Five+ Stories


Growing up I always had crooked teeth. When I smiled it was always closed. 

I hated smiling for photos. Both of my parents had straight teeth, my sister had straight teeth so I hated my teeth even more.

In middle school, I went to the dentist and asked for braces. I found out that 4 of my teeth had no permanent teeth under them so I had them taken out. I found out one of my teeth grew upwards so I had that taken out. 

My face was swollen for a week.

How embarrassing.

I hate my crooked teeth.

That One Horrible Feeling.

Book Report. An easy sixth-grade assignment- write a summary on five different books once per month.

But I forgot to do it. How embarrassing. When our teacher came past our table, I don’t remember his name, he bent down to pick up the packet of papers. 

“Vanessa, where’s your book report?” 

Eyes are on me. “…I forgot it.” My face burned. “Sorry.” 

“That’s fine, bring it in tomorrow.” 


I forgot to do it.

“Do you have it?”


“I’ll have to mark this missing until you bring it to me.” A disapproving tone emits from his words.

My eyes turn downwards and towards his shoes, red socks. “Okay, sorry.” 

I don’t know why I took so long to do it. Why I feel this, knowing what’ll rid it. I don’t know why anytime there’s a deadline, nervous, antsy energy fills my body, makes my leg jump up and down, and my head rush.

This pattern continues on for the rest of that year. I don’t know why I didn’t turn it in. Even months later, it was still missing. It turned my grade down from an A into a B. I wonder why I didn’t turn it in. Why do I fail at these easy tasks?

Memories such as this make something curdle inside my chest. 


My entire family has black, shiny hair. My mom’s hair is thin and wavy, it reaches her shoulder blades and whenever I brush it, clumps fall out. My dad’s hair is straight and thick, it sticks up from his head like it’s reaching for the sky, and when I run my hands through it, the spikes stab me. My sister’s hair is soft and bouncy, it flows everywhere, though when I touch it she’ll slap my hand and tell me not to. She’d brush coconut oil through her hair every day, the smell is strong, poignant, and sits in the air. When my brother was born, he had fuzzy little hair that encircled his entire misshapen head. 

My hair is thick and wavy, too thick. During springs and summers, I would always groan and prattle on about how I was gonna cut it. But I loved my hair too much, it was soft like my sisters and wavy like my moms. 

Then my sister dyed her hair pomegranate pink, not the color on the outside but the vibrant pink that comes when you peel it apart. The vivid color that faded closer to the color of worn-out soles. I dyed my hair a dark candy pink, my mom laughed when she heard I wanted pink hair, always wanting to be like your sister

But, I felt wrong when I looked in the mirror. I looked wrong. 


I cut cutcut it all off. Ribbons fell to the floor in short, long streaks. Misshapen pink spikes sprung from my head. And in the mirror was a rash, thoughtless girl.

My Walk

The bell rings everyday. The hot walk under the California sun. Around the corner past the apartments. Along the flowering torch lilies with five petals, the sweet smell lingers in the air. Make sure to avoid the dog that barks whenever you pass it. Down the sidewalk, right now the sun is facing you head on. Look down. Watch your step, the sidewalk is bumpy here and there. Don’t put in your headphones. Listen for the rumbling of wheels as they pass by you, bikes, skateboards. Groups of kids take up the entire path. Slow down. Up the steps and over the wall. Past the restaurant that gets so few customers, the smell of cooking meat wafts from the open door and lingers in the air. Along the park, don’t step in the grass. It’s still dewy. Down the line of Jacaranda trees, breathe in the scent of flowers as they tumble down. Sliding doors open and the scent of crisp papers greet you.


The night market was lined with crowds of people. Children dressed in ao dais, pinks, blues, and reds swarmed past the car when the crossing sign ticked to green. Everything was lit up red, by hanging lanterns and dancing dragons. Sprinting to get further ahead, white and pink swished at my ankles and glitter fell from my arms in waterfalls. Closer and closer the ground shook more and more, drums played a rhythm and dancers twirled on stage. 

Painted hands grabbed my shoulders. Make sure to stay away from the smokers in the back. And off we went. 

A box of firecrackers was shared between four of us. We would throw it at each other’s feet and made a test of bravery for who would squeeze them in their hands, or if you were brave enough, your mouth. 

Bubbles sprung from toys and floated in the air, capturing the entire world within them. Encased within were distorted images of food stalls, groups of people laughing, children running as everything was lit up by red.

Switching through swathes of colors, running to chase after it, after red.

(more info: white ao dais are typically worn by younger people and symbolize purity. While red is a more mature color and is typically worn by older people. As women, in particular, grow older the colors go from white to pastels to dark tones like red or green)

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