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By Nicole Walker

My mom made tacos. My sister’s boyfriend had killed himself earlier in the day and we ate tacos. We ate many tacos. As if the tortilla would sustain us against collapse.

As if the lettuce, tomato, onion would keep us from falling apart. As if the shredded cheddar cheese would help us keep it together. And maybe it did. It didn’t bring Garrett back but it kept anyone else from leaving. My sister Paige’s friends, Garrett’s friends, stayed at our house until the middle of the night. Suicide is as contagious as gonorrhea. My mom’s tacos were prophylactics slipped over open wounds. She heated tortillas in the microwave. She added another pound of ground beef into the pan, the chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder. The kids decimated even the vegetables spread out into neat thirds: Tomatoes. Lettuce. Raw onions that burned their mouths, distracting their mouths from the words that they couldn’t say.

What does a fourteen-year-old boy need to sustain himself? A girlfriend. A parent. A sister. Another parent. A girlfriend’s parent. A sweater. Curly hair. A girlfriend who will probably have sex with him. A girlfriend who loves Jane’s Addiction and Cat Stevens as much as him. A girlfriend who plays the guitar for him. A bunch of friends who, at least when he knew them, didn’t eat onions. A bunch of friends who hang out with him at his girlfriend’s mom’s house. Access to the mountains. A trip to the mountains in a car he borrowed from his parents even though he was only seventeen. A picnic. A treat when he got home. Tacos.



About the Author

Nicole Walker is the author of Sustainability: A Love Story from Ohio State University Press and the forthcoming The After-Normal from Rose Metal Press. Her previous books include Where the Tiny Things Are, Egg, Micrograms, Quench Your Thirst with Salt, and This Noisy Egg. She also edited Bending Genre: Essays on Creative Nonfiction with Margot Singer. She’s nonfiction editor at Diagram and Professor at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, where it rains like the Pacific Northwest, but only in July.