Nonfiction Finalist Minna Dubin

Aug 30, 2016 by

Nonfiction Finalist Minna Dubin

You & Me: The Prologue

Age 3 – When we are the same

You run down the big stairs to find your father in his basement workshop, building furniture, bobbing in a sea of tools and wood shavings. You love the mystery down there, the coolness of the cinderblock bricks, the smell of the wood, your father, quiet and all yours. You begin your sentence with Daddy, then dribble off in that nonstop way only a small child in love with this new skill of talking can. You don’t wait for a response. You do not need the adult affirmation of “Mmm” or “Huh.” You are still too young and unhindered to consider that your father isn’t listening or that listening is even part of talking. You bop around with your wide saucer eyes, picking up tools, inspecting and yammering. Eventually you find the mallet with the rubber head and beepboopbop back upstairs. You cradle that mallet in your arms for the next two years of nights. I imagine in your dreams, you are scampering through meadows, bopping field mice lightly on their heads, babbling happily as you go.

I arrive home from preschool and burst into the dark study, where my dad sits under the glow of a desk lamp, clacking on his typewriter in red shorts and no shirt. I climb onto his lap and hug him, his skin cool on my sweaty arms. He tells me to go change, knows what I want. I run to my room, pull on my blue sparkly one-piece and meet him barefoot on the lawn. I am already dancing on the grass, twittering in anticipation. I know how this game begins. The minute I stop dancing he will turn on the sprinklers and come running after me. I don’t think I stop, I never stop, but the sprinklers always start. All at once the cold water hits my face and I see the streak of my father darting across the lawn as he growls. I run, shrieking and laughing as he chases me through the spray. We do this until my chest explodes from terror and glee and I am all cooled off.

Age 13 – When we grow apart

Your dark brown hair sits in a fluff on top of your head. Your mother is attentive so it’s short on the sides; no Jew-fro for her son. Your glasses are copper metal frames dipping halfway down your cheeks and just reaching the tips of your eyebrows, thick as rainforest caterpillars, hints of the man your body will one day allow you to become. But not yet. Not now. Now you are in high school, thin as a pole and hovering at 5 feet tall, the lead in school plays. You are open face and ready grin, confused by the older boys. Are they such jerks, you wonder, because they drink and get high or do they drink and get high because they are jerks. You get your first girlfriend. She wants to go all the way, but you tell her no because you aren’t ready.

I am snarky and stoned, insecure and horny. I wear thrift store t-shirts and huge army green parachute pants that swish as I walk. Holden Caulfield was right–everyone is fake. I am ready to leave high school the second I arrive, but there’s nowhere to go since I hate my mother too. I get through by smoking joints between classes, scribbling information for tests between my fingers, the writing smaller than on those messages in bottles or the prayer scrolls in mezuzahs. By the end of the year I am in handcuffs for shoplifting so many clothes it’s a felony. The feel of the cuffs rubbing my wrists is right, something physical I can push back against. I finally get my braces removed and meet my first boyfriend, who I am dying to sleep with but never do, because we’re both too afraid to ask.

Age 18 – When we are strangers

John Lennon circle glasses and tapered corduroys. Puberty finally finds you and gives you the shadowy teenage mustache. You are at Berkeley, studying biology, going on field trips that teach you to read nature like a book. You backpack with your friends and become an outdoorsy boy, buy your first binoculars and watch birds for fun. You get placed in the African American Coop. One night, you find yourself laying your head in the soft lap of Latisha. She knows your sweetness, strokes your forehead, then directs her anger at your friend Jae, who has gotten you high for the first time, “What did you do to this boy?!”

Short spiky hair, hoop earrings big enough to brush my shoulders, dark jeans tootsie roll tight, and always the exclamation point of a fresh pair of kicks. Older men and fancy cocktails, smoking Camel Lights in dark New York underground clubs, bumping the latest Roots and the oldest Tribe. Kissing strangers on street corners, relieved to finally be sexy. Living my life, taking classes on the side, just how I imagined my grown up college life to be. Except for the painfully lonely part. The other students are from rich families and fancy high schools that taught them how to name-drop Nietzsche and Kant and other men I’ve never heard of but nod like I have. I take writing classes about race and colonization, search for the injustice I know is secretly living in everyone’s hearts to reveal itself so I can say, “That’s so racist.”

Age 24 – When we return to each other

You are shaved head and black goatee. Your grin soaks downwards, becomes an all-over body ease. I am just at that moment in development when I will allow myself to be attracted to someone who isn’t an asshole. Back in our respective home lives, you are applying to medical school; I am teaching GED classes. Our first morning at Burning Man, you ignore my tight jeans and my out-of-place big earrings among that group of Berkeley hippies we are camping with. Later you tell me it was because of the earrings and the jeans–I looked so put-together, you say, compared to that dust bowl motley crew. You see me–struggling to put up the tent and sparkle those puddle eyes at me. Realizing my outdoorsy ignorance has been spotted, I burst into laughter. You are verbal and sweet and careful paying attention. I am smart and sassy, and make you wipe your eyes from laughing so hard. We are now recognizable versions of the people we’re becoming. Amidst the madness we move towards each other and finally meet.



Minna Dubin is a memoir writer, creative writing workshop facilitator, and founder of the Bay Area literary public art project #MomLists.

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