20. Pretty For A [Insert Qualifier Here] Girl

i.

Once I read a paragraph of all of the ways in which the word black is used negatively. And I internalized it. Hadn’t even realized how well I’d internalized it because I didn’t even think of what the words meant; I just knew they were bad. And if those black words were bad, it stood to reason that being a black person wasn’t really the best thing. Being black and female fell really low on the list of desirable traits. So that was something important, I guess. It’s something to remember when things got hard, as an explanation almost.

ii.

I once had a crush on a boy who was pinky-red in the face. I don’t know what caused it, and my friends made fun of his weirdly pigmented skin, and I lusted after him because he was so quiet and I wanted to share in his silence. This crush went on far longer than any crush really should and one of my friends, who happened to be a confidant of the red faced boy, told me that he didn’t find black girls attractive. I know how I would react now; how I would have chimed out a Jay-Z tune, you know, “on to the next one.” But I clearly remember still liking him, and trying hard to get his attention, and forgetting how he felt because then, I was so colorblind I could transcend race. And if I was able to rise above it, so could everyone else. But there’s no use in rising above a reality.

iii.

When the boy I fell in love with told me I was beautiful, I didn’t believe him. And when he said it again, I honestly believed he wanted to  hurt me.

iv.

When I was a little girl I draped long sleeved shirts over my head. I draped the shirts around my head so that the arms dangled down and I would lash my hair back and forth and spend an unusually long time standing in front of the mirror, smiling. My mom would tell me to stop. Tell me I wasn’t white and that my hair doesn’t do that. But what she said didn’t matter because I was the most beautiful girl in the world, with a shirt for hair and hair for beauty.

v.

Her: “Do you ever want to be someone else? You know, not black.”

Me: “I felt that way today. Do you feel that way now?”

Her: “Yeah, I’m just tired of being seen and not seen.”

Me: “Amen.”

Her: “Does this make sense?”

Me: “Sometimes I want to wake up and not see myself at all.”

18. “Butt-ends of my days and ways”

And to what degree would we finally find ourselves in completion, were the last words Michael spoke before the sickness took him, before he became a mind at a loss, before his body — not independent as he had so previously suspected — too fell susceptible to old age and all of its damning consequences. Before long he became a six foot child, waifish, incontinent, fed at the hand of his wife, sleeping as to not be forced into a world of things he did not understand. It wasn’t before long that he died –eyes open, body bent up, the stem of a mangled flower — in the home where all of his children were born.

17. Coney Island

A group of us went to Coney Island in mid-winter because it was a friend’s birthday and he thought it would be super rad to go to the beach. Well, there wasn’t any snow or anything because the winter has been really mild. So mild that some people are convinced this is really just an extended spring or a crazy fall sans pretty foliage. Anyway, we all rode the subway a frustratingly long way because Coney Island seems to be far away from everything, unless you live there, or in like Bay Ridge or, you know, that lower part of Brooklyn. We met up around eight p.m at the big Nathan’s that’s really famous and scarfed down hotdogs and burgers and lemonade and pretended that it was really July and we had our swimsuits on under our wool coats. We talked about Raven’s Revenge although most people didn’t really know what it was and how awesome it was to be a child. We watched music videos on someone’s computer and lingered around Nathan’s much longer than we needed to because we were unsure of what to do next.

But then it started getting late. And people started getting anxious and were saying things like “Let’s get this show on the road” and “Let’s find somewhere to get a drink” and “I’ve really gotta piss.”

So we tried to satiate all of those needs. We took the show somewhere else but unfortunately we were the only show happening in Coney Island that night. The Coney Island museum was closed, so we couldn’t drink and we looked across Stillwell avenue and saw a couple bars with neon signs and burly-I-give-no-fucks men and decided that maybe we gave too many fucks to even be caught dead in there so we journeyed aimlessly. Not before long, people started getting cold. Didn’t wear enough layers or something. Talked about how nice it was in the day and didn’t concern themselves with the temperatures that plummet in the night.

“Where are we going exactly,” someone yelled.

“To the beach,” exclaimed the birthday boy.

And we went.

The moon hung low in the sky and someone suggested that if we jumped high enough we might be able to catch it. So we struggled and jumped and laughed at how stupid we were for being so naive and laughed because it was easier to laugh than accept the fact none of us would ever touch the moon. We poked around an empty Luna Park. Someone brought up that movie The Warriors about the gangs in New York City. We could have been a gang, maybe. But we didn’t have the strength or the badassness or the weapons to back us up. So we poked around dark corners, clustered in groups, sometimes shaking in our boots at the prospect of a crazed person jumping out from the shadows and then shanking us.

