When the days didn’t have names

A sketch

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Those days it was like the sun rose to find them. Like it needed to get as high as possible to peek at where they were, to wake them. But they would stay hidden. Blankets pulled over heads and legs dangling across the bed.

The house that had been loud was now silent except for the birds and the lawnmower out back. It smelled like warm wet. Like a good day for bees and flowers to be together.

Once up the day had begun, but not yet. Now was still sometime between yesterday and today, which was really tomorrow. And tomorrow was closer to the first day of school, which wasn’t today but sometime not far away.

Too bad it rarely rained. The days always felt like they’d never end when it rained.

Something else

A dialogue

Talk to me.

About what?

Just talk.

Okay. I almost broke my tooth.

What? How?

I was eating a hard-boiled egg, and I guess I didn’t get all the shell off.

You almost broke your tooth on an egg shell?

Ha, yeah. I mean, I thought I did. I didn’t.

Well that’s good.

I know. Can you imagine if I did break it? Then, for the rest of my life, if someone asked if I’d ever broken a tooth, I’d have to say yes. And if they asked how, I’d have to say from an egg shell.

That’d be quite a story.

I know. I almost wish I had broken it.

I miss you.

I know that too. And know what?

No, what?

I miss you too.

Tell me something else.

Something else.

Census white

A dialogue

Yo, the census doesn’t have a box for Hispanic or Latino.

What do you mean?

There’s no box for it. You can only be white, black, American Indian or Alaska Native — which isn’t it Native American what even is Alaska Native — Asian Indian, and then five kinds of other Asian, three kinds of Pacific Islander and boxes to fill in some other Asian or Pacific Islander. Like, how are they gonna have Filipinos with their Spanish-ass last names be their own race but act like Hispanics aren’t their own other?

There’s no fill-in box?

There is. But you know they must be checking for people to write in Hispanic or Latino and switch’em to white.

What is it, though? Hispanic or Latino?

It’s both. What are you, black or African-American?

Black’s a color.

Yeah, and brown’s a color too.

But Hispanic’s not a color.

But brown should be.

You’re not even all that brown. There are old white dudes at the beach browner than you. Why can’t you just be white?

Because I’m not white. Do I look white?

You look like you could be a couple kinds of white. Like Italian.

Okay?

Plus there are Hispanics that look white. Like half the Spanish soccer team. And does Gisele Bundchen count as Hispanic?

I don’t know.

Besides if you can be white, why wouldn’t you want to be?

What do you mean?

Like, then you get white privilege. And then anyone who throws you shade for being brown or whatever, you can be all “well actually, I am a white person.”

You’re stupid.

Nah, I’m serious. People like you can change shit up. You can make it a problem for them to be white.

Screw top

The towels didn’t fit on the usual shelf of the linen closet. Usually, usually they did. Not today. For whatever reason, not today.

So today Todd took a sledgehammer to — actually, he didn’t take a sledgehammer to anything. He doesn’t own a sledgehammer. He lives in an apartment, that he rents, has his whole life. The fuck would he need with a sledgehammer?

Sorry. But no, no sledgehammer. Screwdriver. He took a screwdriver to the shelves, cranking them away from the wood boards they clung to, clawing some onto them as he wrenched them away.

He didn’t know why he felt sorry for them. Well, he did. He knew he’d be throwing them away, never to be used again. Not that they were of much use now, having warped with the wood.

Poor bastards. They lived out that medieval torture rack. That was literally what they were made for.

They were also like parasites though, embedding themselves in something else. Not that it was up to them. They might have thought themselves some type of exotic top, meant to befuddle parents to the delight of their kids, who couldn’t get them to spin either but were in it for the trying.

Then some asshole pulls them out of the box. Away from the others, who are cheering for the top that got its day and die down at the crushing whir. They don’t know the sound, whether it’s laughter. So they listen until it stops and imagine how great to be used after so much waiting.

Poor, poor bastards. He threw them away anyway. Unscrewing then, he had stripped their tops.

Cereal idle

a sketch

She could spend hours in the cereal aisle. She would come up with games to play. Standard ones, like if you could just have one for the rest of your life, which? What about if that was the only thing you could eat for the rest of your life? Or what cereal makes the best milk? Which has the best mascot? Or box in general?

One time she pulled a notebook from her backpack and sat down in the aisle. Back against the peanut butter, she drew a bracket. A cereal tournament.

First seeding. She ranked the cereals by the company that produced them. Then she ranked the divisions. The store-bought brands were relegated to a play-in game determined by which was less of a knock-off than the others.

The second round was still underway when one of the store’s employees walked up and asked what she was doing. She told him and he smiled and walked away. But before he exited the aisle, he spun back and asked if he could make a copy of her bracket.

She would draw him one once she finished this round, she said. Would he mind getting a sandwich for her from the deli? She was hungry.

Yeah okay, he said. By the time he returned, Frosted Chex had been eliminated in an unbelievable upset.

Sow

a sketch

The woman stared at her garden. My garden, she thought. She had never had a garden before. Not really.

As a kid, she would water her mom’s plants. Until one time her parents went away for a few days, she forgot about the prayer plants in the bedroom that otherwise remained empty.

“You killed the prayer plants,” her mother accused her. Her mother small but powerful with her hands holding together the brown leaves that, when green, would fold toward one another in solemn conspiracy.

Her mother’s words rang ridiculous at the time, but she roiled in recall.

“You weren’t here. You let them die,” she burst.

Years later, her mother — sitting in a circle of family and friends at the point late at a party when the ice has melted — would offhandedly say that this was the worst thing her daughter had ever said. Then, she smiled at her firstborn, for a time her only, as if the memory bound them.

Two days after her mother passed, she remembered the plants. She drowned them. Accidentally but still. It wasn’t for a few more days that someone told her what she’d done, was in fact doing at that moment she learned that plants can drown, that they drown at the root.

Colada morada

a sketch

The water was a purple kind of brown, as if it knew the word gloom. Still it looked inviting under the dust-burnt clouds. The water’s color belied its warmth. But not to him. He saw colada morada. He saw his grandma, stirring her royal blue pot of berries cooked past a pudding, standing in an oversized shirt and pajama pants, avocado mashed into her hair. She explained to him once why she did it, but he couldn’t remember what she said. He didn’t remember much of what she said other than the things she would always say. Those sounds would never leave him. They were too of their own, like a faraway star so close in the sky.