An essay by Mira Ptacin
I am in California and I have just ridden a gondola into the Ice Age.
I bought the expensive cable car ticket because I wanted to catch a glimpse of the million-year-old lake everyone has been talking about. The lift carried me up two thousand vertical feet, over grey-green conifers, over brush fields with crunchy, thirsty-looking plants and gravel cliffs with caramel-colored soil. Steadily, I got higher and higher until suddenly, and only for about five or six seconds, I got to see the lake.
Lake Tahoe was giant, and startling, and still. The huge blue mass came out of nowhere; it was as if the trees had fortuitously parted to reveal a secret brontosaurus stealing a nap. But the car kept moving up and on until we reached the nosebleed section of the mountain. The gondola stopped. I got out. And here I am.
Below me is the Squaw Valley USA ski resort. I didn’t come to Squaw Valley to ski. It’s August, and there’s no snow. The reason I am in here on the west coast, in the opposite end of the country from my home, and high up in the Sierras is because I am participating in a summer writer’s conference. Seven days ago, I left Manhattan and Andrew and Maybe for a literary retreat and I have three days left before I am to leave and resume my life at back on 32nd and Third Avenue. But for the remainder of today, I will be hiking around Squaw Valley’s High Camp. In doing this I plan on appreciating nature. And by appreciating nature, I hope to make my mind clear and stable, make sense out of things, and reach some sort of conclusion, or final decision. They gave us the whole afternoon off.
Squaw Valley’s red, white and blue-colored pamphlet tells me that Lake Tahoe is subterranean; it’s almost five hundred miles deep. Her waters are so still and unmoving that people flock from all over the planet just to bear witness to her clarity. The lake’s creation was incidental and completely natural: millions of years ago, melting snow filled the southern and lowest part of the basin. Rain and runoff added additional water. Eruptions from an extinct volcano called Mount Pluto formed a dam on the north side, and, during the Ice Age, scouring glaciers helped shape the rest of the lake.
As I skim through the glossy brochure’s scientific explanations, I can’t help but recognize the words on the page as metaphors for my current situation: formed by a series of large faults; capable of large magnitude earthquakes; located within Desolation Wilderness; the youngest Deformation Belt. I smack the pamphlet with the backside of my hand, folding it up three times before tossing it into a nearby garbage can. “Shut up,” I tell it. Just shut up.
I am in California and I am the only thing keeping this baby alive. Without me, she is powerless.
Once, I called the baby a parasite. “This thing is a fucking parasite,” I said. I was so sick. I was so angry. I had spent the entire afternoon sprawled out on the tiled bathroom floor of our apartment like a piece of road kill, stationed alongside the toilet. The moisture from its cool porcelain base had apprehended tiny pubic hairs and lavender-colored lint. The floor stunk like ten-day old urine. And the fact that the urine probably wasn’t even mine made me feel even worse, and irrelevant. Besides the point. A means to an end.
For hours my brain and stomach churned like I had just stepped off a Tilt-a-Whirl. I couldn’t get a grip. I couldn’t control my vomiting. All I could get myself to do was moan. I was all alone in the apartment, all by myself but I could hear the sounds of thousands of lives right next to me, lives right on the edge of my periphery, not even fifteen feet away, kept separate only by a piece of drywall, or a glass window. Traces of people were everywhere— voices of strangers reverberating in the hallway, children shrieking on the playground’s monkey bars, UPS trucks, honks and sirens, food delivery to the next-door neighbor. Eventually, I fell asleep and awoke to the sound of Maybe barking as Andrew arrived home, turned his key and walked into the apartment.
When he called out for me, I pressed my shoulder blades against the bathtub and my pushed my swollen feet against the bathroom door. “Go away!” I answered. From behind the hollow door, Andrew laughed, told me I was adorable, but I refused to let him in.
“Can I come hang out with you in there, Medium Boo, please?” His words sounded muffled, like his lips were pressing upon the tiny gap where the stile met the frame.
“I just want to be alone,” I told him, and pulled my knees into to my chest as much as I could, dropped my heavy head into the space between them, and that’s right around the time when I called the baby a parasite.
“You’re so mad. Why are you always so mad?” Andrew heaved a sigh. “That baby loves you,” he said. “And I love you.”
“It’s just sucking the life right out of me,” I said, and I wasn’t sure if I was kidding or not.
