Posts tagged "childhood"
\'in-glish\

\’in-glish\

I learned to speak English in preschool, at two and a half years old, still young enough to do away with any lingering Chinese accent. Though, sometimes, I wonder if every trace had been scrubbed away, listening intently to my own voice rattling around in my skull for signs of foreignness. The cheery teachers sang...
White Like Us

White Like Us

First encounter: I am seven. We are driving through downtown East Peoria, the small city in Central Illinois where I grew up, me and my mom in the front, my younger sister in the back. Summer. Windows down. Congested traffic. The heat bakes the concrete. Ahead there is a commotion. Shouting, cars honking, more shouting....
Blue

Blue

Years ago, Dad, you asked me at midnight to come outside. I followed you—of course I did—out of our house, into the humid dark. My feet brushed against the cool lick of grass, my hair lay still against my face in the unmoving night. Crickets whispered. A car on 55th Street hummed as you handed...
The Woods Are Going to Close

The Woods Are Going to Close

Mother unzipped our snow pants and clumps of sawdust fell to the floor. Before that, the bloodhounds sniffed us, and their handlers asked us where we had been. The police needed to retrace our tracks, to know that the hounds had been on our heels. Before that, the man offered us a ride in his...
Send Out Succor

Send Out Succor

At six, I mastered Pig Latin, that clunky language inherited by children. “E-way ate-hay iver-lay or-fay inner-day,” my brother and I whispered, pretending to stick our fingers down our throats. At eight, I learned Morse code using a handheld flashlight our family physician had given me. With my thumb, I triggered short dits and long...
Arkansas Chicken Apocalypse

Arkansas Chicken Apocalypse

I have been to the end of the world. I was fourteen on a fall morning, frost icing the dead grass in the yard, my feet cold on the tile. The phone rang from under dishes and papers on the kitchen table, and I let my mother get it. She answered, said okay, hung up....
Pain Pays The Income of Each Precious Thing

Pain Pays The Income of Each Precious Thing

Like this. They drop this girl off at school after a visit to the dentist. Midway through the day when all we do is throw stones at the rain. Her gums are numb, so incredibly numb; she opens her mouth wide and digs her finger nails into them, swearing all the while that she does...
When We Played

When We Played

1. When we played war as boys, we never died. Dead was a reset button, a do-over, a quarrel over who killed who. Maybe we played fair. Maybe we dropped our toy guns and crumpled on the grass, clutching with grunts like gut-shot movie soldiers. Grimaced and closed our eyes, but only just. Through the...
The Burnt Plane

The Burnt Plane

As Jason Murphy’s mom drove us to the farm, I wondered how it would look now that his dad was dead. It had been almost a year. I pictured man-high weeds and rusty tractors, the house dark and empty, the giant barn rotting with its roof caved in and black birds flying out the broken...
Recesses

Recesses

Some girls wrap a jump rope around my neck and drag me across the asphalt of the St. Bruno’s School parking lot. Jackie has been pinning me to the ground with the stones of her knees so she could kiss me… and now this. “They were trying to kiss me!” I tell the nun, as...
Genderfuck

Genderfuck

In the fifth grade, all the teachers divide you boy from girl and take you into separate classrooms. With the girls, you learn about periods and cramps and tampons, and everyone giggles. Afterwards, you all rejoin the boys, who are holding complimentary sticks of deodorant and laughing among themselves. You wonder what they learned, and...
Ordinary Shoes

Ordinary Shoes

I’m not a graceful child. I bump into furniture, spill drinks, wake with bruises for no discernable reason at all. I trip over carpets, stain my shirts the minute I walk out the door, and my lank hair slithers free of any barrette. But when I put on my roller skates, I turn into a...
Necrologies: Mothers & Fathers

Necrologies: Mothers & Fathers

BROWN RAT We only lived in the little house for three years. I still slept in a crib and watched Sesame Street while my mother did calisthenics. I do not remember eating or sleeping there. I don’t remember what the yard looked like. I do not remember my father’s shape as he moved through the...
Code Talkers

Code Talkers

I’m eleven and my brother is fifteen, and our rooms are in the basement separated by one thin wall. My bed is against the wall and at night I can hear him listening to his music. He listens on headphones but the volume’s so loud I hear everything: the tinsel rain of cymbals and urgency...
Can You Teach Me How To Dance Real Slow?

Can You Teach Me How To Dance Real Slow?

If a DJ doesn’t like you, he plays “Superfreak” or “Bye Bye Miss American Pie.” One’s an insult, the other just takes forever. Eight-and-a-half minutes of rock-and-roll tragedy before I was born. Whatever. It’s playing when I walk into the club, and it’s still playing when I hit the floor, ready to go. I feel...
Calcification

Calcification

Less than a year had passed since my mother died from a burst valve in a heart no one knew was faulty. That’s raw when you’re ten. And then Buttercup died. Buttercup was an albino guinea pig with eyes like maraschino cherries. She wasn’t mine. Samantha owned Buttercup, loved her. She gave the rodent a...
Life in the Alley

Life in the Alley

I wasn’t old enough to go to school, and sitting on the front porch watching the cars go by on Fourth Avenue was the most of what I did, when I wasn’t looking down Zion’s Alley at the lives of black people, which I did from the upstairs window when I was sick at heart. (“Sick...
Ten Years Ago

Ten Years Ago

Senior year. A fundamentalist Baptist high school. One of those times, frequent and interminable, when the teachers ran out of lesson plans and gave us time to talk. I was reading a novel because I’d run out of homework. The classroom chatter softened for a moment, and I heard a nasal twang, four plastic chairs...