Driving in the Berkshires by Elizabeth Mitchell

August 2004

Mom, you point out the white steeple and green valley below us to our right. I take in the soft dreamy clouds and calm blue of sky, as we drive around a curve in the mountain. Lush foliage surrounds us. Our windows are low to let in the wind.

My sleeves are rolled to elbows, dressed in my favorite shirt of light blue and burgundy. My hair is newly twisted in curls, twists I plaited during the 10 hour drive. Later today, I will take a picture in this shirt. The smiling face that more than a decade later remains on my yellow college id. Continue reading “Driving in the Berkshires by Elizabeth Mitchell”

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Do You Like Her by Sonya Huber

Do you like her? But do you like her? But do you trust her? I don’t know. Her hair is weird. I think she tries too hard. I think she’s stuck up. I think she thinks she’s too smart. I think she is too smart for her own good. I think she wants to control everything. I think she doesn’t know how to have fun. I think she’s frigid. I wonder why she stays. I think she’s only staying with that boy because she can’t do better. I think she has low self-esteem. I think I have a weird feeling about her. But do you like her? I feel all this pressure to like her and yet I somehow don’t. I don’t like her. I kind of hate her. I once was friends with her and then she got to be a bitch. I think she’s a bitch. I think she’s a liar. I think my friends don’t like her, so I kind of don’t like her. All of my friends like her but I don’t. All Continue reading “Do You Like Her by Sonya Huber”

See: Sections by Meg Thompson

“Babies need our help.”
—Yo Gabba Gabba, Season 3, episode 5

I.

I felt that pain. It lived in me. It was my daughter.

The woman cutting my hair was also pregnant. “I’m so afraid I’m going to have a C-section,” she said. “Me, too,” I said, and knew that I would.

Contractions are an unreal, seismic pain, like a giant picked you up for a hug that won’t end. At times I thought I was in a dream. That’s how much they hurt, how the pain filled me up. I didn’t think it could be real.

My first car was a ’97 Chevy Cavalier. When I got the license plates, I set about finding the tools I would need. I set each one down on the kitchen table like I was prepping myself for surgery, enjoying the silent ease of organization. When my mother walked in, she saw my row of tools. “Your father will do that for you,” she said. Continue reading “See: Sections by Meg Thompson”

Mothering a Member of an Endangered Species by Marlena Johns

I remember the night that my sons made the transition, completed this rite of passage that catapulted them from the, “Isn’t he cute?” comments to stares of suspicion. They were 12. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for them to go on dates, or take their first drive or get a job. I absolutely wasn’t ready for them to be stopped by the cops.

It was October 31st, 2008, and we had just returned from hours of face painting, pizza eating, bobbing for apples, sliding down huge inflated slides, and boxing with inflated gloves at a church about 30 minutes away. It was still early, around 7:30, and my kids wanted more candy- although they each had a bulging basket, so I let them out in front of our house, told them we’d make a quick round around the neighborhood and call it a night. They began walking to the next door neighbor’s house, and I began to turn the key to open my front door. We’d won a cake that night in a game of musical chairs, and I planned to drop it off in the kitchen and join them. But before I could even do that, out of the corner of my eyes, I saw flashing lights, and the cops were jumping out of a squad car yelling, “Hold it right there young man. What are you doing?” I sat the cake on my porch steps and began walking towards the scene, not believing that my sons- in full Halloween finery and clutching baskets full of candy- were being questioned by the police who assured me that they were only stopping them because someone reported that it looked like some young men were “casing a house”. How unlikely that excuse sounded to me since the hood of my car was still warm, and I hadn’t even had time to open my front door. Continue reading “Mothering a Member of an Endangered Species by Marlena Johns”

Arabic Tongues and English Ears | Ahd Niazy

When men ask me where I am from, I make them guess. It gives me pleasure to watch their eyebrows furrow, their lips twitch as they search for clues on my face as though it were a map. I find it exciting – watching them fluster and hesitate to share their thoughts with me. I like that they’re scared of being wrong. I like the way they look at me before they answer, squinting in what can only be described as a dangerously pensive manner. They hope their guess won’t insult me, thus putting an end to what is just the beginning of our conversation…