I had been trying very hard to make sense of the new kind of love Andrew was talking about. It was difficult for me to understand it because I had never experienced anything quite like it. The new love completely unfamiliar, almost foreign, but at the same time it felt proverbial and natural. Also, it was fucking frightening. It was frightening because it was the kind of love that required a colossal amount of responsibility and tenderness, buoyancy and endurance, bravery and confidence—things I wasn’t sure I embodied, or would ever embody. It was frightening because from what I understood, in order for it all to be successful, I had to be strong, but I was having difficulty being strong because the new love that was growing inside of me was, at the very same time, draining every bit of love juice that I had right out of me. I had control over nothing.
I picked up my head and grimaced at the bathroom door. “The baby is making me feel like shit,” I scoured. My brown hair was pinned underneath a red bandanna, and the top button and zipper of my pants were undone. I wasn’t even wearing deodorant, not because I was careless but because I was worried that the gel’s chemicals would get into my bloodstream, and that I would pump the chemicals into the baby. I suspected that deodorant was toxic.
“I didn’t ask for this, you know,” I said. I wanted to say something that would make Andrew feel the way I did—afraid and embarrassed and irritated and sad, but there was nothing. It was a greedy notion but I couldn’t dismantle it. I knew Andrew hadn’t planned for this to happen, either. Neither one of us had asked for it, but Andrew was trying his best to make this work. He was really happy. And even though I was as unpleasant as a bee sting, it was apparent that he was still very excited about me, his new love. He was excited about the baby and the new reality of the three of us becoming one family. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t flying through the air or singing with joy. I loved Andrew. I liked babies. So why wasn’t I feeling optimistic? Why was it so hard for me to be happy?
Eventually, I let down my guard, said Andrew could come in if he still felt like it, and Andrew stepped in, smiling unwaveringly. He sat down next to me on the tiles, reached out his hand, and told me everything was going to be okay. I remember how hesitant I was in accepting it.
Now, in California, and still, my breath and my blood and my body’s nutrients are sustaining the life inside me. Without me, this baby is helpless. Without me, she will die.
I am her lifeline. I am her barrier from mortality. Once this baby leaves my body, the pregnancy will end. The baby will disappear. Or as the doctors told us in the ultrasound, it will die. The medical specialists rapidly fired all of this information and more upon me, like a squad of bazookas, immediately after the ultrasound and right before I left Manhattan and flew to California. Their facts were incessant. Words I couldn’t pronounce. Holoprosencephaly. Images I cannot forget. Clubbed feet. Deformed spine. Collapsed skull. Broken heart.
“It is sick,” the doctors told us. Sick was the adjective we used to deliver the prognosis to everyone else. “It is sick and cannot survive outside the womb,” said, and that’s how we explained it to our families. But we called the baby “baby,” not an “it.”
The specialists poured on layers of genetic details, too, but it’s been impossible for me to retain any of the scientific data and medical minutiae, so Andrew to act as our secretary, our project manager. My fiancé is our ambassador. He’s taken the wheel. While I am away in California gathering my composure, Andrew is at home in the eye of the hurricane, collecting the explanations and updates then relaying his data to me, to my parents, to his parents. He is doing more for me than a man I haven’t even known for eight months should ever be expected to do. Over the phone, Andrew updates me with more validating points (amniocentesis test results are showing more neural tube defects), he tells me about more of the things he’s taken care of that I won’t have to worry about when I arrive home (the rent is paid, the apartment is clean and our roommate will go back to Long Island to spare us a few days of privacy), he shares with me more facts he’s researched on chromosomal flukes and genetic inheritances, (Coincidence. It’s nobody’s fault) and I accept all his words like a soldier, even though no matter how many sentences come out of the telephone’s receiver, I hear only one single, solitary truth to this warped, colossal calamity: that our baby just ain’t going to be. That this sweet and scary, gigantic tiny new kind of love growing inside me won’t be developing much more. That the end of the road is right up ahead of us, or so it seems.
I am standing on a plateau. The air is thin and difficult to breathe. The trees stretch to infinity and the gravel path is as grey as amnesia. I imagine the environment up here probably doesn’t change too much. Pebbles, moss, pines, sky. Timeless and homeless; I could be anywhere right now. Any country, any state. Stable. Set. Fixed. Secure.
