His sadness stains them all, and it is a pool so deep Darla could drown. The echo and ring of his, “make more hell,” have formed a cloud over the table.

Rupert sips his wine. His little finger is, Darla notices, slightly cocked, waving at the light fixture.

“We’ll be out soon,” says the Viscount, confidentially. He must have information they are not privy to, some tip from a stockbroker.… Darla idly wonders what kind of car he drives. She realizes she has not discovered this yet. It bothers her that she doesn’t know this fact. Glancing down, she sees the spot on her dress, which has sent long greasy veins into the silk. She’s got that spot remover in the bathroom, and when she can, she’ll slip away and see what can be done.

“Of course,” says Rupert, “From a different perspective—” and he clearly has that perspective—wealthy? foreign? “It does seem to me that this country is quite marvelous. You can have whatever you want.” That silences Marvin who can’t have anything he wants, not money, not retirement, not even his son. Darla, who is no communist, worries about Marvin’s reaction until Nick looks up from his plate to announce, “Hey, if they reinstate the draft, I won’t have to live with you.” Darla nods in shocked agreement. Moving out is not a bad idea, thinks Darla: Nick could just go and live with Marvin. She says, with an apology in her voice, that her son is the child of divorce, and then the Viscount stands up rather abruptly.

“Excuse me, if you would?” he asks. And he heads to the bathroom.

Darla stops breathing. Marvin tells her how delicious the dinner is, and how well he thinks it’s going with this guy. The sound of the toilet’s flush seems to shake the table. Nick asks his mother why she’s holding her breath and Darla exhales, a loud flush itself. The count returns to the table, shaking his head and chuckling. His hands are in his pockets. “What a bathroom,” he says.

“Don’t I know it,” agrees Darla. There is a small chance, she thinks, that he actually admires the bathroom’s interior design and not the youthful fleshpots on the walls.

Dinner finishes and because the evening is required to be a total disaster, no partial bombing, no incomplete subterfuge for her, Jay calls to leave a message on her machine, which she has forgotten to turn off, or down, and so mid-ice cream, Rupert eating fast, Marvin lost in his grief, Jay’s voice comes blasting in, “For fuck’s sake, Darla, why do you have to be such a cunt! I’ll send the money for Nick’s school on Monday. I always send it on Monday.” The brown blotch on top of the flower on her dress has transmuted one of the hibiscuses into the shape of an upside-down heart.

The Viscount looks down at his plate as if something cute there is now dead. Nick comes to his mom’s rescue and describes his dad as a pinheaded dickhead. Darla nods in agreement. Marvin wants to change the subject, so he asks Darla how business goes.

“It’s slowed down,” she says. No one wants to make changes now, they are gripping tight to what they have, unable to imagine new lives in new homes.

“Well, we did good,” says Marvin, referring to the empty dishes. The tablecloth displays the spills of everyone’s appetites. There are the most stains near Marvin’s plate; he’s not averse to tilting his plate to get all the gravy. Still, he’s a good man; when her father left, he married her mother and raised her as if she were his own daughter. When her mother was dying, he nursed her like she was a baby bird.  And he’s stuck around; he checks in on her, even when it’s oppressive, and she appreciates his loyalty. And of course, he’s lonely too. “You are one fantastic cook,” Marvin says to Darla. He nods with pride.

“Yeah, Mom, thanks for the grub,” mumbles Nick as he leaves the table.

“Tasty stuff,” says Nick’s companion. She looks somewhat forlorn. She must feel entirely abandoned on stage dancing in her tortilla. “Read,” Darla wants to tell the girl. “Biographies!”

She hopes the kids are on their way out to see a movie or something but hears the bedroom door open and shut.

She’s got a wickedly good liquid soak for stains near the washer. The tablecloth will be salvaged, made clean once again for the ritual of messing it up. Darla too, made clean every day, dirty, clean, dirty, clean—and the Viscount as well, even he must sweat. Yes, the night is coming to an end and mysteries must be revealed because people cannot help but tell their stories even without words. She has been damaged, and Marvin has been ruined, and the Viscount must have his own mysteries, with his ranch house and commode collection.

