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Human Parts
A publication from Medium about humanity: yours, mine, and ours.


watercolor of a little blue rounded monster shaped a little like an airplane window. He has triangular teeth in a smiling mouth that extends beyond his body, set close to to the top of the “window,” and a heart, and is wearing red sneakers and waving with stick-figure arms. Hand-lettering in typeface script reads “hi. this is bunt.”
illustrations Yi Shun Lai

The other week I woke up in an absolute, hellfire snit. I had not been that cranky in a long time. (I know you have been there.)

While I was lying there in bed, kvetching out loud and in general making a nuisance of myself, I recalled a creature I’d made years ago. I call him bunt.

Like most of my artwork, bunt is the result of a combination of things: One, I was feeling pretty yuck, because it was the weekend after the 2016 election had been called for D0nald Tr*mp. Two, I was also feeling happy, because we…


You bring him home from the hospital, in our case so early that you haven’t yet bought him a bed.

You look at him, inscrutable in a quickly assembled bassinet, and set about understanding him.

You hold him.

You hold him until, and while, he learns to walk, then hold out your hands so that he has somewhere to practice walking to.

You hold him only when he wants you to (and perhaps just a little more).

You imagine him in the world, first looming above others, their turning to him; then small, unknown, alone.

You put on his socks…


illustration: Nikita Klimov

I am from America. One Nation, Under God. I don’t live in America anymore though. I live in far-away countries that are sometimes under God, but mostly under skies, clouds, stars, the sun, the moon, and sometimes birds.

I decided to return home after nearly a decade for a road trip — a three-thousand-mile drive with my mother and brother in a Chrysler Seabreeze from Boston, Massachusetts (where I grew up) to L.A.

Sitting in the back of a car for long stretches opens the mind up to a lot of weird thoughts. About three hours after we set out…


Back when I was in elementary school, there were always kids who were pariahs. Kids with certain kinds of deformities, or speech impediments, or habits of drooling. We knew we were not supposed to mock these kids, and so we didn’t taunt them openly, but we shunned them in subtle ways nonetheless. We would avoid them, or whisper about them, or choose them last for our teams, thinking our behavior would go unnoticed. But of course it was noticed. Noticed by the poor kid herself, noticed by the other students, noticed even by the teachers. …


Goodbye, bouquet. Photo by the author

Picture the scene: There I am at the flower shop, stationed in front of those big, backlit refrigerators, grasping for the necks of birds of paradise, and then: “That one that looks like velvety lettuce! And the spiky purple ones! And oh, oh, those little orange bursts!”

“You mean these ones?”

The teenager flings a manicured hand in front of different buckets.

“These or these? You sure you want these? They smell like onions.”

(Oh, I do.)

We don’t use a single proper name as I move toward the blooms that please my eye and point. It doesn’t matter what…

Photo: Unsplash / Jessica Flavia

My fingers are a dune buggy race down the endless sands of your back, and then they’re a squadron of submarines descending through the uncharted depths of your hair to your very top’s very bottom.

And after so many years mapping your body and its complex topographies, I spy a secret: a single freckle lurking on the back of your ear where I can barely see it and where you couldn’t possibly.

And I begin to imagine the freckle as a rogue star — a fugitive? a pariah? a discoverer of worlds? — launched out of the orbit of the…


illustration by author

I asked my English 101 class the other day, “If a billionaire supported you for the rest of your life, what career would you choose? Also, if you don’t choose a career, this support disappears.”

ME: In other words, if money wasn’t in the way, what would you do?

STUDENTS: Excellent question, professor. You are wise and help us see the truth within ourselves. We would pursue our dreams.

After they admitted this, and tearfully, they would change their majors, stopping this communication, business, engineering, computer-science nonsense immediately.

By the might of my question, the classroom would transform from a…


South tower collapse | 9/11 Historical and Digital Archives | Thomas Nilsson, Getty Images

I was hungover when the phone rang.

The night before, I’d been partying with my fraternity brothers, so I answered and immediately hung up. Despite hanging up the call, the rings came once more, so I answered.


“Benjamin!” The voice was frantic on the other end. “Turn on the TV now!”

“Mooooommmmm,” I groaned. “It’s, like, super early. What do you want?”

My roommate echoed my sentiments from his bed, but my mother’s frenzied voice continued to climb in pitch. “Turn on the TV!”

I climbed down from my loft after throwing my old Nokia phone into a recliner…

Reflections on Identity

One last selfie, day before college drop-off

I have a friend who drives in silence; she lives in a rural area, so she spends a lot of time in her car going from one destination to another. This astounds me: no radio, no podcasts, no audio books? I cannot fathom it. The discord in my head is so deafening that it feels essential to tune it out with someone else’s words. When I am in my car alone, when I walk around the city doing errands, when I unload the dishwasher or fold laundry, even as I wash up for bed, I listen, pausing only when the…

Human Parts

A publication from Medium about humanity: yours, mine, and ours.

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