Ahead of me, an upward-climbing path splits in two different directions—take a left and you’ll go through a parched meadow spotted with delicate violets and tiny yellow flowers, and white people walking through them, white people clad in expensive outdoor performance gear. Take a right and who knows? A fat jack pine blocks my view to the remainder of the trail. So I go right. And as I turn the bend, a pair of familiar faces emerges, arriving in long upward lunges.
“Howdy,” the gentleman says, panting. The two hikers lean on luxurious chrome walking sticks and carry Camelback water packs with clear straws that rest on their shoulders. If they are to get thirsty, all they have to do is turn their heads to the right, wrap their lips around a plastic nipple and suck.
I say “hello” back as his counterpart, a woman, begins unzipping the knees of her pants, turning them into shorts. We both watch.
“I’ll bet your baby is going to be a forest ranger,” the man says.
Ugh. Here we go. I rub the torso of my cotton t-shirt in a circular motion, forcing my lips into a discomfited grin.
“Or a mountaineer!” the woman adds.
I recognize these two faces from the dining hall. The woman is a playwright. The man is a fiction writer. Both of them don’t know that what they’re saying couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Perhaps. We’ll see. Thanks,” I tell them.
“You go girl!” perks the writer.
Ugh. “Okay. Thanks,” I say and continue on.
The road in front of me morphs into a dried up channel coated in pebbles and pinecones that may make it tricky for me keep my balance on the way down, but I see there is a reward at the bottom of the descent: nothing. At the bottom there is a big, open, natural plaza of tall grass and glittering soil, and nothingness. Absolute nothingness. Your baby is going to be a mountaineer! Once I get down there, I can finally be alone. I’ve got to get down there.
Because there is never any escape. In Manhattan, there are nearly 1.7 million people living in a little island less of less 23 square miles, which means there are nearly 72,000 residents per square mile, which means there is never any respite. In New York City, you get no rest, no sympathy, or relief. Thousands of bodies constantly envelope you, making you feel like a minnow in a school of fish, but you’re always alone in your commiseration. In New York, you gotta keep up. If you fall, you’ll get left behind. You slow down, you’ll get run over, most likely by a yellow cab.
Here in sunny California, though, it appears to be just the opposite. Here in the yawning, open state of California, life seems to move at a much slower pace. People in California have the luxury of space and sun. In California, you can see the sky and you realize what the weather is. And in California, people ask and people listen. In California, you get asked your story and people are interested in it. This does make sense, I suppose. After all, we are at a writer’s colony.
Even though the fact that New Yorkers look right through one another frustrates me, I don’t want to tell these Californian strangers my particular story. Before I arrived to Squaw, I chose not to tell anyone at Squaw Valley the truth to what’s really going on inside of me, underneath the surface of things. Why should I volunteer that information? I can just imagine the exchange:
Stranger asks: How many months along?
Mira responds, candidly: Five months. But perhaps only six more days left.
I will not tell any of my fellow writers my predicted misfortune. This week is my time, my own personal era to be frozen in the present moment. My very own ice age. My chance to disappear from the congested rat race of New York and the unsympathetic commotion that is always muffling any subtle thought I get. Here, on this mountain, I will sit in quiet. I’m not going to think about the doctors, the parents, the others, or him, or her, or them, or you, or anyone. Yes. Here on this mountain, I will listen to my thoughts. I will sit and wait and listen for an answer to what the right thing is to do.
I manage to make it to the clearing at the bottom of the trail without falling on the loose grave. Down here, the moss is as soft and silky and green as algae. I slump down next to a scratchy rock covered in bird droppings. I am so out of breath. I am so tired, and I realize that there is no way I will make it back up the trail without keeling over and falling deep into slumber.
I roll onto my back, spread out in the snow-angel position with my legs in front of me and my arms out to my sides. I squint at the blue sky above. The sun is fierce. An ash-colored hawk swoops overhead, scouting for prey and covering the sun’s glare for a fraction of a second before it blinds me again.
