WINNER OF 2021 SOPOCO EMERGING WRITER FELLOWSHIP
Grandmother’s eyes were glued to the screen as men in helmets and army fatigues clutched machine guns to their chests. Standing in the doorway of our three-bedroom apartment, I watched as she alternated between covering her eyes and her mouth with her shawl while tiny men in what looked like a desert ran from building to crumbling building.
It wasn’t a clip from Black Hawk Down as I had initially thought, the movie about Somalia our mother made my brother Nasir and me watch as often as neighbors wanted to join us in watching it. We groaned each time she crossed her arms and told us another aunt or uncle was coming over to watch it on VHS with us.
The first time my mother’s friends came over to watch our television, Nasir and I tried everything: bathroom breaks that were really reading breaks, phantom stomachaches, remote control problems (really, we just snuck out one of the batteries), but my mother always knew. By the third visit we gave up, and like clockwork, our living room filled with jubilation when the Somalis dragged an American soldier across the street.
My mother poured tea from thermos to mug and auntie after auntie wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
Nasir’s favorite part was the young boys smoking on the back of pickup trucks, their AK-47s sooty and worn from overuse.
“You know if we were still there, that would be me,” he said, slapping his chest. “Nobody could tell me shit.”
I made a face like someone had slipped ice down my back. The boys made my stomach hurt. They looked to be thirteen, around Nasir’s age, but judging by his low top fade and their dusty curls, I could tell their life had been rougher and so were they. I didn’t want to imagine my brother with a gun. Nasir was only a year older than me, but I didn’t see myself in the girls, barely visible in their hijabs and often hiding their faces in fear. I couldn’t tell how old they were.
“Look,” Nasir whispered. He was expanding his index finger and thumb around his nose and pointing to the boy who was blowing rings of smoke at the camera.
Mother shushed us as we snickered under our blankets. Justice was my friend Temilade’s brother. They were from Nigeria. Nasir was right that the boys in the movie looked more like Temi’s family than the men in Mother’s photo albums. The men in our photo albums were wiry and slender with chicken legs and protruding cheekbones and hairlines like upside down maple leaves. The men in the movie were more muscular, with strong arms, sleepy eyes, and fluffy stomachs.
I tracked the endless stream of updates at the bottom of the BBC World News screen: The World Health Organization was very worried about SARS. Another Al-Qaeda terrorist was captured in Pakistan. The presenter cut to a close-up of President Bush in his office, his wife and daughter peeking over his shoulders from behind photo frames while the American flag hung just to the left of them. “At this hour,” President Bush began, “American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.”
“All this,” she mumbled, pausing to smooth her housedress, “because we are Muslim.”
“Grandma,” I asked, not wanting to startle her, “is everything okay?”
She grabbed slowly at the air where she felt my body should be, her attention still on the screen. I scooted closer. And closer. Suddenly I was aware that I had run all the way to our apartment, that my hair and the crusty sweat tangled in its roots needed to be washed, and that I had lied to Mother just yesterday about having washed it.
“Nasra?” she asked, bracing herself on the couch cushion with her good hand. Her bifocals were just out of reach on the coffee table with the biscuits and cold cup of tea she hadn’t finished. I folded them into her hand, trying not to laugh as she put them on, because they made her look googly eyed. It was my job to make sure she wore them the whole day, especially while she watched her specials, but when Nasir and I were outside, Grandma did what she wanted. Half the time she barely knew where her glasses were and the other half, she was drinking Vimto and tea with milk, even though she knew the sugar was bad for her blood.
“I was with Diamond,” I said, scratching at the carpet with my big toe.
“And what were you doing?” she asked dutifully.
“We were playing outside,” I answered.
She cupped both of my hands in her palms, staring not exactly at my face but around it, probably inspecting my scalp and ears for dirt.
“Outside? Or in her house?” she pried.
I looked at my dirt-covered hands, scratched up from fighting bramble and chasing boys. If I lied, my grandmother would know.
“Outside,” I answered. “And in her house.”
“Uh-uh. And where was her brother?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“I mean he’s always out, like Nasir.”
She clucked her tongue. “Nasir is a boy.”
“I know, I know,” I said, pulling away. I could tell she was on the edge of a lecture.
“You are too old to be running outside this way, Nasra. Your sister Nawal . . .”
