Today's Reading

Holly Redding, community activist and founder of the environmental
group, UpsideDown!, voiced her concerns about the drug and its
impact on the community. "As if we don't have enough environmental
and social concerns to worry about in New Mexico with the rise of
GMOs, drought, mining, the use of dirty coal in our energy economy,
heroin, and poverty, now we have another new drug. The health of the
land and the health of the people, it's one and the same."

Liquid gold comes from a rare Peruvian plant in the genus
Brugmansia. Until recently, its high price tag has made it an elite
drug without widespread use. However, the past few months have seen
an influx of liquid gold in the communities of Northern New Mexico.

******

Bro boy to my left clears his throat, as in "you gonna spend all day with that thing or can I have a look?"

"Sorry," I say, and hand him the paper.

Rejina with a j is saying something to the group, but my mind is on the article. It's not that there's a drug around. I can handle that. Growing up with a junkie was about the best stay-off-drugs campaign imaginable. I'm so clean I squeak. The government should start an anti-drug campaign: "Want to keep your kids off drugs? Spend a day with a junkie! It's free. It's easy. Just dial 1-800-junkie." What my thoughts stick on is the name of the plant the drug comes from: Brugmansia. I've heard that name before, but I can't remember where or why.

I'm still distracted and trying to figure it out when Clem leans over and says, "Dinner?"


CHAPTER TWO

I load my tray with pasta, a few token pieces of lettuce, a double helping of soft-serve chocolate ice cream, and take a seat with Clem in the back of the cafeteria by the bathrooms.

"So, you've been playing violin long?" I ask, as I dig into the soft-serve — eating dessert first, a decree from when my mom was alive, and one I currently abide by whenever I'm out of the organic, gluten-free clutches of Aunt T, my legal guardian.

Clem's face lights up, a radiant, from inside smile. "Just since I was three."

"Wow, you started old. I spoke Urdu and Finnish by the time I was two," I say, keeping a straight face. "What kind of music do you play?"

"Classical." He ignores my joke and rocks onto his knees. "I plan on being a soloist in the Chicago Symphony or the New York Philharmonic. Only four percent of all orchestra members in the whole country are black or Hispanic. I'm going to up that number."

"Cool. So, which are you?" My own mixed race too-brown-to-be-white-too-white-to-be-brown ethnicity often prompts similarly rude questions, so I should know better than to ask, but given it's too late to have not asked, when he doesn't answer, I push. "You said only four percent are black or Hispanic, and you're going to up the number, so you have to be one or the other. I can't really tell."

Now he gives a sly smile and relaxes back into his seat. "Guess."

I shrug and swipe my bangs out of my eyes. "Fifty-fifty chance. I go with Hispanic."

He laughs, showing off a set of impossibly straight, white chompers. "It was a trick question. My Dad's half Venezuelan, half Chinese. My mom's half Nigerian, half white."

"Wow," I say, slurping down a spoonful of ice cream. "You're like, international man. You have what, four continents covered?"

"Local wherever I go, that's me. My mom took me to Alaska when I was twelve. They thought I was Inuit. What about you? What's your ethnic bubble?"

"Someone once asked me if I was Filipina. I didn't even know what Filipina was. I thought it was some kind of drink." We both laugh, but my strategy of avoiding the question does nothing to deter him.

"So? What is it? What's your bubble?"
...

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