Sakeen the housemaid was rarely free to play with us, even at parties. She had to prepare dinner, serve it to the guests, and clean up. Shahnaz, my uncle’s wife, liked to throw big parties to outplay our mothers in a game between them known
Once I was out in the general population, my laughing strategy turned to silence. I was given a job assignment in the laundry room and spent most of my non-working hours in the library reading or in the dorm writing letters. When I wrote to family and friends I tried to maintain the fiction that everything was copacetic. But my handwriting told a different story as the words shivered uncontrollably across the page like the last dash of a chicken whose neck has been wrung.
Carlos is not just any worm. Carlos’s immune system is so strong that Moonie can bombard it with legions of aggressive invader organisms, and Carlos fends them off. But what’s truly remarkable about this worm is that while gobbling up intruders like a worthy ninja, it screeches out the famous first bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
Aminatu sometimes found comfort in the fact that no one there quite knew her. Their expectation of the things she should have done or could have been was not humiliatingly high. To most who met her, Aminatu was “that young African woman.” That, in its ambiguity, was manageable. So she combined whatever it was to be African with what she was inevitably coming to know as black in America.
So the girl balled up her fist to keep the thirty-seventh president safe and stuck it away. Like having the White House in your pocket.
What I’d read him was nothing more than nonsense put to paper in my free time, sheltering my hope that life would not always be what it had been until now, a good life in the dullest sense of goodness.