In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Harm Joy
  • Leena Soman Navani (bio)

Nanda put on her old shooting uniform: black silk camisole, tuxedo blazer, skinny jeans and a pair of black patent leather kitten heels. She felt long and regal. The only thing missing was her camera. She dug it out of the closet from behind the walker her mother had used for a time. She hadn’t taken a photo, or applied make-up and styled her hair for that matter, aside from the funeral, in almost a year.

It was winter, and the world was a palette of greys, from the bleak sky to the salted streets. She arrived at the local country club twenty minutes early to get a feel for the lighting. The still, heated air inside dried her eyes worse than the wind. Though recently renovated, the space featured the same elaborate chandeliers and even more elaborately patterned rugs she remembered from prom. In the back courtyard was a three-tiered granite garden fountain without a single drop of water spilling, sprinkling, or splashing over its curves, suspended for winter. She took a picture of it through the glass doors of the ballroom.

She had spotted the event on Facebook the night before and knew she had to go. Facebook told her that seven of her Facebook friends were attending. Four were interested, and many more old high school acquaintances sent their regrets in the comments. Nanda called her friend and former boss, Jonathan, who still ran the small local paper after all these years, and offered to work the event just like her intern days more than eleven years prior. She had just returned to her childhood home in Jersey from India, where she went to scatter her mother’s ashes. She and her mom had spread her father’s ashes along the Ganges a decade before that, so this time, she knew the drill. Nanda was as relieved to be back as she was daunted by the project ahead—selling her childhood home—so the event was more than a distraction. It was dessert before dinner.

Actually, it was your basic fundraiser, and Nanda had laughed aloud at the cause, sitting alone at the kitchen table where she used to do her homework. She read it over and over and over again before calling Jon: The Rafaela Rossetti Leone Family Fund. That big old fat cruller of a word that she couldn’t pronounce, but could spell, scrolled through her mind like a screensaver: SCHADENFREUDE. So rare for her, and delectable. She didn’t regularly find pleasure in others’ misfortune. But this was Raffie Rossetti.

Each new detail of Raffie’s paralysis sparked in Nanda a sugary glee. Athletic injuries, like diving in shallow water, caused about 9% of spinal cord injuries, whereas car and motorcycle accidents accounted for more than 35% new spinal cord injuries each year. Diving into a pool, emerging broken, but more human—too poetic for the likes of Raffie Rossetti, too much like baptism, the stuff of Americana summer fun. But a trampoline accident was just too good. So grossly suburban, so new money. So terribly unnecessary. In some ways, it was what they all deserved for their reckless consumption, their need for constant pleasure and convenience. That it happened to Raffie was almost too good to be true. [End Page 24] Nanda’s mother’s protracted death—the stuff of torture porn—had convinced her that there was no poetry to life, but maybe there was some poetic justice after all.


At the entrance, she took a photo of the poster-size photo of Raffie pre-accident that presided over the lobby. Raffie’s hair was still chestnut with butter blonde highlights, and her eyebrows over-plucked over two heavily lined mineral eyes, slate flecked with green and amber. She no longer sported the fake bake tan that left her the color of a Creamsicle throughout high school. But now as then, her teeth were terrifyingly white despite the packs of cigarettes she smoked. There had been rumors that Raffie’s mom was the kind of mom that bought them for her kids by the carton.

Bottom line: she was still pretty...