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

Personal Essay

In Human Parts. More on Medium.

This Is Us

Lessons from a season of table service

I told a lie to get the job. It was 1981 and I said I was 18, old enough to legally serve alcohol. I was 17. I needed cash and something to fill the time that wasn’t school or the bad boyfriend. My place of employment — my first real job — was a mid-range French restaurant on the fringes of Washington, D.C. For a few years, while in college, I worked six days a week, serving lunch, dinner, and private parties. …

Little boy on an empty subway platform.
Little boy on an empty subway platform.

I am 25 and it is 9:42 pm on a Tuesday. I am sitting in a Los Angeles subway station, which exists. I missed the train and the next is in 20 minutes, and I walk to a zig-zag shaped bench that was designed to be artistically interesting, but is mostly just a terrible bench. I sit down in a zig and open a book on my iPad.

A mother and son sit on the bench behind me, in a zag. They have just come from Costco and she is irritated that the basketball they bought doesn’t fit in the…

This Is Us

My radical vision for the future does not include the violence that occurs within a hospital’s walls — or the hospital at all

Medical equipment on the background of group of health workers in the ICU.
Medical equipment on the background of group of health workers in the ICU.

On a night in my early teens, I went to the Pediatric Emergency Department at Montefiore’s Children’s Hospital for intense cramps. I was expecting my period in a few days but had never felt that way before — like a heat lamp was burning into the meat of my pelvis.

My mother and I spent the better part of nine hours in a tiny room with speckled vinyl floors and too-bright fluorescent lights. At one point, I was sent to another room nearby that was a little larger and had no extra chairs. My mother was told to stand outside…

This Is Us

How midlife loosened my tongue

Middle finger up in the middle of a field.
Middle finger up in the middle of a field.

When I flipped off the speeding truck, I knew things had changed. Sending a hearty “fuck you” to a stranger was a thing I had almost never considered before, but in the moment, it seemed oddly, perfectly natural. I briefly reconsidered the wisdom of this change when he doubled back. And then I did it again.

Walking on my quiet country road in upstate New York, as I do every day, a jumped-up pickup with a tiny red-hat boy at the wheel came roaring down the road at an unreasonable speed. Frightening, aggressive speed. When he rounded the corner and…

How I came to write personal essays

A desk with 2 notebooks, a framed photo, a typewriter, and a pencil bag. The photo has some light leak and looks vintage.
A desk with 2 notebooks, a framed photo, a typewriter, and a pencil bag. The photo has some light leak and looks vintage.

When I was 23 years old, during some dead of winter month, my friend Noelle and I drove to her parents’ cabin in Roxbury, New York. We brought two guy friends along and it was a casual reunion of sorts: the guys — Jack and Patrick — had worked with Noelle at The Strand Bookstore some years earlier, and I’d recently moved back to Brooklyn from Seattle. The four of us weren’t as close as we’d once been, but we were close enough to notice the subtle shifts within each other’s character.

We ended up snowed in and going stir…

What we want to know about our plants is what we want to know about our lives

Questions from The American Orchid Society’s FAQ page:

Where do I cut the spike?

Begin at the neck of the thing. Thick and green like a decomposing thumb; feel out the skin. Let yourself touch, gently, make a slow gesture back and forth. This limb under your fingertips may feel unnecessary. But the body is the spike. You can’t cut it, you can’t remove an element from the periodic table because you feel like it. This would be a declawing. …

‘Are the rich really different from the rest of us?’ I ask myself while wrestling with my billionaire younger brother at 3 a.m.

For most of the last decade, my brother Mark and his family lived in a house with a moat.

The house — a four-bedroom French villa in Bel Air previously owned by Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony — is pretty impressive even without the moat, but that unnecessary protective trench gives the house a certain surreal charm. It’s nice to know that when you visit your family for the holidays, you don’t have to worry about Spanish conquistadors.

When I tell people about my brother’s moat house, they usually ask, “Is he rich or something?” …

At 14, spending time alone with my acting teacher made me feel sweaty, and nervous, and I liked it — until I didn’t

Act I

You tested your mettle of doe’s skin and petals
While kissing the lipless
Who bleed all the sweetness away

In the dream I’m kissing a faceless void. My mouth touches nothing but emptiness. I am 14 and no one has kissed me, so I dream of it, yet my mouth has no memory. But I’m 14, and I’m horny, and I want so much to be kissed. I want to know what another mouth tastes like. My jaw works in a sloppy approximation of kissing toward this void, this empty face. …

It hurts having to hide such a huge part of my identity from people I love

Dear Reader,

If you have somehow stumbled upon this letter, I’ll assume it is because you are sitting within your own metaphysical closet, hiding behind flannel button-downs and cuffed blue jeans. Before I can get into the heart and soul of this letter, let me begin by introducing myself: I’m 19 years old, bisexual, and deeply closeted.

I am in the exact same position you are; maybe we are even in the same closet. Still, I can’t pretend to know your reasons. Instead, I’ll tell you mine.

Growing up in a profoundly religious family in the heart of the Missouri…

Like Denny’s, the chain of unremarkable, roadside diners, I was a creation of Southern California trying to be taken seriously. There was a time in my life when I wanted nothing more than to be seen as a respectable establishment. I needed to have my respectability believed and validated, principally by admissions officers at the nation’s most prestigious colleges: A Serious Candidate, A Real Contender, they would say, through smeary clouds of pipe smoke, as they flipped through my paper-clipped application.

Denny’s and I were both birthed on the perimeters of today’s Los Angeles County. Me, in Santa Monica, by…

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