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

Nonfiction

In Human Parts. More on Medium.

This Is Us

A psalm of sleep apnea, shit in the shower, and life

“And besides,” he said, “your chin is on backward.”

The burly man with the accent-from-somewhere turned, almost looking dismissively at me — which, I guess, I’m used to — and smile-frowned. At least, I think he did; he was wearing a mask. And a spit shield. We used to put them on the faces of patients at the psych hospital — now people are just… walking around with them like it’s a pair of Oakleys. Of course, as a poor, nonprofit psychiatric hospital, we frequently ran out of spit shields (spitting is always tres en vogue at those kinds of…


This Is Us

Overcoming a speech impediment at 22

When I was around eight or nine years old, my brother and I asked my mom for advice on how to blow a bubble when chewing gum. All our other friends were able to do it, but we just couldn’t quite figure out the movement you needed to do with your tongue. My mom looked at us and said, with some sadness in her voice, “Unfortunately, you’ll probably never be able to blow a bubble.”

Like so much of my childhood, my memory of this moment is hazy. I remember exactly what she said, but not how we responded to…


This Is Us

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

“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

My brother’s homicide remains unsolved. With no face and no name, there’s no one to hate.

Photo by Rene Cizio
Photo by Rene Cizio

When my brother was murdered, the police never found his killer, and my mom said, “Good, then I won’t have anyone I need to forgive.”

She was religious, righteous, or at least she tried to be, wanted to be. To forgive is divine, but without anyone to blame, forgiveness could not be expected of her. She felt she should be off the hook.

“I don’t think it works that way; besides, forgiveness also sets the prisoner free,” I said pointedly. “The only person you’re hurting is yourself, Ma.”

This was how she coped with her anger by thinking about forgiveness…


Lived Through This

After years of abuse and no support, I had reached my limit

No one showed up to my 11th birthday party at King Arthur’s Castle the summer before I entered sixth grade, my last year of elementary school. My birthday party became the foreshadowing event of the loneliest year of my life and the beginning of my lifelong battle with obsessive thoughts and suicidal ideation. The combination of my parent’s divorce, abuse by my sixth grade teacher, and the subsequent neglect of the adults at my school created the perfect storm, a catalyst that unlocked a shadow within me, unable to cope.

There was a myriad of obstacles to avoid at the…


Mind Games

Now, I see my former trauma as an opportunity for growth

A selfie photo of the author with short cropped hair.
A selfie photo of the author with short cropped hair.

For five years I’ve kept the bones of an essay about having alopecia on my desktop. That essay begins by telling the reader about the first time someone pointed out a bald spot on my head. It was Josh Pfolhs — the most popular boy in the fifth grade — loudly, during a spelling test. Then there are a few pages about my childhood and a few more pages about high school and college and a sort of log of each major flare-up.

Then I stop writing or editing it. Sometimes for a year or longer.

Because I have never…


This Is Us

At a gay club in the ’90s, I compete for attention with lighter-skinned men — and confront years of internalized racism

My erection is pressing against the zip fly of my jeans. They’re JNCO jeans. Everybody’s wearing them but, if I’m honest, I think they look silly. They have wide, flared legs — you know, for dancing. The legs are so wide they cover your shoes, and God help you if it rains. When the hems get wet, those jeans get all soggy and heavy and, before you know it, you’re drenched from the calf down.

I can’t afford real JNCOs. I just bought a pair of big jeans at a thrift store and strapped rubber bands around my groin to…


On the joys of writing (even if people hate you for it)

A blurry long-exposure photo of a person writing with light.
A blurry long-exposure photo of a person writing with light.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a few words can be more dangerous than a thousand bullets. And you can quote me on that because I know.

My first grade teacher was a smiling, effete young man with golden curls that would have made all three bears sit up and eat their porridge. Mr. Barrett wrote a little note on my report card in 1987 that would stay with me throughout my life:

“I love Gabe’s creative writing.”

Quite a note to get as a seven-year-old and quite a note for his parents to see. To this…


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

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…


Internet Time Machine

The truth about pretending to be someone else on the internet

This story is part of the Internet Time Machine, a collection about life online in the 2010s.

Connor is 27, with green eyes and a dorky grin. His favorite emoji is the shaka (🤙), which he uses to express a casual DTF energy. He’s tan and toned, athletic yet approachable, and his profile photos resemble ads for a millennial lifestyle brand. There goes Connor, throwing up a peace sign on Runyon Canyon. Surfing as the sun sets over Manhattan Beach. A mirror selfie, an action shot, an abdominal V.

Connor is your average thirst trap next door. …

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