In addition to our online issue, Essay also publishes a print issue featuring a different set of works by talented nonfiction writers. Enjoy these audio excerpts from some of the pieces in the 2019 print issue. If you would like a copy of the print issue, please email the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
the natural thing to do
by jason ferris
Sometimes, I would imagine myself living in Holocaust Germany. The world I imagined was a patchwork of the documentaries I had seen, the books I had read, the school projects I had done. Mom, Craig, and I are living in a small cottage in a Nazi-controlled village—I’m thirteen and Craig is fourteen—and there is a swastika emblemed flag poking out our second-floor window like every other family in town. Dad isn’t in this imagination world because he doesn’t have Jewish blood. In the kitchen, Mom is chopping celery for the potato soup when hard-eyed soldiers knock on our door and inform us that we have to wear on us the Star of David. They inform her that I also have to wear a pink triangle.
Our neighbors scowl at us on the cobblestone streets and at the market. They have a special scowl for me in which their frowns dip deeper and their foreheads wrinkle into something like a spider’s web.
When the imagination world flashed forward to gas chambers and atrophied bodies, I would shake off the developing story.
But, in the imagination world, I sometimes wished I could be sentenced to the same fate as Mom and Craig, all bearing the Star of David, all the same. We would starve and die together.
when your body isn’t enough
by alison cerri
I don’t feel right. I don’t feel anything. My head pulls back an inch. It shakes side to side. He asks if I want a drink. My mouth says yes into his ear as he leans forward to hear my affirmation. We walk towards the bar. His hand slips from mine as he fights his way to the front. My legs wade away through waves of men, trying to surface a face I recognize.
The memory plays again as if it’s looped.
The black and white film keeps rolling on the white board, but I’m stuck across the sea, in a club called Tiger Tiger, five months earlier. At least until my classmate turns the light on. As she flicks the switch my body rises and rushes to the door. My body uses the last of its waning strength to carry me to a bathroom stall downstairs, where I try to reclaim myself and my present and future for the next twenty minutes of class time.
by angelica m. ramos-santa
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
~ 1 Corinthians 3:16
I know wrath is a deadly sin, but so are envy and gluttony. I feel jealous every time someone posts a picture with their parents or siblings because I don’t have that anymore and I want it back. Sometimes I see parents holding the hands of their children on the sidewalk and I miss something I’m not sure I’ve ever had. I see siblings arguing in the department store over toys and I remember, with some increment of pain, all the arguments and fights I took for granted. I hold onto my friends and partner so tightly I scare myself into thinking I’m suffocating them. My biggest fear used to be the people that I care about dying, but I know now death is inevitable. I live knowing that a day will come when I have to live without my grandmother too. Now, what I’m most scared of is ending up alone. I’m scared of not holding onto people tightly enough to keep them. Still, I have hope.