In the autumn of 2020, I was working at an outdoor program to look after kids whose parents were working during COVID. To protect us from the heat, we were all in tents.
“I’m dumb and stupid.”
Dylan said this to me matter-of-factly. I stopped what I was doing (playing Fire Emblem Heroes on my phone) and looked at him.
He was seven years old and tall for his age. He didn’t know how to write his name or numbers; his fives and twos looked exactly the same, and his Ys were always backwards. “Why would you say that?” …
All I wanted was a Yoo-Hoo.
We were in the hospital and my older brother was, as far as anyone knew, on the verge of death. He had a brain tumor the size of a woman’s fist, and the surgeons were performing a lengthy operation to get it out.
This knowledge had not yet penetrated my psyche. I knew but didn’t really care. At 10 years old, I’d never known anyone to die except in books and movies. I didn’t actually think my brother was going to die, and so all the kerfuffle added drama to my boring life.
At first I thought it was ketchup, or maybe cherry juice. The liquid splattered across the wall had exploded across the surface and had been dripping down for some time. There were tinges of yellow in the trails left by the droplets oozing down the wall.
I was in kindergarten, in line with my class on our way to lunch. The school was one of the outdoor types common in Miami-Dade — classrooms lined up on ground level, with overhanging cement outside in the “halls,” held up by metal poles for shade. …
I am on a plane to Portland to see my boyfriend.
Technically, I shouldn’t be dating him at all. In my religion, we’re not supposed to date people who aren’t in our faith. It’s easier that way. I’m a Jehovah’s Witness, and he’s an atheist.
The plane is high up in the sky above pillowy clouds. I can’t see land. I wonder what state we’re in now. I left from Virginia, from Dulles Airport. I probably should have left from Reagan airport, because maybe it would have been a direct flight. Instead, I have a layover in Minneapolis. …
I’m embarrassed to say that the whole thing started because of stuffed animals.
I had a collection of plush dogs that I kept on a drawer in our living room. They were all about 6 inches long, with beady black eyes and soft fur. Each one was a different breed of dog. I had imported them one by one from Japan.
One day a friend of my mother’s came by to visit her. My mother was dying from cancer, and she was always giving things away to people.
The friend, who was also dying of cancer but a little slower…
The first time I remember my mother kicking my brother, I was four years old. I thought it was funny. He was curled up tightly, knees to his chest. “He’s a soccer ball,” I thought, trying not to laugh. His face was crumpled up cartoonishly as he cried aloud, mouth open, as he rolled over and over across the floor with each kick.
I wasn’t the good kid, but I was the smart kid. I knew how not to piss off my mother. My brother was not so fortunate. He was constantly bumping into things, saying the wrong thing, not…
Fog sits like cream of mushroom soup on the lawn outside. I twist a napkin in my hands, watching it through the window. Dinner is growing cold on the table.
I walk around the room in circles, treading the silence under my feet. The dog is asleep. He never wakes up until my husband is home. I’m the one who feeds him, walks him twice a day. Ever since Katie left for college, I’m the only one left to do it.
Katie will probably call her father after he comes home. I will hear her voice coming out faintly from…
Down the block from Jonas’ house was Marvin Gaye Park. His mother called it “Needle Park”. She would never take him there, and she wouldn’t tell him why. “You stay away from that Needle Park,” she would snap at him, hurrying him along as they walked home from Merrick’s Convenience Store.
Jonas knew better than to whine about it. His mother always popped him in the mouth for that. Sometimes he did it anyway.
When he was eight years old his mother finally told him, “Jonas, you big enough now to go outside and play by yourself. But your ass…
One day my mother left a mermaid on my bed. As a surprise.
I walked into the room and there it was. Sand was caked across its body, falling off in clumps onto my bed. I looked closer. The mermaid tail, holographic and glimmering in the lamplight, was fake.
I looked at the person whose legs had been squeezed into the mermaid tail. It was a corpse.
My mother came rushing in. “You like?” she said hopefully.
“Mom, it’s a dead body!”
My mother’s mouth dropped open. She rushed to the bed to see for herself.
One time in college, my school signed me up to have my studio visited by Kara Walker, who had an exhibition in the Corcoran at the time. I was thrilled. I knew just enough about Kara Walker to love her work.
Walker entered my studio, which was about five by five feet, and situated herself gingerly on one of the tall metal stools. She glanced around and raised her eyebrows. “This is your studio? It’s so small,” she said.
I laughed awkwardly. “I’m, um, I feel pretty fortunate to have a studio at all,” I said. I was homeless at…
I’m Nami! I write about autism, comics, and my life— less often than I should, but when I do, I try to make it worth your while. Twitter: @breezecast