Let me be the curly haired Brazilian in the room tonight. Imagine me at Carnival. Let me sway my Colombian hips to the beat, show you the ways they don’t lie. Let me purr in your ear the way you think a Persian woman does when she’s pleased. Give me some vino, and let me be la signorina bellissima stasera. I’ll tell you about summers in Sicily, then curse at you in a language you can’t understand. I trust that these are the types of fetishizing thoughts – of “exotic” fantasies – running through the minds of the men as they try to place me. There’s just so much sex appeal in the Other. Continue reading “Arabic Tongues and English Ears | Ahd Niazy”

The Nine | Ellen Birkett Morris

Beginnings: I was born on a Tuesday. On the same day that the first of two cyclones in less than a month killed 35,000 in India. On the same day as the birth of Salvador Dali, whose twisted, surreal visions unsettle me.

First Memory: I watch as my sister and friend run down a hill, laughing, tumbling like kittens, while my feet were held solidly to the ground by metal braces.

Irony: The old rhyme says Tuesday’s child is full of grace. Continue reading “The Nine | Ellen Birkett Morris”

Derailed by History | Shelley Motz

I had been uploading family photographs to my Facebook account. I leaned in to peer at my computer screen like a passenger pressing her face against the glass. Four girls smiled at me. Beside them, a bike was propped against a wooden fence. A bike bearing a swastika.

There had been a rhythm to my task. Open. Post. Open. Post. Open. Post. I was chugging along, eying the images with curiosity, as if I were staring out at my relatives—aunts and uncles, grandparents, even great-grandparents—from the window of a passing train. Continue reading “Derailed by History | Shelley Motz”

Red Thread at Fatehpur Sikri | Samira Ahmed

There is a little girl at Fatehpur Sikri, the abandoned Mughal city, attempting to sell miniature snow globes to an unsentimental American tourist. The little girl is about eight years old, and her liquid-saucer eyes take up most of her wan face. She is bone thin and short for her age and a long braid runs down her back, tied at the end with a tattered blue ribbon. Her kurta is dirty, and she is almost certainly hungry.

If this girl lives until she is thirteen or fourteen, she may be married off to an older man who will never caress her face tenderly like a lover in a Bollywood film. Her family will have little money for her dowry, and her mother-in-law will remind her of this daily. She will labor in the fields, and this stranger, her husband, will crush her slender body beneath his. Eyes closed, she will wonder why her karma has led her to this. Continue reading “Red Thread at Fatehpur Sikri | Samira Ahmed”

Grandmother’s Hands | Kristen McQuinn

The part she remembers the most is the smell of apples. The fresh, bright smell permeated the warm kitchen, made heavy with the darker, almost sinister, notes of cinnamon and nutmeg. A light spark of lemon flitted over the top before disappearing into the ether. It was the scent of a tradition in the making.

“Slice them thin,” her grandmother corrected, pointing to the thick chunks of apple before the younger woman. “The thinner they are, the more juice and flavor you get out of them. It makes lots of good goop in the filling, too.” Continue reading “Grandmother’s Hands | Kristen McQuinn”

On Being Brown and Other Reflections | Shruti Saxena

I was never ‘brown’ until I left my country. I was always wheatish, possibly right from the moment I showed signs of not having inherited my mother’s complexion. I have rarely heard the word ‘brown’ used in India, ‘wheatish’ is our choice. Go and read the advertisements in the matrimonial section of any major newspaper if you don’t believe me. You see, ‘wheatish’ can be cured with a combination of store-bought bleach and sunscreen, a homemade cocktail of lemon and cucumber juice and myriad other concoctions whose main ingredient is hope and a longing for fair skin. The kind that dazzles and allows you to see veins, blood, bones. It is this very longing that led me to use the famous Fair and Lovely skin cream on my scarred knees in school. The faces of women on television transformed from the darkest color on the shade card to the lightest one, so why shouldn’t my knees? For them, changing their face was life-transforming; for me it would have been my knees. Continue reading “On Being Brown and Other Reflections | Shruti Saxena”