The amusement park was so big and quiet. Like the toys of an overgrown child that rest when the child rests. And it was amazing to see all of those shapes, the drops, the motionlessness.

We made it to the boardwalk and it looked like a postcard of the moon and the ocean and a boardwalk. And even though it looked like a postcard, like something someone else had already seen and recreated, we were mesmerized by it. So we stopped and considered ourselves and considered how beautiful it was to see the waves lap at the shores and how yellow the moon was. And we weren’t at all bothered by the fact that we had entered a platitude. Platitude or not, it was beguiling.

The birthday boy challenged everyone to run to the ocean. The brave, the ones not concerned with the cold, ran like children and it was funny seeing them run like that. They zig-zagged around the sand, and those of us who stayed on the boardwalk, could clearly see them smiling even though their faces were obscured by the night. And after running long enough, they were enveloped by the night.

16. Construction

Y: “Let’s start love over.”

M: “How?”

Y: “First, let’s remove the word love.”

M: “Can we do that without destroying what we have?”

Y: “I just took it away. Are you destroyed?”

M: “Then what’s next?”

Y: “I guess we would have to figure out who we are?”

M: “Don’t we have to figure out what we are?”

Y: “How can we be a we if we aren’t singular people?”

M: “I guess.”

Y: “Then who are you?”

M: “I don’t know.”

Y: “Try again.”

M: “Who do you think I am?”

Y: “That’s unimportant. Who are you?”

M: “I feel like I am incomplete. I feel like I am a lot of things. That I am capable of being a lot — compassionate, curious, loving, neurotic. I don’t know if that says anything about who I am.”

Y: “But what would you call all of those things? Those qualities you listed?”

M: “Honest.”

M: “Then who are you?”

Y: “Not that honest.”

M: “But you are!”

Y: “Remember, we’re defining ourselves.”

M: “Then what’s next?”

Y: “We’re opposites.”

M: “They say opposites attract.”

Y: “And they sometimes fight to erase each other.”

M: “I wouldn’t fight to get rid of you.”

Y: “I’m sure you wouldn’t.”

M: “Would you try to get rid of me?”

Y: “Maybe if we reached an especially rough place. A place where you made me confront something I didn’t want to confront. And I’d run. Or turn on you.”

M: “You’re just saying that.”

Y: “Believe what you will.”

M: “Then what are we trying to start over?”

Y: “I think we started to reach one of those tough spots. You kept telling me you loved me and I didn’t feel anything. So I wanted to start over. To see if we could. To see if you can start love over. To retrace my steps and figure out where I went wrong.”

M: “Did you go wrong or do you just not love me?”

Y: “I love that you’re alive.”

M: “But do you love me?”

Y: “I have the words.”

M: “Say them.”

15. Orange Trees

i.

Michael returns, shrinking. Before he lifts his foot into the doorway, I come toward him and offer a hand. His fingers are long and cold, warm brown transforming to dust.

“Oh thank you. Thank you. Who are you?”

“It’s me, Grandpa. Your Joselia,” I say.

Michael cranes his head up, no longer concentrating upon the placement of his feet, and looks me in the face. His eyes are lacquered but flat. They pry me but with little strength. There is no moment of illumination and he returns to the incongruent dance of his feet. Michael is so light, helping him into the house is like wafting air.

I say, “Grandpa, how was your flight?”

“Where am I?”

“You’re home.”

“It’s cold here,” he says.

“Not your home in Jamaica, you’re home here.”

He acquiesces and I help him into a chair, removing his coat.

We talk about things anyone can access, like food, and I make him something to eat although he merely picks at it, fidgeting with the utensils. He asks me questions about who I am. Not questions, the question. I find saying my name does nothing because to him, I’ve stopped existing. I want to explain I am a possession of other people. I am not simply myself but his granddaughter. I am, we are the creation of other human beings, of a profoundly creative universe; and we are always coming in and out of being at the hand of someone’s conception of us. I want to tell Michael who I was before he arrived is a markedly more substantial person than the person he is confronting now. With his memories of me misplaced, I am hinged on an unsteady angle of what I knew to be, what is now and what is actually real. So I look at my grandfather squarely and repeat my name. That I am his. And within possession I have found the solace of love.

ii.

