J Brooke is an Honorable Mention in Streetlight’s 2020 Essay/Memoir Contest There were many reasons I didn’t play with Barbie dolls. Besides being gender-nonconforming before the term existed, besides not liking girls in my class who did play with Barbie dolls, and besides knowing that for every Barbie I was given for a birthday or holiday, there was some present I would have actually enjoyed that I would now never receive, there was the utter anatomical stupidity of that useless toy. Forget Barbie’s disproportionately tiny waist and large breasts that became famed objects of scrutiny … Continue reading Finding Barbie’s Shoes by J Brooke
When self-isolation measures were first enacted, five-year-old Vivian seemed excited about the whole thing. A new experience, unique to this time and place. She was playing with her mom, she yelled from her porch, so all was good. She rode her scooter up and down the driveway when the sun was out; hung drawings across her wide front window when it was time to come in. Not everyone was as excited though. “Why shut down the entire country?” my Toronto neighbor lamented. “You can’t stop everyone from working! Our economy will be in the toilet!” … Continue reading The Silence is Deafening by Benjamin Rempel
The visit was long overdue. At my wife Margie’s suggestion, I decided to do something about it. So, on a summer day that was forehead-dripping hot with a steely blue sky, the two of us strolled in shorts and sandals up the Toronto street where I first lived. The cicadas sang lustily. Did they remember me? We walked past Charlie Haskin’s house. It hadn’t changed as far as I could tell. I recalled sitting in the back seat of his big gray Ford Tudor sedan in 1946 while waiting for my mother to emerge from … Continue reading The Stairway by Thomas Laver
Pocast: Coming of age. A short story performed by Jennifer Sims. Read the story online: Vanilla Music for Sinister Women Coming of Age by Mark Galarrita Follow us!
Podcast: Left at home. A short story performed by Joe Guay. Read the story online: Diluted by Jaime Balboa Follow us!
When I was five years old my stepdad, Bill, found Precious as a stray kitten in the parking lot of his office and brought him/her home. We had him/her fixed at the appropriate time, but later, no one could remember which surgery had been performed. Was the cat spayed or neutered? We decided Precious was a girl—why else would we have named her Precious? And besides, don’t all cats seem inherently female? She was “precious” indeed. Solid white but for a black patch on top of her head between her ears, so little she slept … Continue reading Precious by Sarah Dickerson
You Held My Hand And Walked Me Out Of The Water Sometimes I look at the photos of my parents before they were sick to try and find clues of the diseases to come. There’s one of them courtside at a Providence Friars basketball game, three days after Valentine’s Day. It’s a Thursday, a school night, timestamped 9:25 p.m. Mom must have skipped Survivor. It’s almost a year to the day before Dad’s official diagnosis. They look bold and bright. They belong together, they’re soulmates. And I cry. Mom chose “Grace” as her … Continue reading Room For Grace by Daniel Kenner
I hate the scent of imitation lemon in dish soap. It’s too concentrated to be authentic. But the scent will lose potency once I dilute it in water. That’s always the trick. Dilute what’s unpleasant. Dilute what hurts you, what keeps you up at night and, even though it’s still there, you can bear it, even accept it. The pyramid of dishes starts with a foundation from yesterday and leads, like an archeological excavation of dried food bits, through memories of breakfast and lunch to the dinner we just ate. Dirty mugs and glasses clutter … Continue reading Diluted by Jaime Balboa
California Girls was the lyric that bumped the bass held together by a woman’s sweet, altered, voice that tasted like vanilla but left a burn like bottom shelf vodka; and Elsie Malabago loved to hear this sort of tune on 93.5 POP! Radio, cruising with the windows down in her Mother’s old ’99 Corolla—before her Mother’s heart gave out and she died in that car cursing Papa in Tagalog and staring Elsie in the eye to say “putang ina,” whore, with her dying breath—but Elsie forgot that morning because it wasn’t Mother’s car anymore, it … Continue reading Vanilla Music for Sinister Women Coming of Age by Mark Galarrita
Being disowned by your family is often an integral part of the queer experience. It’s a common story that I find is meticulously avoided in popular, escapist/pulp media—an effect of heterosexism that erases and denies the reality of gay lives: “No kween, make us laugh!” Sometimes I wonder how different my life would be if my father and mother had disowned me. It would be revealing to watch a movie of my life without my father’s influence—a twisted version of It’s a Wonderful Life. My family didn’t disown me. However, they also have never been … Continue reading Placeholder Son by Spriggan Radfae