Hitching a ride, trusting a partner, marrying the same person three times
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I have recently made a new enemy. She is a black, curly-haired cocker spaniel walking a man holding a leash. We pass each other sometimes on the steep, narrow public stairs called the Thistle Steps. . . . I could try talking to the man, but I’m never wearing my hearing aids when we meet, so I wouldn’t be able to hear his reply.
Not every adopted adult needs the same thing, but I do think most adoptees, at some point in their lives, will want to look into their past. And someone in their birth family might come searching for them. With the Internet and readily available DNA tests, it’s not so easy to hide anymore.
People laugh about pubescent horniness and untimely erections, but nobody talks about getting them before puberty on a regular basis. I was aroused whenever nothing was demanded of my limbs or mind — in class, at church, on the bus, in the car. Once, I even got hard at football practice while staring off at the Catskill Mountains and half-assing my way through groin stretches.
You’d donated most of your organs, so the body in your coffin was basically a scarecrow version of you. . . . Thank God they don’t do brain transplants, I thought. Anybody who’d gotten your brain would’ve woken up from surgery a total asshole. I heard you laughing at this. I could remember your laugh really well. It was a letdown that I could hear it only in my head.
My chest, which was beginning to grow round in the wrong places, had to be hidden under a T-shirt no matter how hot or sweaty I became. Out in the desert I had to squat behind the cover of creosote bushes to pee. At home in my family’s Airstream I was my parents’ youngest daughter, but up in the paloverde I felt like one of the boys.
We divided ourselves up until the teams were formed correctly, evenly. In other words, until the white kids were satisfied. No one had declared them the leaders, but, like most enduring traditions, the rule had become quietly understood, rooted in our fledgling muscles and minds.
In 1986 I was the Horse Girl of St. Margaret’s, the tallest girl in sixth grade, with dark-brown hair I tossed like a mane.
Kayla and I were not friends, so when she called me out of the blue, on a blistering July morning, to ask if I wanted to join her and her dad on the lake for the day, it was like NASA calling to invite me to the moon.
On my way home from school / with a gang of friends / I would see him outside / one of the bars or diners / near the Journal Square station: / my uncle, rasping the price / of a shine to the passing crowd
You never grew tired of watching her work. You loved the hum of the machine, the sawdust that stuck to her sleeve, and how she bent her head over the wood like something swan. You knew she was sharing something intimate with you. You were witnessing prayer.