Michael tilled the earth for me. Pineapples. Coconuts. Star Apples. When I was born, he turned over soil to commemorate my entrance into this world. Behind the house in Old Porus, on the long narrow stretch of land, the trees and bushes are clustered together in an uneven triangle. He never explicitly said why he began to plant things, as he had not planted anything for his own children. Grandmother says he took to the ground and dirtied himself and this is how I recall him. Perched at the top of the orange tree, that sits in front of the house, tossing down the grooved orange globes to Mother. And I recall him in the fields of Water Mouth, lifting the brim of his Kangol hat to wipe the beads of liquid forming a line above his brow. The walks he and I would take into town — down the road of rusty dirt — to visit the affable shopkeepers at Barnett’s, the local grocery store fixed at the sometimes busy intersection of Old Porus Road. We would continue walking, past the post office, to the train tracks that barely felt the weight of freighters. Michael spoke with a tongue built by the bible. So each step we took was not only an aimless journey that would act as neural pathways back to the fortune of happiness, but as a pilgrimage towards God.

iii.

Mother and I were the two to sleep in Michael’s bed after her died. Grandmother had taken to wearing crimson underpants and a tape measure around her waist to prevent his not yet rested spirit from troubling her. Grandmother, prone to prolonged bouts of displeasure, was left mostly vacant after he died. The shrill in her voice leveled into unfolding melancholy. She readily accepted hugs from her family members, from friends, from strangers. Grandmother, for once, revealed herself to be vulnerable and hurt by the fate of old age and thus more easy to love.

I suggested Mother and I sleep in his room because I wanted to prove that I was unafraid of death. The dressers were neatly composed, as he would have left them. The lace curtains billowed with the island breeze and Grandmother made sure to tuck the sheets within the open spaces, between the mattress and frame, so that the secrets of the room should not escape.

His room smelled of his cologne.

Mother and I rifled through his belongings and Mother shared stories that are only shared in the event of someone’s death. I still wonder why that is and I have concluded: to expose a story of someone still alive is to undercut their ability to happen in real time. When you tell a story of past events about someone who is still living, you unintentionally shift their timeline into the past-present. You move them through time. And it is the responsibility of the object of the story to find their footing where they wish to exist.

Mother told me all of the stories she could remember, with no concern for preserving stories for the next day or the day after. I believe she was confident in the presence of so many tales — both long and short — that there was no possibility to shuffle through them all in any countable number of sittings.

When we finally slept, the evening instilled dread.

We awakened with questions and stories for each other.

She said, “I was dreaming and a shadowy figure entered the room. It was your Grandfather. And I couldn’t breathe. He was smothering me and I tried to yell and I tried to wake up. And then I did wake up, but the same thing was happening. I tried to rouse you, but you weren’t responding.”

I said, “It was in the middle of the night. I was scanning the room for something to look at long enough to learn everything about it. But there was nothing intricate enough to do that with. And then I heard the voice of your brothers, Mommy. They were in the living room laughing and I heard Grandpa laugh.”

14. Valentine’s Day [365 project]

“It’s just a day,” he said. “Doesn’t mean anything.”

“Then why are you wearing all red?”

“An accident,” he said.

“And why have you been talking about how lonely you feel?”

“An accident,” he said. “I don’t often feel like talking about how I get lonely.”

“And why are you trying to convince me that today doesn’t mean anything?”

“Because it doesn’t,” he said.

“Or because it means more than you’re willing to admit.”

“It’s a holiday created by greeting card companies. It’s a construct! You know, a construct. Like gender,” he said.

“But it means a lot to you.”

“What today symbolizes can’t mean anything to me if I don’t have what’s supposed to be symbolized,” he said.

“Like I’ve been saying: it means a lot to you. There’s nothing wrong with that. Lots of people want to be thought of.”

13. On Mookie [365 project]

It’s just that…I think Mookie had it right. And maybe that’s why Lee named the movie what he did. Mookie knew what the problem was all along. Mookie knew that he wasn’t anything more than a pawn at a shit job, a half decent lover in a relationship that was bound to fail, a tentatively supportive father and a black man whose politics was written on his Nikes. How could we have expected Mookie to act any differently? That trash can was all he had. Words were never enough. English and Ebonics weren’t credible. Possession was. And as he lifted that tin can over his head, as he stomped down the scalding pavement in the outfit to be lauded by the nightmarish incarnation of the Hipster, he knew that the only way he could awake the man who lay in submissive dormancy was to break the shit out of something. Just to know he had the power to break something too.