“Okay,” I whined, not wanting to get into it. Grandmother always brought up my older sister Nawal when she wanted me to behave. Nawal was a good girl when it served them and a bad example when it didn’t. She didn’t even live with us anymore, so what did it matter?
Earlier, I had gone to Diamond’s house so we could ride our bikes to the gas station to get ice cream. I hated going by when her older brother Cedric was home, which was all the time.
Cedric was tall and shaped like a cinnamon stick. He was even clay-colored like one. And he never let me in the house without messing up my hair.
Before I could even knock, Cedric was at the door, smiling his goofy snaggle-toothed smile.
“What you want?” he asked.
“Move, Cedric,” I said, hoping Diamond would hear. I craned my neck but couldn’t see anything but the light on in the kitchen.
“Before I let you in, what’s your real name?” he asked, his foot blocking the door.
“My real name is none of your business, Cedric.”
“But for real, why you got two names? Is it Nah-sara, or Nahz-ra?”
“It’s nun-ya,” I said, rolling my eyes. “They left you behind in the eighth grade and you still can’t read.”
He broke into a smile and moved out of the way, nodding toward the couch so I knew to sit down while he grabbed a drink out of the fridge.
“That was cold,” he said, sitting down beside me. “I was just playing with you.”
“You know my name,” I said, scooting back a little and making sure to tug the cold can of cola out of his hand.
“Careful, careful,” he whispered.
I apologized and rubbed at the wet spot on the carpet with my heel, mostly because I was terrified of what Ms. Loretta would do if she found out I was in her house making a mess. Ms. Loretta was a scary woman. Tall and as thick as a tree trunk. What made her menacing was her glasses—they were so thick you couldn’t tell if her eyes were narrowing in anger quick enough to dodge a swipe.
He waited for me to take a sip before he reached for the clear plastic case of the new game he just got. Instinctively, I reached for the second controller right as he swiped it away. I pushed his hand off my chest because it didn’t belong there.
He jumped when Diamond came out of her room, but she went to the kitchen to fix us a snack.
“I already gave her a drink,” Cedric shouted without looking to see what Diamond was fixing.
“I. Didn’t. Ask. You,” she said, counting the words with her index finger.
Her mom recently started letting her wear press-on nails and it changed the way Diamond used her hands. I sat on the couch and watched Cedric play his game until she was finished.
We didn’t have video games at home. My mother refused to pay money for her children to chase each other with guns on television.
“Let me buy you a ticket to Mogadishu,” she joked when she wanted to be extra clever. “You can chase each other with guns for free.”
She didn’t understand. It wasn’t about the guns or the chasing but the thrill of controlling something that couldn’t move or dance or kill without you.
Sometimes, when Diamond didn’t want to be outside in the summer heat, I sat on the couch with her brother and he taught me how all the letters on his controller meant something entirely different than what they meant in my notebook.
In one game, an X meant I could make a gorilla in a red tie swing from treasure to treasure. In another game, my X was the difference between a swipe that didn’t connect and a dropkick to somebody’s throat. I liked the power, but could never play for more than a couple of minutes before Cedric got frustrated.
What I knew about Diamond, I knew about myself. We were best friends and even though we weren’t in the same homeroom, we had English together and lunch together in the library where we read for the last half hour of our break. Her favorite food was pork cracklings doused in Texas Pete. Mine was the sloppy joe sandwiches they served on Tuesdays with the sour pickles.
Diamond and her family weren’t refugees like the rest of us. On Sundays, she, Ms. Loretta, and Cedric got dressed up and went to the First Baptist Church across from the Halal Grocers while Nasir and I sat in Temi’s living room reciting Qur’an along with a cassette player with her and her brothers. Temi’s father had been an imam in Nigeria, but now he drove an Ashley Furniture truck on schooldays and worked security at night.
We watched the ceiling fan whir above our heads and recited Surah Al-Baqarah alongside the sheikh on the cassette player until Temi’s dad nodded off on the leather La-Z-Boy. When he fell asleep, we raised the volume of the cassette tape and snuck off one by one to hang out on the porch instead.
“You ready?” Diamond called from the kitchen. In her hand were two juice pouches, a ziplock of Famous Amos cookies, and a half-eaten bag of hot chips. When I nodded back, she threw it all in her corduroy rucksack and made her way toward the door.
“Shtoooopidahh!” Cedric shouted from the couch.
Diamond slammed the door behind us.
