But we could never escape the weight of those final weeks in Dhaka, what we had lost and what we had faced. We couldn’t forget my father’s blank expression before he left our flat for the last time, in search of supplies the day the war ended, nor the barbaric shrieks and shots that resounded through the window during the riot that ensued. We couldn’t forget the dark and bloated bodies on the road, or my own mother’s choking sobs, screaming my father’s name as we searched. In Calcutta, these memories enveloped us with tension as tangible as the white cloth we had placed over our father, after we found him a few streets from our building, already smelling of rot. Now, as I slashed Faisal’s ping-pong paddle like a boy, I felt this shroud beginning to unravel.
Once I was out in the general population, my laughing strategy turned to silence. I was given a job assignment in the laundry room and spent most of my non-working hours in the library reading or in the dorm writing letters. When I wrote to family and friends I tried to maintain the fiction that everything was copacetic. But my handwriting told a different story as the words shivered uncontrollably across the page like the last dash of a chicken whose neck has been wrung.
Carlos is not just any worm. Carlos’s immune system is so strong that Moonie can bombard it with legions of aggressive invader organisms, and Carlos fends them off. But what’s truly remarkable about this worm is that while gobbling up intruders like a worthy ninja, it screeches out the famous first bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
Aminatu sometimes found comfort in the fact that no one there quite knew her. Their expectation of the things she should have done or could have been was not humiliatingly high. To most who met her, Aminatu was “that young African woman.” That, in its ambiguity, was manageable. So she combined whatever it was to be African with what she was inevitably coming to know as black in America.
Why I Chose It: Michigan Quarterly Review Reader Matthew Wamser introduces Glen Hirshberg’s “Over” from our Summer 2020 Issue. A warning: It is so easy to fall in love with the father in this story. In the narrator’s hands, the father comes alive as a truly specific character who couldn’t possibly be anyone other than himself. As …