12. Eden [365 project]

I often think of how single people feel when they look at wedding announcements. I wonder if they feel completely enamored by love or completely terrified of it. I wonder how they contort their faces into frightened masks when they see the names of acquaintances, friends, neighbors and strangers tumbling into the vastlessness of forever. And then I think of myself and am only left with the feeling that I was loved once and there was a young man who could have proposed entanglement and how I’d never realized the loss of love requires just as much, if not more, understanding as crashing into love.

11. With Somebody Who Loves Me [365 project]

I am no foreigner to the one person dance party. I might have invented it. By giving it a name, that is.

As the name indicates, it’s pretty simple to put into effect. You need music, okay? Music that is appropriately danceable and loud for you. Personally, I like my music loud enough so that I can only hear my heartbeat and the insistent worrying of potentially causing myself ear damage. Tunes on? Excellent. Now, I know it’s pretty hard to not immediately start dancing but you need to find a place to dance. Where you’re standing is probably perfect but maybe it isn’t. I have most of my one person dance parties in my bedroom. Though, I’ve had one person dance parties on subway platforms, while waiting on lines for various institutions, in supermarket aisles. Not ready for public places? That’s okay. I have my best one person dance parties while in the company of only myself.

I don’t wait for the beat to drop. I don’t even count out the beat like I usually do when I go dancing with friends. I just move. I kick my legs and pump my fists. I wiggle my bottom and sway. I dance like I’m in the company of the best dancer in the world. And, to be honest, for however long my dancing lasts, I am the best dancer in the world. When I really start to groove, when I start dreaming about wearing bellbottoms and having the most fly afro and shimmying my way down the Soul Train line, I open my mouth to sing. I’ll tell you now, I’m not a great singer but I can keep tune. I can keep tune and I can vogue like a diva and I’ve mastered singing both main and backup parts. I usually grab something to act as a mic, but sometimes the mic gets in my way. Singing and dancing act as a release and I cannot be bothered with the formalities of performance.

I usually dance myself into a sweat and I have to remove my shirt or shorts or both. I don’t question my body. I don’t think about how nice I would feel if I lost a few pounds or toned up a bit. I don’t think any part of me is anything but perfect. I stretch my arms above my head and seductively carry them down the sides of my body. I spin and whisper, to my imaginary boyfriend, “Let’s do it again.” Then I start dancing one half of a dance meant for two but I dance passionately enough that I convince myself  if someone else was actually here, they’d get hurt. Invisible boyfriend keeps up as best as he can. He leans against a wall to take a breath and I run over to him, pin him to wall with one hand and give him something that resembles a lap dance, but I’m not really sure what all a lap dance entails. It’s awkward and I feel myself getting nervous, wanting to retreat, but I push through it. “Thank you.”

The song changes. It’s Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”. Invisible boyfriend refuses to continue dancing and I’m not disappointed. This is a one person dance party, after all.

I close my eyes and imagine the music video. I imagine how beautiful she looked and how much fun she was having. I mimic her liveliness, and imagine an entire row of backup dancers behind me, and miss the 80’s I barely lived in. And I plead with the universe to let me dance with somebody who loves me.

10. HbSC [365 project]

Symptoms

Bone Pain: I am fragile.

Breathlessness: High school track team. Sprinter by choice and necessity. Awkward one, at that. Never very committed or competitive, but enjoyed running for the feeling of lightness. Of not thinking or feeling, just movement. Muscle, power and movement. The 55 meter dash — a race determined by one’s release from blocks — was 181.5 feet of enduring on one breath.

Delayed Growth: “You are much larger than the other children.”

Fatigue: There is no fortune in sleep when in the waking hours the body still yearns for rest.

Fever: Mother no longer uses the thermometer. She touches my face with the cool back of her hand and she says, “How do you feel?” I do not reply. She answers for me, “You’re warm. No words?” I shake my head. “Let’s go to the doctor,” she says. I like the feeling of a thermometer lodged under my tongue, the way the metal tip warms when surrounded by frothy saliva. I like when the nurse comes to read the thermometer; I momentarily fight back with teeth clenched around plastic.

