I watched from the dunes as Swallow’s dad died in the surf. I had spent nearly every day that summer babysitting for car money, and the boy I watched on Thursdays loved to play in the sand. I often saw Swallow’s dad on the beach—weaving in and out of the waves in his embarrassingly technical spearfishing gear, throwing dead lionfish into his cooler.

Before I met Jonathan, I never drove on I-70 after dark. The interstate turns something pensive and angry when the sun disappears, not the place you’d want to travel.

My mother collects names like currency for all the children she will never have. 

My mother—saint of acrylic nails, military medals kept in shadow boxes, the brown leather jacket that I wear from September to April—is always eighteen when she visits me.

Below earth, the metro whirs through dark spaces. The lights, two unyielding eyes sunken into its forehead, precede it into the station and make Afia squint.

My abuelita is ten years old when she watches her birth mother bleed into a wooden bucket.

I was born into a thousand-year-old city...

My mother cut all of her hair off with a shard of broken bone so that it would not tangle when she roamed the highlands. She carried an axe that glinted in the sunshine like the holy symbol of a furious god.

My dad was a compulsive gambler, but I never minded because working two jobs to make ends meet as a junior in high school made me feel like a big shot. Like even though I wasn’t a father yet, I was the man of the family.