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March 09, 2011 - Image 12

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2011-03-09

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Wednesday, March 9,2011/ The Stement 5B

When.the World Gets Wise
By Nazifa Islam
IF THE WORLD GETS WISE
DECIDEWS IT OES ANT TO
FALL

Just a Cousin
By Erin Carney
What I will never forget is the green carpet in your
room, which would later hold your vomit. And your
walls. Those dark green walls. I remember star-
ing at them for the first time, wishing I had a favorite color.
I remember you playing music for me, the Euro-techno-pop
bouncing through the line of light between your blinds, diving
down through the dark air, and slowing as it moved through
the thick Florida humidity. I remember sitting there listening,
looking at you and the green walls and the Star Trek figurines
and the cases upon cases of CDs, wishing someone would teach
me to love music as much as you did. I remember sitting on
the floor in front of your TV, the channel choice deliberately
chosen, and you pointing to the screen, looking back and forth
from my face to the woman on the show (gauging my reaction),
saying a few times, "You know that's a man, right?" And me
looking back and forth from your face to the woman on the
screen, saying curiously, "That's weird."
What Iwill never forget is how red became my favorite color
after that. How I compulsively listened to music after that.
Those things you taught me then. But now I've learned to hate
that I called it weird, and I spend hours studying my shame
over that eight year old girl, the twelve year old, the nineteen
year old. Why didn't we help you. You gave me color and music.
Why didn't we help you. It's only been two years of my life I've
served, and I'll spend the rest of it doing penance for you. See,
look at that: you're not even here and once again you've rewrit-
ten who I'll be. Why didn't I help you. Now I wander the streets

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f

obsessively watching the lives of others, repeatedly offering
my help, and permanently waiting on standby. You've taught
me that.
"We watched this video in biopsychology about how one
twin brother had soldiers and weapons all over his room while
the other had Barbies and dolls and pink and frills. They were
talking about how already you could tell one's sexual orienta-
tion so early. You know, because of the Barbies and the rest-"
"-like Michael," dad said, smirking over his plate. I remem-
ber he looked up, opened his mouth, and forked in another
corner of his chocolate cake. Mama kicked his fifty-three year
old knee underneath the table. The one that had the screw in
it. If grandpa had been at that dinner, he probably would have
kicked him a lot harder (wouldn't you agree?). It seems the
faces in that family picture from 1994 have remained static;
you've had no effect on them. Still negligent and indifferent.
Like I was to you. Like they are now to me (because you were
just a cousin). That dinner I remember a shockwave through
my brain as your name bled through every synapse. Looking
out at September, I realized I hadn't heard your name since
April. I wasn't able to say it again until November, but even
then it seemed like the most difficult word to expel. Everything
had gone blank by then, inexplicably erased, and I had forgot-
ten your green room, Star Trek, rural Florida, and RuPaul.
And now that you've left me alone here, heavy with grocery
bags of regret in each of my hands, the plastic twisting around
my fingers cutting off the circulation, my muscles too under-

developed to cope, I wait for the same thing for which you
waited: help. Only now am I noticing how the trestles that prop
up daily life are brittle, how it's just the neighbor's face behind
Santa's beard, and re-reading that Thoreau line over and over
and over: "life of quiet desperation." Now, just like you, I lose
something every time I talk to someone, begging in my head
that they just ask one question about me (about you), but they
don't. They only stick a spare dollar in the cup but don't make
eye contact. I'm sure you knew that feeling well. How did you
make it so long knowing that all of the conversations, the rela-
tionships, the family and friends-knowing that all of that was
just small talk? How did Iever expect you to make yourself feel
better, when you discovered that the secret behind it all was
that no one really cared if you got better or not?
I saw that shade of green on the streets not too long ago, and
I thought about your room, empty now with only the imprints
of furniture on the carpet, a few remaining tufts of dog and cat
hair floating in the air. I sat myself down on the faded green
carpet and looked around, wondering how I'm supposed to
carry on knowing that secret you taught me. My life seems so
empty now, just like this room, just like yours was. Where the
hell is everybody? Did you ever figure that out? I can't see you
and I've forgotten your scent, but I can still hear those songs.
Maybe you left behind music deliberately to help me get along.
I can't play it just yet, but I still listen for now. I cling to its
sound so desperately for now. And maybe you left me that to
help me rebuild, a small inheritance to keep me alive.

AT
FR
FEET

-

SHOVE IT AWAY.
IT'S NOT NEEDED
WE HAVE STARS.,

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