"A Little Closer"
"The year Gina went missing, we lived a block from the lake. We were twelve and thirteen and smoking cigarettes in our basement with friends – Mom and Dad at work, Hall & Oates on forty-five. We practiced strangling ourselves, that ‘fun’ game in which the bravest of us held our breath and squeezed our necks with our own hands until we passed out. The last time I did it, I woke up on the floor."
Best American Essays 2022
"I was almost sixteen when I ran into my biological father, Reggie, at a Trailways station. My friend and I wanted to see some boys an hour away in Geneva, so we concocted a scheme to tell our parents we were each spending the night at the other’s house.."
New England Review
"I was still lying on my back, the white nylon bib around my neck, the sour taste lingering in my mouth, when the hygienist said, “Oh honey, you’re beautiful. You should take care of your smile.” The dentist had just given me a twenty-five-thousand-dollar estimate to get all of the problems with my teeth fixed."
"The Outine of Empty Spaces"
"I discovered a near-limitless capacity for patience on my parents’ back porch, hiding out, eating Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and reading Richie Rich comics. I was skipping school, biding my time until the end of the afternoon when I could pretend to come home."
"Remember The Earth"
Booth 13: Nonfiction Prize Issue
"Ever since the police showed up at my door, I’ve been obsessed with what happens to the body after it dies. How long does it take before the flesh gets mushy? What happens to the blood? Does it pool just underneath the skin where gravity takes over, or does it ooze out? For weeks after Gina died, I saw death everywhere."
"It was a running joke between my sister, my stepdad, and me. “When we can’t afford to eat, we’ll just sell some of your mother’s books.” My stepdad’s Boston accent still thick after 50 years in Rochester made it sound like 'yuh muthah.'"
"All The Grains of Sand"
"It was a full moon, which meant from my vantage point, I could see his naked silhouette shining blue as he washed his body behind the big lorry. I was naked too, behind the Land Rover. The body was so familiar, that wiry frame, those graceful hands, the shaven head and the point of his beard. We had both gone, separately, to bathe behind the circle of vehicles that surrounded our camp."
"Beneath Us All This Time"
"The first time Salva Dut and his drilling crew flushed water through the pipes from the aquifer deep beneath the Sudan desert, all of the villagers danced and sang. Most of them had never tasted clean water in their lives, and here it was gushing out of the ground twenty feet above them—a cool and beautiful geyser in the dusty heat of midday."
"If Nothing Changes"
"I was twelve and sitting in the back of the Number 5 city bus with a bag of cheap Christmas presents when I saw my dad stagger up the steps. I was about to call to him but stopped myself. He had fumbled with his change too long to be sober. I slunk in my seat and tried to make myself invisible."
"Labors of the Desert"
The Chattahoochee Review
"In the early morning light, a young woman passed our Land Rover on the dirt road and asked Salva in Dinka, the local language, if we needed water or food. He thanked her and said no. Then she was on her way. We knew where she was going, and we knew she wouldn’t finish her journey until the sun crossed the sky."
"In Kompong Chnnang, two hours outside Phnom Penh, a Vietnamese woman paddled me through the largest floating village on the Tonle Sap River. I sat camera in hand, uncomfortably squat-kneed, on an old wooden longboat that threatened to topple us if I shifted."
"Walking through the doors of the V.A. hospital where my stepfather is a patient, the air settles, resigned like the sun’s afternoon descent. Dust flecks float in and out of golden afternoon rays. In the stillness, I can almost follow one from foyer through corridor, up and down lifeless hallways until it finally settles on a rusted radiator."