Alternate Histories: 7/15, 8/19


Do people have that, climate anxiety?

Yeah, some people do.

I don’t have that. I grew up in the Caribbean and we have hurricanes every year, natural disasters all the time, so I don’t have anxiety about that. One thing I do have anxiety about is we have had some tremors here, we have had severe tremors, so I worry about that. So you believe in global warming?

Well, it’s not really a “believe” thing–I know that it’s happening.

I didn’t know what to think about it, but my son, I have a younger son, and he said, “Mom, it is for real–if you look at the Arctic, all those animals, the ice they live on is melting.” Sometimes when you say what you worry about people will look at you like you’re dumb, but everybody has their anxiety.

[I give her a RI organisms card with a fish on it–she reads the words on it out loud.]

My ex-husband was Pisces, the fish.

Do you want a different one?

No, it doesn’t matter to me. There was abuse, but not physical abuse, but I had to go.



S had come through fear of many kinds, and through the things that brought the fear, many of which she’d never tell to this white stranger. Some still weighed on her life, and some did not. At home, she put on a pot of rice and peas and called her son, listened to his voicemail message before hanging up. She would have done this again, to hear him, but the last time she did that, she did it four times, and he called her back holding down panic an hour later.

There’s always something to fear. How could you possibly take it all away? Build all the houses on–S leveled her palm over the countertop, feeling the spilled grains roll –on dry rice? She smiled, but with one side of her mouth only. Put on music, started to hum and flick her hips.

S remained, not in place, but in balance on the axis of her spine in the troposphere of her apartment and the orbit of her day. Around her, people her son’s age and plants no more than a year old sucked the poison out of the ground so that she wouldn’t have to eat it, and the poison out of the air so that she wouldn’t have to breathe it. Further out from her, people a little older than herself carried their grandbabies into the offices of powerful men–carried them diaperless, gumming bagels or juicy mango pits, and put them down on the carpeted floors. Still further out, soldiers began to withdraw from their bases and administrators from their offices in countries where they were not born. Further yet, a satellite tossed back her son’s recorded voice, and sometimes his present voice, filtered through signals.

S stepped freely, doing and being, trading decorous nods or full warm smiles with people whose orbits crossed hers. She left a pattern on the air, and when she died, who can say that this pattern didn’t remain, a signal to follow, a reminder to keep recreating and revising an order that could sustain her? Who would dare to say such a thing where she might still be listening?