I followed her down the stairs and across the large grassy field between our apartment building and the six others that encircled it. It was the last month of school and the boys were preparing for field day. Eddie Sutton and the ninth graders were playing flag football. The Afghani boys from my brother’s class were shirtless, playing soccer with an old volleyball. And across from us, Temi’s mom and aunt sat drinking tea on their balcony. Temi was over by the parking lot watching her younger brothers ride their bikes with their friends. I waved to her, but she didn’t see us.
We hopped on our bikes. I nodded toward the gas station. Diamond shook her head and raced ahead of me.
When we got to the creek, we tore off our socks and tucked our dust-caked Payless sneakers under the blackberry bushes at the entrance. Rolling up the hem of our pants, we began the slow wade toward the center, where the water was ice cold even in the middle of a heat wave. I stopped short of getting my knees wet, but Diamond waded deeper and deeper. When she realized I’ d stopped, she turned around, hesitant.
“What would you do if we like, moved?”
I glided my tongue along the ridges of my cheek.
“What do you mean? I would miss you.”
“I’ d miss you too,” Diamond responded immediately. “But like, what would you do? Would you like become best friends with Temi? Or like, be really sad and wait for me to move back?”
“Of course, you’ d miss me,” I teased. “I’ d sit in the middle of the field all day and just cry.”
She laughed belly deep. If she hadn’t already waded out neck-deep she’ d have splashed me.
“I think we might be moving soon,” she admitted.
“I don’t know, my mom’s been talking to my dad a lot more. And he’s been helping her apply to stuff.”
“Your mom got the job? The one at the office all the way out in Gwinnett?”
“I mean, she may as well.”
I picked at the skin around my nails. I could tell Diamond had been hoping for the opposite. Ms. Loretta was always complaining about how Clarkston was changing since “the internationals” moved in. I thought about the Somali plaza on Indian Creek, all the aunties selling scarves and abayas on Eid and how everyone, even the Gambian and Sudanese families that came in to buy incense, knew just enough of the other’s language to haggle over prices. I don’t know if I would like Clarkston without the Vietnamese grocers that sold softer baguettes than the ones at Publix or the Ethiopian mechanic who changed Mother’s tires for cheap. I really believed the stupid maroon plaque on the corner of East Ponce that read clarkston. small town, big heart. It was clear Diamond’s dad, Mr. Thomas, did not. He was always egging her mom on and promising to find her a secretary job at his company if she moved. We got used to nodding through Ms. Loretta’s outbursts when things were especially hard—like that time she was fired from Kinko’s because Cedric had been cutting class and Ms. Loretta had to leave work to deal with the principal.
And there was that other time when their downstairs neighbors, the Kurdish family, took to hanging their laundry from Ms. Loretta’s balcony instead of their own because they believed the air was better up there. When Ms. Loretta came home that evening, she knocked on their door to politely ask what was going on, but instead of opening the door, the oldest daughter peeked from behind the window all scared and Diamond’s mom got so mad, she stuffed their still-wet clothes into Publix bags and flung them from her balcony without a second thought.
“You think I wanna come home and see y’all dirty-ass clothes all over my porch?” she screamed, flinging bag after bag into the dirt below.
“You think I ain’t been dealing with people’s shit all damn day?”
It was only when she slammed her door that the Kurdish aunties came out, craning their necks and cursing in Kurmanji, their daughters scampering around them to collect their colorfully knitted scarves and vests.
Meanwhile, Temi’s mom and my grandmother buckled and shook and howled with laughter from their balconies.
“She already found a house near my dad in Gwinnett,” Diamond said, “a quiet house in a quiet neighborhood. We just have to pack.”
“Pack? Already? But it’s almost field day and we just signed up for summer camp.”
Diamond was floating on her back, watching the patches of sky that pierced the dense canopy of trees, the slightly brown water eddying around her fingers. She looked as if she was already gone, somewhere I couldn’t get to.
“You think she’ll let you finish the year at Indian Creek?”
We let the question hang in the quiet hush of the afternoon and listened. The bullfrogs had quieted for the most part. They were loudest in the evening anyway and it was only three in the afternoon. On the other hand, the cicadas and crickets, the Mexican family grilling by the pool, the men hustling near the gas station—they were as loud as they’ d always been.
