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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

For No Good Reason

My parents . . . called anyone they could think of who might have some idea why their otherwise healthy daughter could not keep her food down. “We’ll get to the bottom of this,” my father said. “I promise you, we will.” . . . But as much as they wanted to “get to the bottom of this,” they also preferred not to dig too deep. And so did I.

Fat Free

Let me express the rage I feel toward the word obesity. This ugly noun, with all its pejorative implications, this term for unhealthy corpulence, has been mobilized by the medical-health-beauty industry in order to stigmatize people who don’t conform to an absurdly restrictive concept of ideal weight. Whereas fat is a good Anglo-Saxon word, obese comes from the Latin obesus, “having eaten well,” past participle of obedere, “to eat thoroughly,” to devour, to chow down. The noun obesity, rare before the nineteenth century, had a sinister rebirth in popularity in the hands of nineteenth-century doctors and health workers, medical imperialists seeking to police bodies by policing the language with which one might once have referred, for example, to someone’s embonpoint.

Time Past, Time Remaining

An overnight package arrives from my mother in Illinois. Inside are fresh biscotti, sinfully rich chocolate-chip cookies, mint-flavored coffee, and the sports sections from various Chicago-area newspapers. All this I was expecting. What surprises me is a small bundle of items from my childhood, seemingly chosen to remind me of home, a place I fled twenty-five years ago to head west with the goal of building my own life.

Curtains

My mother once told me that, during her labor with me in the living room of her Brooklyn Holtzer apartment, she’d tugged on the long white drapes in her pain. The image of her on her knees, dark hair neatly tied back, mouth open, remains vivid to me. In this scene, I never see myself as a bulge in her middle; instead, I imagine myself as an angel, naked and pink and dimpled, hovering up near the ceiling, wishing her agony would end and fancying those curtains are the rope of a great bell announcing my imminent arrival into the world. This is my primal vision of pain: my mother on her knees in her living room in September, close to the end of World War II, while thousands were dying in the battlefields and concentration camps of Europe.

Fiction

When My Best Friend’s Boyfriend Died, By Taffy Smyth

When Chris died it was a shock. No one had ever really died before, although everyone in his group of friends had almost died at least a couple of times. Like on drunken drives through Old San Marcos Pass, where if your car’s engine dies, you’ll roll off a cliff before you have time to start it up again. Or diving at Red Rock: Chris was the first to jump off that tall, narrow rock into that tiny pool of water. If he had drifted to one side or the other, he’d have landed splat on the pink sandstone. Once, Peter Smitz hit his head on the bottom. He was paralyzed for a while, but not dead.

Incidents And Dreams

In the dream, I am packing lunch boxes, making peanut-butter sandwiches for children who will grow up to be famous: cutting off the crusts for Gertrude Stein, packing steak tartare for Charlie Manson, putting ketchup and cottage cheese in separate little sterilized containers for Richard Nixon. As I awaken, I am polishing an apple for the bishop.

*NOTE: Original copies of this issue are no longer available. Unbound, laser-printed copies will be provided for print orders.

Readers Write

Just In Time

My daughter, Laura, sits down opposite me at the kitchen table, which doubles as my desk. At seventeen she’s traded school for work, but found that life isn’t any simpler behind the deli counter than it had been in the classroom. I can see that she’s tired: one eyelid droops slightly, and her shoulders slump. She rests her elbows on the table and cups her chin in her hands. “I almost quit today,” she says. One of the other employees steals her tips and takes breaks when the place is busy. Another is kind but old and forgetful, and burns the toast or else forgets to put it in the toaster.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸
Quotations

Sunbeams

“I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Psalms 139:14

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