What cannot make up a body? It was
sophomore year and we were sculpting a replica of the
Acropolis for our history class.
My friend took me into her family’s garage
to show me her father’s muscle cars. Legally,
she was no longer allowed to see him,
and she had been counseled
When she came to my house,
we had tacos
from the gas station counter,
between the check cashing joint and the event hall
where our neighbors threw parties
and played Bollywood music until sunrise.
In college, another friend told me
that the entire city of Reno is check cashing counters,
churches, abortion clinics, and bars. Rinse and repeat
on each subsequent block. She
spent a summer there, with a man who cut her open
and sent her to the mental hospital. The best one, where
the celebrities go.
In Harlem, I let a man order for me
at the Taco Bell counter.
This did not seem like a bad call,
though he would rape a girl in our program
and flee the state on a hastily purchased red eye flight.
When I took her to the hospital,
we were sent to the children’s ward
and asked a lot of questions about AIDS.
I would not do particularly well that semester,
but I ate overpriced sandwiches from Zabar’s
and went to conferences at the United Nations,
getting lost and wishing I was bilingual.
We got an A on the Acropolis project—
it was high school,
so I spent two weeks writing papers
and thinking of the self in future tense,
though we would be shown up
by the two most compelling kids
in our grade.
One sculpted a bust of a Persian king
genuinely more arresting than the Mona Lisa,
Her project partner didn’t even read
the Wikipedia page on their subject
and instead made up the term “paranoid charismatic” on the spot,
claiming that both Hitler
and Bill Clinton had been retroactively diagnosed with
the same affliction. The teacher,
who spent every free period painting
in his poorly lit classroom
and probably trying not to kill himself,
took this in stride. Our first ever assignment in his class
was to present a solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict,
so he obviously had a penchant for agony
and a well developed
sense of humor.
Kendra Mills (she/her) lives in Washington DC and Massachusetts. She is a recipient of the Elisa Brickner Poetry Prize and her work can also be found in The Rialto, Moria Literary Magazine, and Mud Season Review.