“She Couldn’t Openly Be Who She Was”

Rooms We Die In

I don’t know if I’m, like, “allowed” to link to this, because I know the author and edited the piece, but it’s the best thing I’ve read all month, and I’ve been thinking about it every day for weeks, and it seems dumb not to share something like that just because of an etiquette rule that I might be making up in my head.

So! I would like to recommend “Rooms We Die In” by Migueltzinta C. Solís, about Solís’s trip with his mother to clear out the residence of a recently deceased aunt who was a hoarder. The conditions they find inside are horrifying, but they also give Solís a glimpse of the personality his aunt never really revealed to her family — what she treasured and hoped for and feared. A preview:

What was aunt #6 thinking? Was it the having or the finding that compelled her? Had she thought she would sell it all someday? It didn’t matter. In this place, in this world, the way we do things around here, they were pieces of her, and I was throwing them away. The clothes she never wore, holiday decorations she never strung up, notebooks in which she never wrote, emaciated purses she never filled, rotting junk food she never ate. “This is really mouse-y,” I’d say, holding up, for instance, a bag of new clothes that bled mouse pellets and tiger-striped rayon out of small, round holes. Mamá would wave her hand, pushing the thing away from her. “Then get rid of it,” she’d say, and I would.

(Image by Julie Morse.)