Emily Pedroza | Art by Helena Ho

Lindsay, my aunt, swallowed one of those really big jawbreakers one day — said something about the joys of eating a globe? Or was that something her brother said? The problem was, it was massive. The size of a stomach. I found her clutching onto the yellow-stained toilet seat, stomach inflamed, then ran to call my mom from downstairs.

It didn’t take too long for us to get into the car, Lindsay kept hurling, but to no avail. Nothing came out. Watched as my aunt sloppily explained why she swallowed (not that she was sorry, Lindsay is never sorry.) I think I was more worried for her than any of us. My mom knew better, this was just one of her routines. My mother tells me her sister ran away as a child for a week — the reason for her never-ending hunger. Something that can never be wholly filled.

She got rolled into one of those emergency rooms, with bright fluorescent lights and a nurse who was trimming hot pink nails. Noses crinkled as they rushed us out. Soon, Mom was laying comfy on the tattered leather seats — thumbing through her purse, her blouse wrinkle-free.

I crept by, too bored (I had left my homework at home and needed a break anyway). Though it did nothing to ease the expression of her doctor. Her consonants blurred and she was out.

I was glad I hadn’t stayed for the sedation part, I’m terrible with needles. Next came the incision. It reminded me of a C-section YouTube animation — none of it seemed real. Not the purple stretch marks on her stomach, nor the way the globe shifted in her like some kind of sea creature. The head surgeon had calmly requested for A Thousand Years to be cued. Later, he started humming, mumbling lyrics off-key. I had almost cried, sitting there. Of silent laughter or fear, I don’t know.

I crawled back to the waiting area, where my mom had progressed to the sudoku on the backside of her newspaper, her ballet flats shifting. When I was six, I knew, instinctively, that the planets must revolve around my mother. There was no other explanation for the seemingly divine timing of things. By the time my mother finished the game board, almost instantly, the nurses had hefted my aunt out, who was half awake and frowning.

We used to joke that Lindsay’s stomach was endless. That day proved we were incorrect.

How can the things we crave the most be the most disastrous? When we got in the car, I noticed the somber downwards tilt of her lips and tossed her a lemon cough drop. The sugarless kind that no one liked to eat, that stayed exclusively in the car, baked through multiple Summers.

My mom sighed as my aunt asked for a second drop, and said don’t encourage her.

It made me reflect upon trust, something more fragile than I’d expected. That maybe no one knew of its formula, something completely volatile. Saw how my aunt’s face crumpled for a brief second. How grief settled into shadows.

I twisted my plasticy rings, unable to pick a stance. Then settled on switching the radio to staticy jazz.

How was your day? I asked.


Ah…that’s good.

We smiled.