I try to imagine what it would look like if the hawk swooped down and carried me off into the sky. Off the hawk would carry me, my legs dangling in midair. The hikers would look up, be flabbergasted and no one would ever believe their tale. It would be perfect, a perfect, odd picture, this escape of mine. But fat fucking chance. Not at this weight. Perhaps a more realistic reverie would be of the hawk plucking Maybe off the ground. A similar incident happened last year in Central Park: a bird-of-prey dive-bombed some Manhattanite’s Yorkshire terrier last year. My friend witnessed the spectacle, said the hawk dove down and snatched the little Yorkie right off the footpath, leash and all. Evidently the owner went bananas; I’m sure she won’t step foot in the park again. Maybe she even left the city itself. But with our dog, the hawk would really have to labor to get her off the ground. The bitch would really put up a fight. Plus, she’s chubby. The Central Park hawk would be dipping and dipping down until he finally gave up on Maybe as a meal, then he’d fly off for some smaller bites. Like a teacup dog. Tapas. Like a Yorkie. Yorkies—they’re not even real dogs. Essentially, they’re toys. Completely senseless. Senseless dogs for senseless New Yorkers, I think, then correct myself: Stop it, you cynic. Now is the time for you to detach from your anger, I think. Now is the time to think, I think, but it’s nearly impossible for me to focus. I am in California and I am anesthetized.
You need to focus! I close my eyes. You are on a mountain in sunny California. You need to focus because I believe you hold a baby’s fate in your hands.
A high-profile prostitute. An Olympic skier. An anorexic. She left her husband, grabbed the kids, bought a boat and sailed the world. She was abused by a priest. All my classmates are writing about their sorry lives. Everyone has had something terrible to share about something terrible that has happened to them, and all this talk of feelings makes me a bit bitter and edgy. I’m wondering, Why is everyone volunteering such deeply personal stories? Why is everyone at this conference writing about their horrible nightmares? What is the point? Writing is not for therapy, people. And how am I supposed to critique a diary entry? We are here to make art. We are here in California to turn real life into art and I refuse to write about my sorry case, because there is nothing new under the sun. Who cares about my sad story? I brought a different story with me to work on. I am going to write about other people. Immigrants. Yes. A murder. Sex. Drugs. Violence. I hear those kinds of books sell.
Anyways, I think, withholding the information doesn’t make it a lie, or unreal. Preservation just keeps things from getting more convoluted and loud. What’s the point in sharing my story with people I don’t even know? If I told them what is supposed to happen next, what the truth is, what my story is, everything would change. And then I would be even more confused. I might even blow up.
I never knew about it when it happened. It was a little while after Jules died, after I left Battle Creek. After Jules died, I didn’t want to look back at my hometown so I never did. I never stayed in the loop, never read the Enquirer newspaper. And then last year Mom told me about what happened: Illegal Korean immigrants murdered at the Happy Spa massage parlor. Mom had been following the story for years. She was fascinated and devastated by the immigrant tale, a story similar to her own about women leaving their corrupt country for the Midwest in hopes of finding a better life. But these women were sex slaves. Their situation got bad, then worse, then worse. And then, murder! Angry, blue-collar men on drugs. The newspaper said it was an attempted robbery gone awry. It was titillating. A Truman Capote-kind of story. Thrilling. Not a diary entry, not a memoir. Sex sells, and we need the money to raise the baby. At least that’s what I thought up until the day we went to get the ultrasound. Ultrasound. . .
In the ultrasound, the doctors told me I have three choices:
I am aware that once I arrive home from California, Andrew, my parents, and the doctors will expect me to have picked one of the three numbers and made a decision. I have promised myself that today, before I come down from this mountain, I will have brought down the gavel. Focus.
The deliberation in my head starts back up: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Once the baby leaves my body, she will be gone forever. So how long do I want to keep her inside of me? Who has the right to her life? And what is respectful to mine? She will die either way, so does this mean I have more of a right to choose when she will die? We all die. No of us make it out of here alive. We will all die eventually, so what justifies my decision to choose when this baby will die? I am her life support system. Is it similar to pulling the plug on a comatose patient who will never wake up? What if she dies inside of me before I go home?
I clutch my abdomen. For over five months, the baby and I have spent every second together, but I still haven’t really felt her. There have been many times where I’ve held perfectly still at night, anticipating some kick or flutter, but she’s never once kicked or fluttered. I’ve waited for her to give me a sign, for her to make this all seem real and recognizable, but I never felt what I thought I should: a spark, another presence. There is my large belly, there is my nausea, but I don’t feel her. I feel completely alone. Is it because I don’t realize her? Or is it because she’s not really there? I’ve felt a million different things, but I can’t tell which one is her.
