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

Creative Non Fiction

In Human Parts. More on Medium.

Lived Through This

On the powerlessness of wishing for someone else’s recovery

Photo of the dark silhouette of a person walking in front of a pink sunset.
Photo of the dark silhouette of a person walking in front of a pink sunset.

A rocky trail through forests and fields winds around the back of Quaker Hill in rural Maine. Before traveling to the summit, I pack a bottle of water and some grapes and my notebook. This time I also pack my nephew’s letter.

The tradition of letter-writing survives in families like mine whose loved ones are spread out over the country in county jails, state prisons, and federal penitentiaries. In prisons, smartphones are contraband, so stamps are still currency. My nephew, Alan Michael, is in a county jail awaiting trial. He can be held indefinitely without bail because he was on…

Not long after marrying the man I would go on to divorce, I bought a Brooklyn brownstone that satisfied all my most fetishistic Brooklyn brownstone fantasies, and made me feel — in a way that only buying a Brooklyn Brownstone can make a certain kind of striving, creatively ambitious New Yorker feel — as though I had achieved a big old piece of the dream. The place was in far Carroll Gardens just off of Court Street, on a block of classic houses, and even from the outside it felt grand, with its black iron gate and hulking balustrades leading…

I moved to Washington, DC on June 1, 2011. A day later I started working at a restaurant where I worked every single day of that first summer. I made my first two DC friends there: Anna and Sam.

Anna was younger than me by several years and a student at American University. She was studying graphic design and her lettering skills decorated the specials boards that whole summer. She had the thickest curly brown hair and a man she was in love with in Italy. She had the kind of laugh that was always a giggle and brought an…

holding his pale palms outstretched, water-stained sedimentary rocks filling his hands, and I smile and say It could be true, not wanting to be the one to correct him, not wanting to stifle an imagination that has turned leftover lake fill into remnants from the Mesozoic Era. This used to be an ocean, he says, pointing to the water, and he tells me about the gray dolphins and the blue whales, the mighty shark with their five rows of teeth, the cuttlefish and the crabs, the stingrays and the clams. Is that so? I say, my face alive with delight…

You are reliably late. You know this. But still you seem to be stubborn in your dedication to toying with a city of people who so vehemently detest the act of waiting. This city does not breed patience.

Instead, this city breeds tall girls shaped like bobby pins and men in dark grey suits and sneakers, and mothers with canvas bags stuffed with graham crackers baked of a grain that allegedly cured type-one diabetes in a small village somewhere in South America. It breeds old men in newspaper caps with scarves draped uselessly around their shoulders, leaving their necks exposed…

Suicide, an act prepared within the Silence of the heart, as is a great work of Art. –Albert Camus

There is a square, six-foot painting of Marilyn Monroe on the wall behind me, above the couch. Lynn once told me the artist had painted it upside-down; it’s why the colorful drips appear to be falling upward. It hangs in our downstairs living room: a static exhibit of meticulous housekeeping where we don’t dent the cushions, disturb the vacuum lines, or move the stone coasters from the center of the coffee table.

For five years, Lynn and I lived together in…

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