The creek ran right along the busy road that connected Mansley Park Apartments to the rest of Clarkston. From here, you couldn’t see the strip malls, repair shops, or package stores, and the growl of passing cars was muffled by the cover of beech and elm trees. Once you made it past the overgrown muscadine vines crisscrossing the entrance, you were mostly alone.
Diamond and I liked being alone, because our houses were full of every kind of noise but our own. Cedric played everything—his games, music, television shows—on full volume except when Ms. Loretta was home, which was basically bedtime. And when my brother and his friends weren’t breaking stuff in the living room from all their wrestling, my grandmother had the BBC World News droning on a loop.
The creek felt like it was ours, a place we could be ourselves and relax our bodies without watching for flying balls, prying hands, or sharp words. Sinking fist after fist into the warm loam, we pretended to be our mothers kneading dough. Sometimes we found pebbles we imagined to be shark teeth, chipped and rough at the top where their gums might have been. Other times, we only found moon shells and buried bits of glass from the bottles men sucked on their front porches.
Still, it was too easy to get to for it to be totally safe. After school, the older boys used it to smoke cigarettes and feel up girls in the cover of the same trees we were under now. When we were kids, we would come early on Saturday mornings to catch tadpoles and set booby traps to keep them out. Skipping the toilet after breakfast to take fresh dumps to the left of the blackberry bushes, we’ d cover our gift with sticks, wet dirt and our signature mashed muscadines. Even now we leaned to the right, out of habit, when passing through the vines at the entrance. Our traps never worked. The creek was littered with condom wrappers, chip bags and bottle caps.
“I wanted to show you this,” Diamond said, wading back toward the sandy tangle of weeds where we’ d dropped our stuff. She reached into her rucksack and pulled out a cream-colored training bra covered in tiny daffodils. She produced another one, robin’s egg blue with sparkly brown flecks. The tags from Thriftease read $14.99 and $12.99 each.
“Let me see,” I said, grabbing the bras with both my hands. They smelled like butter cookies and the scratchy cinnamon scent of the clove cigarettes her mom smoked.
“Did Ms. Loretta—”
“No. I bought them with my own money,” she said proudly, peeling off her shirt.
When Diamond was especially happy, her eyes disappeared behind feather duster lashes and cheeks that gathered into dimpled balloons on either side of her face.
I didn’t ask her where she got the money. I knew Mr. Thomas gave her and Cedric allowance money every Friday when he came over. It was the only night her mom made dinner and the only day I couldn’t visit after school. Instead, I watched Reading Rainbow in the living room until Grandmother fell asleep and then I switched to Moesha and watched it with the volume on loud.
Diamond didn’t squirm or pull away when I touched her back, even though my hands were cold. Her skin was slick with creek water and silt and her neck smelled warm and moist like dirt when you hold it in your hands too long. She bent toward me so I could get the straps over her shoulders, but her braids were in the way. We laughed, freeing the braids slowly from one strap and then the other while she tugged and pulled breathlessly at her chest. When it was my turn, I closed my eyes.
I heard them before I saw them. Cedric and his friends holding their stomachs, their screeches filling the entrance like blood flooding a mouth. Diamond was already at them in just a training bra, her cargo pants wet to the waist, screaming a banshee scream I had never heard make its way out of her small body.
“Get out! Get out! Get OUT!!” she repeated.
I stood behind her, bare chested and panicked while she tried to block the entrance by herself. Cedric rushed around his sister while his friends stumbled past the vines.
“What the hell y’all doing out here naked?” he asked, barely able to make it to the end of his sentence.
He plucked the training bra that Diamond had dropped with two fingers and whirled it around his head, a flash of blue catching in the sun.
“I knew y’all was up to some shit when y’all left the house in a rush earlier!” he exclaimed. “Y’all gay or sum?”
He looked at me, my skinny arms covering my chest.
The boys laughed dramatically, scattering in different directions and coming back together like an orchestra of beetles.
When I moved forward to grab the training bra Cedric held out to me, his eyes softened for a split second before they hardened again. He yanked the bra back and I tripped, falling face first into what smelled like the tobacco juice Temi’s dad spit out into Coca-Cola bottles.
Diamond emptied her rucksack, throwing coins, gel pens, squirting the boys with Capri Sun. When that didn’t work, she began throwing whatever she could get her hands on—rocks, mud, branches, old slimy vines from around the edge of the creek. The boys laughed it off at first, but when a clod of dirt landed on Omar’s new Girbaud jeans, suddenly it wasn’t funny anymore. He looked like he wanted to hit Diamond, but he didn’t dare while Cedric was there. Omar signaled to the boys to move. They started toward the entrance.