I thought the ultrasound would make the baby feel real, feel alive and with me. I thought that once I saw the baby on the screen, the magic would come pouring in. I would feel like the mother, not the child. The guilt of the premarital pregnancy of a Catholic-raised girl would evaporate. I thought that once I saw the baby, not an invisible ball of emotions but an actual baby, I would feel relief and love would take over, and I wouldn’t care anymore about what anyone else thought, or said or did. But the ultrasound did not do what I had anticipated, and the baby continues to remain a phantom. A figment of my imagination. And I have a feeling I’ll never reach what I’ve been told is the exuberant stage of the pregnancy. First there was shock. Then anticipation. Then confusion. Then shame. Then uncertainty. Then enthusiasm. Then fear. Then anticipation. Then chaos. Now disorder. Now anger. Now Goddamn zal.
Ever since the ultrasound, the doctors have been explaining everything like there isn’t really a baby inside me, like there never was. Once Andrew and I left the ultrasound, everything got all . . . procedural. Technical and cold, like metal. Like the thing inside me is nothing more than a conked out bundle tissue and blood and flesh. Flawed. So, what?
Are they right? The baby has no brain. It cannot breathe, they said. She cannot think. It cannot feel. These are the things I know because these things because the doctors told me, the facts the doctors in New York seared into the great open dome of my heart. She is alive and she is not alive. She is not quite a stillborn, but there is a strong possibility she may die in my womb. Any day. It could happen any day. And if she doesn’t die inside of me today, or tomorrow, or in ten or twelve days, and if I wait and I do deliver, she will die immediately after. Or during.
My pocket vibrates. I open my eyes, puzzled and squinting, reach down for my phone and read the caller identification. It’s Andrew.
He asks me how I am holding up, tells me he’s okay, the dog is doing okay. He asks me how classes are, am I sleeping all right, eating okay, making friends; I lie and say that all is well.
“That’s good,” he says. “What else?”
“My new friends are telling me I look great for a pregnant lady,” I tell him.
“That’s nice,” Andrew says. “Anything else?”
“They asked me if it’s a boy or a girl. I told them hows we’ve named her Lilly.” I try to keep the dialogue moving quickly but our exchange becomes choppy and the space between us grows larger. The conversation hesitates, then halts, then Andrew brings up what I’ve been circumventing.
“Boo, did you decide?”
“Decide on what?” Denial is not a river in Egypt.
“Mira, come on. Your decision. About the pregnancy?” he asks and abrasively, I say nothing back. “Look, I just got off the phone with your dad,” he says.
My parents have been suggesting I choose door #3: Induce and deliver. When I called her right after the ultrasound, Mom said that if choose to let the doctors induce the delivery, I could be conscious, I could push out my baby, I could have the chance to see the baby, to hold it and say goodbye. Mom said this might give me closure, and that closure is a very important element in the process of healing. But when I thought about option # 3, I pictured myself draped in baby blue paper gown, feet propped, slippers, hairnet, pushing, sweating, bleeding, delivering a lifeless, barely recognizable red hot creature, or grey blue mass of tissue and it terrified me. No one mentioned what I would be giving birth to. Would she be alive? Would she make sounds? Coos? Cry? Will she move? Will she be alive? Would she be dead? And then after I give birth, what will they do with her? How long would I hold her? Do I want to? I am afraid of what I might see. I am afraid of what I will feel. I am afraid of being haunted. I cringe and start to feel sick. I gag.
“Mira?” Andrew asks. “What’s going on over there?”
“Nothing,” I tell him.
“I talked to your parents and Dr. Stein,” he says.
My parents. What my parents or the doctors didn’t understand was that option #3 sounded like the worse choice in the world. What Mom or the doctors didn’t mention was what I would exactly be delivering, or what I would see. Or whether or not at five months a delivery would be painful. Or how much I might rip or tear. Option #3 horrified me. If I delivered, would I still adhere to my mantra of “natural” and drug-free childbirth? Would it be safe for me? What about me?
The word “violent” had been fluttering in and out of the conversations between Andrew, my parents and me for the last three days since the options were presented. Dad told us that from what he understood, if I terminate the pregnancy, the procedure is a “violent” one. A late-term abortion means a violent surgery. (What did this mean, “violent”?) While it sounded the least natural, it was what I was leaning towards, but with such a word being used to describe the preference of my pregnancy’s fate, I started to look at myself as a savage. I thought my parents would also start looking at me as a selfish brute and this made me defensive. Their opinion mattered too much.
“But the baby is not going to live, Andrew!” I cry into the phone. I’m feeling guilty again and start to unravel. “Doesn’t anyone realize that the baby isn’t going to live? It’s all over.”
