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


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The story of how he wound up in a dangerous compound—and how he escaped

Two vintage photographs of my dad and his sisters

I was so young when my dad started telling me his cult stories that I don’t think I even knew what a cult was. In a way, I still don’t. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how unique it was to have a father who regaled his young daughter with vivid narratives from his early life, much less one who survived an adolescence as gripping and gut-wrenching as his.

Now 65, my dad doesn’t look like the stereotype of a traumatized ex-cultist who came of age under the baleful reign of a charismatic leader. Today, Dr…

This Is Us

These brief flares remind me of my body’s capacity for upheaval and renewal

Photo: Xuanyu Han/Getty Images

Standing in the kitchen on a cool early fall day, chopping the last of the late summer sauce tomatoes, I’m suddenly overwhelmed by a bloom of heat in my body. Rapidly expanding heat from head to toe, feeling fall no more, but a heat wave flush, like a sweltering summer day.

Is it me or is it hot in here?

The hot flash is the darling of menopause symptoms, the signal marker of what some consider midlife female malfunction. Hot flash is synonymous with menopause, and those without a clue (men, young women, lucky women) begin their short, practiced list…

29 reads to catch up on while we take a break

We’ve finally reached the end of 2020, and we sort of can’t believe it. Yes, “years” are just constructs, but at this point we’ll take a symbolic refresh wherever we can find one. Here’s hoping 2021 lets us see our friends and family up close, and maybe even go in for a hug.

If you’ve been with us from way back in the Before (or if you caught up with us in the After), thank you for being being here — whether as a writer, a reader, or all of the above. Below, you’ll find a handful of our favorite…

This Is Us

I work so the medical industry will prescribe something so that I can do more work

Pain organ — MAS, graphite, paper, multimedia

“for what is quite literally at stake in the body in pain is the making and unmaking of the world.” (Scarry, 23)

Above is one of several sketches I made during a particularly bad flare-up. Delirious with pain and exhaustion, I decided that there must be a pain organ somewhere making all this pain. If I could just turn it off or find someone to remove it, the pain would end.

But when I tried to picture it, to draw it and describe it, it got bigger and bigger until it exceeded the body. …

Lived Through This

Just down the road from where I grew up, they trained to kill Osama Bin Laden

A sign on a wire fence that says “DANGER KEEP OUT.”
A sign on a wire fence that says “DANGER KEEP OUT.”
Photo: Edwin Hooper/Unsplash

On the ambling coast of northeastern North Carolina lies an innocuous little town of 2.7 square miles and some 2,000 residents. Lore would have it that “Carolina Moon” was penned for its pleasantness, that lyricist Benny Davis even sat on its signature S-bridge as the melody came to him in half-notes and harmonies. On its outer bands lies a large retirement community of Yankees and old-timers, comforted by the serenity Connie Francis sang of. …

This Is Us

Late-night thoughts on whether life is worth living

Upside down bright blue umbrella on ground, the rest of image is totally black.
Upside down bright blue umbrella on ground, the rest of image is totally black.
Photo: Tom Mrazek/Flickr

This is a late-night essay: the kind of thoughts you have lying awake in the early morning hours; the conversations you have between midnight and last call. I want to talk to you about something that’s been on my conscience. Maybe you can help me think it through. Or not. Then we’ll finish these beers and go.

Late last night I was reflecting, as I often do these days, that life really might not be worth living after all, and I wondered whether my writing were not essentially dishonest. There’s a rough template for an essay in my mind —…

They build each other up, mindful that the world will try to tear them down

Billie Eilish onstage at the 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C., November 7, 2018. Photo: Laura Todd Carns

The show doesn’t start for another hour, but the line to get into the 9:30 Club already stretches around the corner. It’s cold, and my 14-year-old daughter is restless, her blood pumping with the nervous excitement that accompanies a first-time experience. We thread our way along the sidewalk, following the line of fired-up ticket holders around the corner, down the block, past the alley, almost to the next corner.

We are here to see Billie Eilish, the 16-year-old American singer-songwriter who got her start as an internet sensation. I have been to countless shows at this club over the past…

I keep those old letters to feel their love, but I forbid myself from reading them

Photo: Joris Visser/Unsplash

My grandfather was a haberdasher all his life and, ironically, it was menswear that killed him. Well, sort of — he suffered his final heart attack while he was putting on his tie one morning. Does that count?

“Sometimes I just want to do nothing,” I’ll say to my eight-year-old son, in a half-assed attempt at describing depression.

“Well, Daddy — you’re always doing something,” he will inevitably reply, raising one eyebrow with age-appropriate, lil’ lawyerly cheek.

Folding silk over silk, slipping around and through the knot — that was the something my grandfather was doing when his heart had…

Lots of people keep their self-loathing a secret from their parents. I’m not lots of people.

O happy dagger.

My mother is turning 70 tomorrow. In my mid-twenties, I started getting into the habit of writing her a letter on her birthday.

The first year I did this, I can remember sliding the #10 business-sized envelope along the lengthy battlefield commonly known as the dining room table, and she looked at me with a thin-lipped, guarded suspicion (fun fact: my mother invented side-eye in 2002) as if the envelope contained a ransom note or anthrax confetti. …

When I’m anxious, when I’m worse, I get skinny

Photo by Recal Media on Unsplash

In the summer, I get skinny.

That heat comes in and honey, I’m lonely, fevered, downing bottles before they can bead — the city reeks mad in the summer. Everyone’s just a little bit. Unhinged. When I’m anxious, when I’m worse, I get skinny. I stay out late nights, in a t-shirt, and I get dark and I stare at my wrists.

You have big hair and you’re flirting with me in The Black Cat and I’m staring at my wrists.

Toothpick and wire, my weight is my worry. Maybe you don’t notice but it’s all I see, waving these…

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