Anxiety, worry, panic start driving around like bumper cars in her chest. Marvin is making noises that he’s going to go for the night. That leaves her alone with Rupert who will probably trip over himself getting out the door. She needs to go to the bathroom, see the damage, and eliminate the spot on her dress.

She sits on the carved wooden toilet seat. The walls palpitate with the women. Floor to ceiling, every kind of sexual position, every kind of insanely ridiculous pose has been emblazoned on her bathroom walls. The poses are not unknown to her: her former husband had an X-rated movie director’s vision of how things should go in the bedroom. She had lured him with sex, she’d held it out like a doggy treat, imagining at the time that the promise of pleasure would ensure a deep and abiding love. It was the only language she knew as a young woman—the lure of the physical—until it disappeared in thin air, and Jay, hungry for something she couldn’t give him, and angry at her for what she did give him, left her for someone younger and presumably more nubile. She can hear muted ecstasy coming from Nick’s bedroom. The problem, she considers, has always been the walls. They are too thin in these modern places.

The ladies aren’t going anywhere, not tonight. She flushes the toilet to make it sound as if she had real business in the bathroom and takes the spot remover from the cabinet. It promises the smell of rain. She dabs the remover on the brown spot, and the chemical makes the silk translucent. The edge of her bra appears. Painting it down the tendrils, she draws the shape of the stain with the remover’s wand. The grease stays put. She wonders if the remover is past its prime and she tests it on one of the fleshpots on the wall. It eats the girl right up like it’s ravenous. A dab will do you is the spot remover’s slogan, but now Darla wields it like it’s a paintbrush.   

Another woman disintegrates. She has transformed the sexpot from a round and luxurious beauty into a faded cadaver. The smell of fake rain is beginning to make her feel dizzy, and the mask of death grins at her from the walls. Feeling sorry, Darla focuses on a blonde on all fours. She’s got tight buttocks and a saucy smile. Oh honey, she murmurs, you are going to have to get a life. She touches her and is surprised to feel that the wall is warm. She leans against it, and then rubs her back on it, creating instant static electricity. The silk dress clings to her skinny frame, she can’t get it to release—it has formed a kind of sheath that reveals the small mound of her belly, the sharpness of her hips and knees. 

The smell of fake rain, the rot on the walls, the lurking, half-lit evening ahead of her—all of it makes her feel electrically charged. She shakes her head to get her bearings. Her monogrammed towel, virginal and pink, rests unused on the side of the sink.

Can she keep this up much longer—this curling of hair and lengthening of eyelash, this battle against time and smell? She imagines the Viscount’s hands on her bones. A hug would be nice. A deep hug. She’d like to feel the man’s heartbeat. Or, even better, a courtly dance. She wants to imagine herself wearing an elegant gown; she wants to gain access to Rupert’s fairy-tale but the bathroom won’t let her. She tries not to look but one woman winks at her. This is a first. They have never done that before.

He seems like such a dignified, nice man. She wonders if his hands will be greedy or comforting. She’s crying now, mostly an irritation in her eyes—she realizes she’s rubbed them—and they are beginning to burn. And then, tears wiped away, she marches out to find Rupert waiting for her at the table, looking into the small pond of coffee in his cup as if he too is making a wish.




Kira Obolensky’s plays have been produced Off Broadway, in Los Angeles, Prague, and Terezin, and in such locations as homeless shelters, prisons, and immigrant centers. She has received the Kesselring Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and most recently, a Mellon Playwright Fellowship, which put her in residence with the award-winning theater Ten Thousand Things for six years. She co-wrote a national bestseller about architecture; her novella, The Anarchists Float to St. Louis, won Quarterly West’s Novella Prize. She attended Juilliard’s Playwriting Program, Williams College, and has an MFA from Warren Wilson’s Writing Program. She currently teaches in the MFA Program at Spalding University. 

Yadi Liu was born in China and is now based in New York City. She graduated from The Fashion Institute of Technology with a Master of Fine Arts in Illustration. Her works have appeared in The Washington Post, VOGUE, Harper’s Bazaar, and others.