Poor Eyesight: In the night, when the block is quiet and people have found themselves tucked away, I walk outside without my glasses and am comforted by melting lights and the shadows of shapes that never came to be.

Stroke: Family history. No data.

Skin Ulcers: No data.

Signs and Tests

CBC: Always a morning lab technician with one of those comically loud, lab shirts. Disney, you know? They carry a white, frosted plastic caddy filled with butterfly needles, alcohol swabs, gauze, and blue, purple and pink tubes for collecting blood. You are sleeping and they rouse you by turning on the intense fluorescent lights and quietly mispronounce your last name or first name or both. You show them where your arms are bruised from repeated attempts at finding a good vein. You confess your veins are bad. And you squeeze your hand while they tie an elastic band around your triceps. They palpate your skin, now covered in the remnants of hospital tape, with a gloved hand and say they’ve found a good one. You look to see where, file the location into an easily retrievable part of your memory, close your eyes and anticipate the prick.

Blood Oxygen: A red counting clamp on the index finger.

MRI: A metal womb.

Treatments

Folic Acid: You pocket the folic acid tablets that your mother gives you in the morning before you have to get on the school bus. You are smart enough to put the pills in a sandwich sized ziplock bag because if you don’t they will get crushed by the weight of your school books or by your oversized hand. You collect the pills all week and by Friday you have 5. You don’t know what the pills are for, you don’t know these pills will help prevent nerve degradation caused by that disease you have. You barely know what a nerve is. All you do know is that the pills are small and white. And the pills taste like chalk. And, for some reason, you love the taste of chalk. You know that if your mother found out you’d been pocketing your pills, she would sit you down and give you a lecture on your disease. You don’t like it when she does that because she becomes incredibly emotional when she talks about you being sick. She becomes emotional and then withdraws from you. She is a shell of a person until you get sick and maybe reality hits her, or she gets scared enough at the thought of losing you, and then she is comfortable to show you love only then. You count out your pills — one, two, three, four, five — and place one on your tongue at a time. The small white pills dissolve into grit. You have sand in your mouth and you are fearful of swallowing the pathways to the ocean.

Blood Transfusions: Grandmother says that if you eat enough beets you’ll never need to have one. So you try to eat beets but find them disgusting. You are too young to own the word ‘disgusting’ so you spit out the beets and refuse to eat more. Mother juices the beets with carrots. She drinks a cup and confidently opens her mouth, smiling with her eyes, showing you the mixture is palatable. You try to drink it but before the first lump of liquid can make it down to your stomach, the contents of your insides navigate their way up the slide from which they traveled down and you vomit all over the kitchen floor. You cry. The beets never saved you. When you finally get that blood transfusion, you want to cry but pray instead. You don’t know if God can hear you, or if there is a God, or if you want there to be a God all of the time or just now, when you need one. You pray for the blood to be safe and for you to get healthy. You pray that you will never have to get another blood transfusion. You ask God why the juice of beets cannot be blood?

Narcotics: A nurse administers a bolus every two hours depending on how you feel. Every fourth hour, you know your pain has mounted into an experience so solid, you cannot help but convulse. You cry. The nurse comes in, with a needle filled with morphine and a needle filled with Benadryl. She asks you how your IV is doing and you say that are your arm is swelling. She looks at your IV and says that there are a few more hours left in that IV. She says your veins are frustratingly difficult, so tiny. She asks how your pain is and you make a face that corresponds with the number you utter. She knows the numbers are arbitrary and she feels badly for asking you as she can see your sheets are wet from tears. She cuts off the flow of your IV and flushes out the line reaching into your body. She takes the syringe full of morphine, sticks it into one of the arteries of the IV line, and pushes the plunger down. She asks you if it burns and you think to say yes, but you say nothing because your pain is gone. You do not notice her place the morphine syringe aside and starting with the Benadryl, which you can feel immediately  — a taste of metal in the back of the throat. You try to describe the sensation to the nurse —  how weightless you feel, how you want to move your arm, how you know your cells are no longer torturing you — but you can’t. The nurse looks are you and says, “Get some sleep, dear.” You are asleep before the nurse can pull the curtain shut.

Fluids: A nurse from my childhood taught me how to set the flow rate for the IV pump. This is necessary information when you unplug an old school IV pump, like if you have to go to the bathroom or something. The nurse taught me because I asked. I am weirdly curious about hospitals. She also taught me because she knew I wanted to be self sufficient. I ring nurse’s bell a lot less than other patients.

