Experiments

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 
against discussing 
what happened. 

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. 

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