“Let’s just talk, Boo,” he says.
“I want to do the best thing, I really do, but I can’t see what is right or wrong. I don’t know the difference between moral or immoral right now.”
“There, there,” Andrew says. “Who does?”
“Men! Men in government. Men in business suits. It’s the freaking men. What do men know about babies and vaginas? Men can not give birth!”
“I know men can’t give birth, Medium Boo.”
“God does not have white skin and a white beard! God is not Caucasian!”
“I know God isn’t Caucasian, Boo.”
“And if I’m the only thing keeping the baby alive, then I’m the life support system. And it’s not illegal to pull the plug on a comatose patient, is it? Is this a sin?”
“Shhhh,” Andrew says. “It’s okay. You’re okay. It’s okay.”
Frustrated and afraid, I start to cry again, and the noise of my crying sounds ugly to me and makes me cry harder.
“Shhh, shhh, Boo, calm down,” Andrew says. “Look–”
I’m sobbing, taking long heaves of breath between my words. “Everyone must think I don’t care about the baby. They think since I’m not excited that I don’t care,” I say. “You think I want to kill a baby, don’t you?” My mind is spinning like a car on ice.
“Jesus! This is my entire fault. I don’t want to hurt the baby! I didn’t want this to happen. This is all my fault!”
“Mira, STOP!” Andrew shouts, and shatters my desolation. “I just got off the phone with your dad,” he says, “Your parents changed their minds. They think you should terminate.”
“Your mom and dad want you to have the procedure. The surgery,” he says. “Dr. Stein explained the whole case to him and your dad thinks it’s the best and healthiest option for you,” he says.
I manage to steady my breath. “What?”
“He said it’s not what he thought it was, or something like that. And he said there is seaweed involved or something but look—we are on your side, okay?” Andrew says. “Just don’t worry about anything. You didn’t do anything wrong. You’re all right, okay? You’re all right.”
“How?” I ask.
For a few minutes, Andrew tries to explain the details of the decision I had already made but couldn’t admit. He tells me it has a name: DNC – dilatation and curettage. “It ain’t pretty,” he says, “and it involves seaweed apparently.” He reminds me that nothing about what has already happened is going to be easy, and that there’s nothing wrong with taking care of myself. That after this is all over, everything is going to be okay. “What you are going through will make you stronger,” he says, which reminds me of a Polish proverb my mother gave me once before. Nie ma tego z?ego co by na dobre nie wyszlo. Bad things usually turn out to be good for you. I always believed those words to be a load of hogwash up until this year, up until this particular moment when Andrew convinced me to open myself up to a new interpretation and forgiveness of myself.
I lean back into a bed of twigs. There is nothing left in my mind. Beneath my eyelids, I see blue-black, and I can’t think of a single thing. I will sit in this nothingness for as long as I can, and when the sun sets, I will make my way back to camp.
Under my eyes, I feel airy and weightless. I drift, doze. I fall into a trance and suddenly, a blast of air and the firm pressure of plumes presses onto my face and my chest. The sense of a presence or the feeling that someone is watching me flashes me back into lucidity, and when I shoot up to see who is there, I’m still alone. There is nothing, other than the setting sun and a navy sky.
By the time I return to base camp after having just barely caught the last gondola down the slope, the dining hall is empty at the writer’s colony is cleared out. Only a handful of summer kitchen staff members remain, mopping the cafeteria floors and stacking chairs and making it apparent that while I had been off on the mountain, the rest of the world had been going on just as well without me.
Mira Ptacin is a Brooklyn-based creative nonfiction and children’s book writer, as well as the founder and host of Freerange , a successful nonfiction reading series located in the heart of New York City that brings together up-and-coming and established writers on one small stage to share their work with the rest of the world. She has her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, where she was editor-at-large of their literary magazine, LUMINA. Mira’s writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications, such as The Morning News, Anderbo, Cerise Press, LUMINA, Epiphany, SMITH Magazine, Nerve.com, the Citron Review, CommonDreams.org, Truthout.org and more. She’s a contributing writer to the forthcoming book, The Moment (2011 Harper Perennial) and she recently ghostwrote a children’s book, which will be published in 2011. This year, she was nominated for the 2011 Best American Essays as well as the 2011 Pushcart Prize. She’s currently at work on a memoir, from which this piece was excerpted.