What Is Buried Beneath

On my fifth day in theater, I stand in the OR at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, after another IED explosion. Two patients are laid out on surgical tables, each with a wound that gapes and gray skin tattooed by shrapnel.

Beenie at Fourteen

While I wait for him to pull the trigger, I drive to the grocery store. Pick up milk, chewing gum, sponges. Drop off the dry cleaning: the dress I splattered with a spaghetti stain at Shana and Calvin’s wedding last month. Ignore the stench of the rotting plant in the backseat and keep the AC rippling.

Pale Unhappy Dog

Li has never seen a kidney, but he imagines a flesh-colored ball the size of a fist. He wonders how he will transport it on his motorcycle, whether he will seal it inside a plastic bag with duct tape or place it in a cooler lined with ice.

The Hardest Parts

Victor has evaded physical activity with crafty excuses his whole life, but he decides that boxing could be an acceptable diversion. He doesn’t have to hit anyone or get hit in the boxing class, and there’s something thrilling about wrapping his hands, hammering away at the heavy bag in a hot warehouse under industrial fans, knocking the bag with one fist and catching it hard with the other, the contented exhaustion after.

The Awful Thing

I am finding the experience terrifyingly similar to what I imagine it would be like to witness my mother drown. I stand on the shore and throw ropes to her, but she has no idea what to do with them. I try to swim to her, but she only moves farther away.

If Brains Was Gas

I turned thirteen that week. I assumed that it came with some new liberties, but no one had specifically said so, and I was too uncertain to ask. Still, the night after my birthday, Elmo and me made plans to go out.

In Another Life

The two of them stand framed together in the fragile glass, she thin-faced with a worried mouth, he like a wisp of smoke with flint at its center, vulnerable but still volatile within.

Revolutions in Time

My mother looks so beautiful when she hasn’t yet birthed me. Despite the spotty glow of the traffic lights, her beauty is noticeable; she is still young and doesn’t know postpartum depression, sleepless nights shredded by my wails, white suburban mothers’ pursed red lips as she picks me up from school in her laundromat clothes.


Whenever you don’t want to be who you are, you call yourself Margaret Jefferson. And that’s who you are now, or who you are when you’re not yourself, walking into the conference room of an accounting firm in a random midtown Manhattan building for an open writers’ meetup in the fall of 2017.