Section 8


The afternoon me and Cuckoo find out it’s not the name of our neighborhood, we laugh until we’re drooling and choking on our spit. We roll on the floor until our mom calls us hyenas. Then things are not so funny. The free toys from Salvation Army are embarrassing because we’re Muslim and anyway, Santa never comes to houses that don’t have chimneys and real stockings, even though you left him milk and cookies warmed in the microwave. We were small and stupid. Now I hate the bulk food boxes we used to build Toytown, the garbage bag of Barbies and board games every winter, that I am not Andrew, whose parents come to school to talk about their jobs and give him money to buy 5, 6, 7 books at the book fair every month, that I have to write that my parents are “separated” on the free lunch forms. I want to ruin something for someone. Over the fence I say to Halima: hey, you’re poor, everyone here is poor. And Halima says, my backyard is nicer than yours. So what? I say. You got that patio set with welfare money so don’t pretend. She looks sad and then I’m sorry. Later some big girls come to my door and say, we hear you’re telling everyone we’re poor, and I say, we are, we all are, and they say, how the hell do you know? Because my brother told me. They don’t say anything because he’s bigger than all of us. No one will walk around the block with me for a while. We don’t look each other in the eye. Then we are back to double-rides and going halfsies on freesies from the corner store, and it doesn’t matter that our parking lot is full of cars all day and night, and that everyone writes their parents are “separated” on the school papers when everyone’s father is upstairs or outside doing God knows what.