Complications

Parvo Virus B19: I’d lost the ability to walk. Mother carried me down the stairs and into the back seat of a taxi. The longest ride to the hospital. Every groove in the street coursed through my body and I wailed in pain. I could not sit nor could I stand. Waves of pain flowed from my hips to my feet. It took them three days to figure out what was going on. Three days of pain I didn’t know was possible to feel. Pain I was sure would kill me. I was not far from wrong — had I not come in when I did, something terrible would have happened. Putting ‘something terrible’ into words more descriptive than that will create a crevasse too wide to bridge. Something terrible doesn’t mean something final. It just means something bad. Parvo Virus B19, in normal children, is indistinguishable from the common cold.

Acute Chest Syndrome: I have pneumonia but don’t know it. I smoke cigarettes on top of a hacking cough. I see three shit doctors who tell me that I’ve got a cold. Well, two say I’ve got a cold. The third is convinced I’m pregnant. I laugh when he suggests that because pregnancy is basically an impossibility for me. Unless I’ve been mysteriously upgraded to Virgin Mary status, there’s no pregnancy here. A month of smoking and a hacking cough. Then three days of no eating, no moving, just sweating. Three days in and I have a fever of 104. Mother comes with me to the hospital. I have pneumonia and acute chest syndrome. The cells in my lungs have joined each other — I like to think. They find company in the jaggedness of each other and obscure normal functioning, like the transference of oxygen, in my chest. I purge the liquid from my lungs through my mouth and in the basin of clear fluid I hope to see millions of my cells, crescent moons tangled together.

Aplastic Crisis: Hemologbin levels drop rapidly and your bone marrow cannot compensate so your body cannot produce reticulocytes — immature red blood cells. This has been happening for days, while you were with your significant other. This is happening when you are on the Chinatown bus and you wonder why you can’t even take a few seconds to fantasize about the weekend you just had with your long distance lover. You cannot think about anything because there is a distracting restlessness in your legs.

Vaso-occlusive Crisis: If you asked me what the worst part of being born this way is, I’d say: the feeling of sledgehammers repeatedly dropping on the same part of your body. I’d say: waking up and not being able to move. I’d say: improper joints. I’d say: the all too common pain that accompanies moving my body.

Splenic Sequestration: I tell my friends to thump the left side of my stomach. Right below my ribs. That’s my spleen, I tell them. They can feel the rock hard, bulging organ. Some of my friends are amazed; some jump back in horror. I tell them I’ve got cells living there. Cells that were meant to stay for a night but instead have taken up semi-permanent residence.

Narco Abuse: No data.

8. Visibility [365 project]

In the streets there are black faces — faces infused with sun. There is no room to unconsciously etch the faces out of existence. For they exist, not as a negation to whiteness but a bold proclamation to the visibility of what is , who is unmistakably there.

So there are black faces to see. See them.

And those faces come tethered to sounds and silence. Faces are made active by voices, so there is a dimension added: the curvature of skin in motion, a tongue which whips from grooved roof of mouth to its fleshy base. A tongue waving over teeth, cavities creating spaces large enough to carry conversation. Those black voices, sounds so enmeshed in shading they paint images of how to live and when to live and what to live, with vibrancy. A voice in color is a voice which means to speak, that it to say, a voice in search of others to behold.

6. Zoo [365 project]

There is an elephant in the room. An elephant and an okapi and a jaguar. They are dancing the can-can. They are in jade toned suits and speak of how lovely Cuba is this time of year. They are loud and jovial and they don’t even look in our direction. I know if I looked that great in a jade toned suit, I wouldn’t pay attention to me either.

You and I are in the corner, playing with Legos. We talk about everything –our friends, our families, how long it’s been since we last played with blocks, how nice it is not to have a watch. We talk about how reading on the Subway is easier than reading in bed. We talk about why we still drink Capri-Sun pacific cooler juice pouches on days when the sun shines especially bright. And how we ripped our pants climbing rocks.

We talk about everything except the fact that okapis are one of my favorite animals, so much so I did a research project on them in sixth grade. I don’t tell you I find them particularly graceful, even though mostly anyone can see that. And I don’t tell you I cried when I found out elephants have the ability to cry. I don’t tell you jaguars mean nothing to me. You don’t say anything about them either. Though I do see you glance over to them, your eyes narrowing with jealously. I know, I know, those jade suits are prepossessing.