November 4, 2017
Back when I was afraid of falling asleep by myself, shadows of trees would rock against my bedroom ceiling. I did not want to close my eyes, so I would concentrate on its drywall texture. It was a map of unexplored geography. In the shadows, I imagined the stencils of kingdoms until I was dizzy from concentrating on the ceiling. I would turn away from the dark shapes and try to sleep, but restless nausea met the fear of closing my eyes.
We lived in Federal Way, Washington, back when “federal” was not in my vocabulary. There was a two-bedroom townhouse for you, me, and Robert. Every night, you and Robert went to sleep in the master bedroom. I went alone to my dark, drywall sky. I was afraid to close my eyes. I would go to your room to escape shadowy kingdoms. I could finally fall asleep next to you.
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October 6, 2017
I’m seven years-old and sitting with Mom and RJ, my little brother, at our dinner table. We’re not talking, just eating quietly. Well, they’re eating. I’m picking at the rice in my bowl with chopsticks. The Chinese calendar on the wall behind Mom says 2004. Her eyes droop a little. She toggles between full-time receptionist and full-time mom, barely sleeping, barely keeping up. I’m the smuggest, moodiest kid in the second grade. RJ’s a two year-old who won’t stop kicking the leg of the dinner table.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Mom fussed with him to stop a while ago, but she’s since given up. We eat to the rhythm of RJ’s kicking. Thud. Well, they’re eating. I’m picking at my rice. Thud. I’m seven, an odd age and at odds with the world. Thud. I stare at one lone grain of rice on the side of my bowl. It looks just like all the other ones in my bowl—none of which I want. Thud. I’m not hungry. Thud.
Then Mom asks me a question.
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