All tagged kids these days
I don’t remember a mouth. I remember disembodied words about: pain, impossibility, depression. I remember a box of tissues slapped across the table because it felt good to reject something. I remember the feeling of being a specimen to observe and pity, like the hard, dead frogs I was forced to rip apart and comment on in science class.
The birth of a child meant nothing new to you or I then; there had been so many before, and it was all the same. Each new life wove into the life of the family. We celebrated with the same, music and clambakes and aunts, uncles, and cousins we saw at every weekend.
There’s a girl in our swimming class who’s always angry. She was probably born that way. Bristling, we mean. Even our instructor, Ben, doesn’t look her in the eye. Ben is big and blocky and we stare at him like he’s a rare but gentle animal.
She gon talk about your skin. And your forehead. Fat girls, they know to go for what’s obvious, round, shining like a bulb of refrigerator light. She’s coming for you like she do for that last slice of cake sitting there at midnight when the house is pregnant with slumber and sweat—say that.
When I learned about the world between my lashes, the thriving bodies mating among my eyes and hatching in my follicles, I felt like a planet. I tried to hold magnifying glasses up to my face in front of the mirror to catch a glimpse of my kingdom of mites. I was fascinated knowing that I’d been born Demodex folliculitis free, and somehow they found their way to me across brow and lid and lacrimal.
You play the panyo. The pan-pee-an-yo. The piano. You pick out the notes with your tongue poking out of the corner of your mouth. Your fingers are chubby with baby fat. When you reach for a B, they slip. You miss the note.
Your mother. Your father. Mostly your mother. The fish that was only supposed to live in salt water. The new goldfish that had baby goldfish and then ate them. Learning about cannibalism. Catholic school. The Bible. Shakespeare. The word “counterclockwise.”
It wasn't until our first exchange of words that I began to understand Luli. It happened in the girl’s locker room, before gym. We were alone. I hung up my school uniform and Luli slipped off hers, revealing across her chest the red fractal patterns of lightning. Thin scars alternating like geese feet.
I see those lights, those bright fluorescents and a feeling burns in my chest. It fills me up, a total euphoria that is paired with a hungry longing. Taco Bell, McDonald's, GameStop, JC Penney, Gino’s Family Dining, Target, Walmart, Kmart. They come galloping out of the horizon like cowboys of old, delivering me that rush, that sense of fulfillment.
My first boyfriend had a truck with a little toggle switch on the dash. The kill switch. “For when the Po-Po roll up.” I didn’t understand at the time, so I just said cool. I looked up example videos on YouTube later. That’s how I imagine my own switch. A silver toggle, most likely somewhere around the nape of my neck. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Probably most people have it. You’ve got it, and hopefully you don’t switch it anytime soon.
Earlier today, Jade’s mother had taken a whole steamed halibut from the selections lined behind the serving glass. She brought it to the table at the corner of the restaurant nearest the bathroom and called her daughter over, separating the fish into two pieces, one for her and one for Jade. Jade had stared at the tender, white meat of the steaming fish against the black bean and ginger sauce, excited for a meal that wasn’t just rice and vegetables.
i am tired of waiting for some white boy to ask me to dance. for the other girls to leave their drama of who kissed by the campfire. i am twelve and i’ve been at sleep away camp a whole week.
I’m not going to sit in here with Coll. They can’t make me, they just can’t, and they say it’s because I’m distracting but that’s not fair because Coll is distracting too, so why should I have to look at him? Shut away in this wee room together, like we’ve got foot-and-mouth or something. It smells like old porridge and permanent marker in here, and everyone else gets to sit in the big airy hall that’s got windows and radiators that actually wor
Pretty sure the knife actually had peanut butter on it before he started. Pretty sure the waterboarding tasted like bubble bath. It’s actually kind of embarrassing how easy it was for him to get me.
In true life my friend lived in the backyard of my uncle the zoologist. He was a skeleton—my friend not my uncle—with two smooth black horns. I could really see him—really—but I didn’t tell anybody because they always laugh. Already they were laughing at me because my teeth were all falling out—so why more.
When I was five my best friend Ruben Cabrera showed me the gun belonging to his big brother, a guy from an up-and-coming gang in the neighborhood that was gaining notoriety for its acts of violence against older, bigger gangs. In the toolshed, with the door cracked just enough for sunlight to slide in, Ruben brought the black gun up so that it seemed to hover over my nose and behind it in the dark an excited voice fired out, Cool, huh?
Fadel was the brother who stayed the longest, the one who called my grandma “Mom.” He wore strong, spicy cologne, the kind that chokes and stings, lingers long after he has left the room. My mom told me that when he lived with them, he got a brand new car every six months and threw away his undershirts after he had worn them just once. He was a good friend to my dad, Curtis, the dad who I never saw.
Bama’s family is driving back home to Milan from the hospital in Memphis. In the back seat, Bama is sandwiched between her brothers. Darrell stares out the window. Nazareth, who has just learned to walk, swings his legs and sucks his bottom lip. Up front, Bama’s mother is holding the fourth baby, the one who did not make it. It’s wrapped in thick blankets like it could be kept warm. Bama’s mother still looks pregnant, her belly rounded in front of her.
God found a collection of figurines at the ballpark—the kind they sell by the vanload at night games. God was chagrined by the patriotic hot dogs and music, the curveballs, the bullpen, the umpire’s calls.
The moment you step out of the car, you’ve lost your keys. They are not in the car. They are not in your purse. You decide to put off locating them until after you’ve seen the exhibit; it’s been a long day. You walk in, pay your thirteen dollars. Inside smells like harsh lemonade, a sort of weird lemon mirage in the middle of this desert you’ve been driving through. The first glass case contains approximately ten objects, several of which you recognize.