I think of the children who will never know, intuitively, that a flower is a plant’s way of making love, or what silence sounds like, or that trees breathe out what we breathe in.
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I first met Nico at a gathering of country-club types. We two misfits clearly didn’t belong at such a party, where the other guests had doused themselves in so much cologne that we were forced to escape our host’s home to catch our breath on the freshly cut grass.
The deckhand helps where he can. He flips a few lobsters right side up. He tucks a stray antenna away from the pinch of the crate’s hinges. The lobsters, when he holds them, emit a faint buzzing noise — sort of like a scream, if you think about it, and the deckhand does.
Chinese New Year in Philadelphia, Thanksgiving in Mexico, Passover in prison
A man with the right scruffed-up beard and breadth of chest swaggered into the S and M dungeon that was my place of business, and twenty minutes and one grand later had my chin — still soft with the downy fluff of teen-girl skin — held steady in one paw while the other one flew at my face so hard and fast that I ceased to exist as the same collection of matter I had been the previous instant.
When Sarah’s mother, Penny, got sick four years into our marriage, we decided to move back to Mississippi, considering it penance for the sins of our youth. We signed a lease on a house, a white one-story on the historical register with a wraparound porch and angels, stars, and the moon painted on the transom above the front door.
Getting married, losing a child, singing in a choir
The scar in the turf in front of her headstone has long since healed. Her death date was blank at her funeral, reflecting our disbelief. It now reads, Sept. 11, 2010. Beside that is another blank for my father.
I can say I’m Puerto Rican, and no one can refute that, but I don’t know what it’s like to feel Puerto Rican. I don’t know what it’s like to see the flag of Puerto Rico and feel something that resembles pride.