Cedric, the last of the boys to leave, walked the bra up to Diamond with his hands up as if to say okay, I’m sorry. I was just playing.
I knew that look. I’ d seen his hands fly up like that before. And I didn’t believe him. Diamond stood at the entrance, a sentinel on guard until the boys’ shadows disappeared behind the gated entrance of the pool in the distance. I walked over to where we’ d last undressed and grabbed my shirt, muddied now and probably torn. Pulling it over my head, I splashed some water on my hands and neck to loosen the dirt that had caked up while she dumped out the cookies and hot chips that had spilled into her rucksack.
“You okay?” I asked.
I found our shoes and quickly put mine on, no socks needed. She sat down to wash her feet in the creek and slowly unroll her socks over them so her shoes didn’t get wet. Each time she messed up, she started the process over again.
“Diamond,” I said.
She picked one shoe up and slowly unlaced it.
“Diamond, we need to hurry,” I said. My mother would be home soon and I needed to shower.
With that she slipped off the shoe she had managed to put on and began again, wriggling and squeezing and shaking out the shoe.
“Diamond,” I repeated.
“Well, go then!” she screamed.
And then, quietly, “Ain’t nobody home anyway but Cedric.”
In the shower I thought about what Diamond said and how she said it. Well, go then. As if I wouldn’t have waited—I’ d waited before. Or like it didn’t matter that I could get in really big trouble if my mother found out where I’ d been. Well, go then. And there was that last part: Ain’t nobody home anyway but Cedric. How she barely said it at all. What did she mean by that? Did she hear us? That day Cedric promised nobody would care if they saw us, because we were just watching television in his room and besides, there wasn’t any way anybody would think I was up to anything nasty. And I wasn’t, but I still thought about what happened in that room and sometimes it felt good to think about it and sometimes it made my stomach hurt.
Or did she mean that she didn’t want to go home at all? Was she scared? Was I a bad friend for leaving her?
Grandmother was already lying down in our bed when I came out of the shower. I tried to take a very long time in the closet so she knew I wasn’t in the mood to talk.
She was busy folding clean baatis, the free-flowing housedresses my mother bought in bulk from the plaza in town. I sat beside her and began folding a pile of my own.
“You know, when your mother first came to America, she had no one.”
“Not even your father, who was working in Nairobi at the time.”
I knew this part but not why he never came with us to America.
“He wanted you all to stay in Kenya,” she said. “He made enough at the time to support your mother and siblings and even your uncle Nuredin, who was a young man in secondary school at the time.”
“Where was I?”
“I don’t know. Where were you?”
I rolled my eyes, flipping the tag of the dress I was folding between my thumb and forefinger. I knew I wasn’t born yet; I just hated missing out on the important parts of the story.
“How come we left without him?”
“Because your mother wanted more for you.”
“How come Uncle Nuredin didn’t live with you?”
“At the time, I was living with your aunts Salma and Faiza in Garissa. It was easier for Nuredin to live with your parents in Nairobi where he could go to school.”
She could sense my confusion.
“Nuredin is younger than your mother and aunts because your grandfather married a second wife late in life. Your mother loved Nuredin like her own son. He would help her in the kitchen and make sure the house was swept and the dishes done early in the morning so she could make breakfast. When your grandfather died, your mother couldn’t bear to let him go. She asked if she could raise him and in return, she would make sure he got an education. His mother agreed.”
“Half-brother? Second wife?!”
My grandmother looked at me like I had better lower my tone.
“Wow,” I said, fingering a hole in my favorite baati. All of this information was suddenly too much. Too many people with too many homes in too many places.
“So Mama left for America with Nawal, Nasir, and her brother-son Nuredin?”
“Mhm,” she hummed, refolding the baati I had rolled into a long burrito.
“You probably don’t even remember Nuredin, but he loved you all so much. He and Nawal practically raised you while your mother worked two, sometimes three jobs so she could send for the rest of us.”
I tugged at the tassels fraying the edges of a particularly ugly baati. My memory of Nuredin was fuzzy. We had pictures of him around the house; him dressing us or feeding us or playing with us in the park, but then he disappears.
