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Forgotten Densities

I don’t know what to tell you except that children are cruel and her emails were hilarious.

Fiction | Flash Fiction
July 2, 2021

I don’t know what to tell you except that children are cruel and her emails were hilarious. We all debated whether to tell Lin she’d been hitting Reply All, but we settled on the side of not. Possibly she didn’t even know what Reply All was. Cassie’s mom worked for the school administration and apparently Lin was one of the few who’d gotten the five hundred bucks internet grant, you know how hard that is to get? So many of us had applied and failed. Shaun said you had to prove you didn’t already have access to the internet and Ruth said no wonder and Tabita said yeah, no wonder Lin is such a fuckin weirdo. All of us thought we could have used the money too, five hundred bucks is a lot and to an eleven-year-old it’s like the whole world. When school went online, the first email that landed in our inboxes was in reply to Ms. Garcia’s instructions for accessing the coursework modules, it simply said Thank You I Have It. The second went Excited. Just one word—Excited. Does she think this is a Facebook status update, Susan texted, someone should tell her, and I replied: you tell her, and she just sent back a yellow emoji, eyes rolled. Later on, after everything, Marcy asked me what I thought and I said I think Ms. Garcia should have noticed earlier, we were just having fun, on the other hand, this is like, her job, and Marcy said, true, true. The third email came a week later, Sorry Im Late but Trying Hard Still, and after that, It Says Connection Unstable Thats Why. We missed the fifth email, she must have accidentally hit Reply instead of Reply All, but the sixth said Ma Cant Help. Ma can’t help! We howled with laughter, the ten of us who had weekend Zoom playdates, something our parents implemented, so as not to stunt our social development skills at this crucial stage in our lives. The weekend after that was Tabita’s eleventh birthday and the e-invite said, Dress Code: Best Lin Impression. Back then trading in Lin anecdotes was considered high currency. Marcy called me privately and asked if it was too much, but Marcy was a good Christian girl and oft mocked for it, and I had not yet developed a personality, which formed the basis of my insecurities. I said, shut up Marce, don’t be a wuss. Ten of us in that virtual playroom, five boys and five girls. The seventh email had arrived during the week and said Dear Ms. G You Are The Best which we collectively decided was a transparent attempt at sucking up. Go ahead, Tabita said, tell them. She was talking to Connor, who shook his head, and I have to admit, it was me, but also the rest, but also me, who said, what, Connor, tell us what. He unfolded a piece of peach-colored foolscap and raised it to the screen, even in the mirror image we could tell it was a declaration of love. You Are Very Kind I Like You. Star shape heart shape star shape again. When he folded it away he looked ashamed. In the future I will have a son and he will come home one day with a bubblegum-scented envelope and when I catch him giggling over it with his friends something mighty washes over me and I rush over and grab him by the shoulders in front of everyone and shake him like what’s wrong with you what’s wrong and the fear on his face will shock us both. And I will later hear him apologizing to his friends, like, my Ma gets like this, just ignore her. But back to Lin—Can you believe that apparently the year before that, Lin had confessed to a girl and asked her to be best friends? The girl said no, out of fear that Lin’s status as a social pariah was contagious, but word got around. My god she is so fucking weird, Tabita said, you don’t just do that. We all clapped and Tabita blew the on-screen candles out. Later that night, when we signed off, the eighth email came in, the longest of them all. Thank You For Asking But I Am Okay Just Lonely And Wish We Were All Still In Class Together Ma Says We Might Have To Leave Ms G Can You Convince Her I Have To Stay Maybe Can I Come Live With You For A While Things Are Very Hard Please And Thank You. Something was different about this one but we didn’t know what. We waited and waited but there were no more emails after that. According to Cassie, statistics show that 43 percent of Americans are living near or in poverty and that the collision of poverty and the virus is catastrophic and that the dominant density discourse does not account for those in shantytowns, dormitories, or public housing. Places referred to as the forgotten densities, where the forgotten people of each city are harbored, so forgotten that the school didn’t even send us a note, or anything, and the only whisper we heard of it was from Cassie’s mom, who knew things and said, It’s too bad. What’s too bad? Cassie had asked, but she wouldn’t elaborate. I secretly wrote to Ms. Garcia to ask after Lin, and she wouldn’t elaborate either, just said that for personal reasons Lin’s family had pulled her out of school. Thank you for looking out for her, Ms. Garcia said, I know the other kids bullied her but Lin mentioned you two were close. Don’t take it too hard, there’s only so much we can do, these are difficult times for everyone. I didn’t know what to say, so I asked, Are you having a difficult time, too? Ms. Garcia didn’t reply and I was afraid. She only said, much later, that she understood why Lin was so attached to me, and that I was emotionally astute, and sharp, and kind. 

Read more flash fiction, including stories by Alli Cruz, Promiti Islam, Anna Vangala Jones, and more, here.