“Us who, Grandma? We don’t ever get to see anyone but you.”
“Us us. Me, your aunts Salma and Faiza, your cousins.”
“But how come we don’t—”
“Nasra, you ask too many questions. You have to slow down.”
Her hand was warm over my hand, sweaty and soft like dough. I felt something in me give, a little door I had stuffed shut creaking open, wider and wider, until I was crying, long jagged tears that scared me.
Before I could catch myself, a wall of flesh and frankincense was rocking me as if I were an infant.
“Shhhh,” she whispered.
“No one in this family talks about anything,” I sniffled.
“I know. I know.”
“And when I ask, everyone treats me like I’m a baby.”
“I know. All will come in its own time.”
“But how much time?”
“More time. People are more complicated than you think, Nasra. They’re not like the books you read. They need time.”
“But Nawal didn’t need time. Mother spoke to her like she was her best friend and she was just a teenager. But I’m a teenager and . . .”
“I’ll be thirteen soon . . .”
“Thirteen? Listen. Slow down. I am going to call your aunt. Take a nap. Okay?”
She moved the piles of folded baatis to the floor. We’ d put them away tomorrow.
Across from me, my fake sandstone alarm clock flashed 11:00 pm. A jiggly line of light danced from beneath the closed door. Judging from the echo in the hall, there was a serious meeting in the living room. I could tell because nobody whispered in our house, not even when they had something important to hide. I peeled my shirt off, shook out one of the baatis Grandma and I had carefully folded earlier that evening, and tiptoed to the edge of the hallway so I could hear better. My mom in particular sounded more exasperated than I had ever heard her.
“You were supposed to be watching her,” she said, emphasizing the her as if I was the only person who needed watching. Nasir was literally a year older than me.
“Watching her? What is she, a toddler?” my grandmother shot back. “She’s nearly grown. In Kismaayo, she’ d be married with kids by now. She’ d be cooking for her in-laws.”
Someone must have told my mom about the creek.
“That’s not the point,” my mother interjected. “That’s not how things work here and you know that.”
“Clearly, I don’t.”
“No,” Grandmother interrupted, “I am an old woman. I don’t know anything. It’s okay.”
“That’s not fair.”
Mother’s voice softened. I could tell she was trying to slow things down. I couldn’t see her, but I knew her hands were probably massaging her temple, her lips doing that thing where they gathered at one end of her mouth and then the other as she rethought her words in real time.
“Well, if you were here—” my grandmother started up, “if you talked to her—you’ d know.”
“I didn’t mean it that way.”
“Well, you said it.”
There was a pause where no one spoke and I couldn’t see what anyone was doing with their face or hands, but I knew Grandmother would turn the knife and she did.
“All I do is watch them—and in my old age when I should be resting. I don’t go anywhere. Nobody comes to visit me. Nobody asks about me.”
My mother sighed deeply before trying a different tack. She turned to my brother.
“Who told you all this?”
“Eddie, Rashad, Omar, they were all there.”
Nasir sounded sad, like he wished he had been there too, but was relieved that he hadn’t been.
“And where were you?” she asked him.
“Yes,” my grandmother interjected, “where were you when your sister was almost r—”
“What?! I’m being honest.”
“Please don’t speak like that around Nasra. I don’t want her worrying about that.”
“Oh, you don’t want her worrying about what could happen if she doesn’t behave like a girl with some self-respect? Okay.”
“That’s not what I meant, she’s just—”
“And what were we?”
Nasir shuffled off to go to his room. In the hallway, he jumped, but didn’t scream when he saw me—just walked past, shaking his head. I wondered what he thought he knew about me or the creek, what the boys told him they saw, or did.
My mother and grandmother continued to sit in the living room for a long time, their voices rising and falling late into the night.
They reminded me of Diamond and me when we were left by ourselves, exhausted by our complaining, too goofy and full of gossip to remember what we were fighting about.
Back in my room, I sat with my back cool against the wall and wrote in my journal. I thought about my older sister. How no one but Grandmother said her name in the house anymore since she’ d moved out years ago, even though she was the only other person who made my mother laugh like she did tonight. It was as if when my mother cleaned out her room for the last time, she also cleaned out all the parts of her my sister touched. It was cool that Mama’s best friend was Grandma. I wanted to know what that was like, to be so friendly with your mother you could yell and be scared and still end up laughing by the end of it.