At First, They Think the Bump Under My Brother’s Arm is a Stubborn Bruise


by Aleksia Mira Silverman


Then, they think my brother has cysts. He’s young, but it’s not impossible, the doctor says. My brother plays with a toy spaceship, makes my legs the terrain of an alien planet. I think cyst is a pretty word. It sounds like the name of a flower or a blonde woman. If I had a friend at school, I’d want her to be called Cyst. My brother stabs my sleeve with the sharp tail of his spaceship. I poke him back.

Then, they decide my brother has tumors. Tumor thuds to the bottom of your mouth. You have to say it in a whisper. So we do. We go whispering around the house—tumor, tumor, tumor. I cry in the bathroom, our parents take turns driving my brother to the hospital. He looks bored, he would rather go to swim class because they’re learning froggy style. We cancel our vacation to Busch Gardens. My brother cries so hard he vomits up his Ginger Ale on the carpet. Our father is a professor and he places a telescope in the living room to expand our minds. It’s mid-July, we eat popsicles and peer through into the telescope. The metal is so cold it feels like a burn.

My father says, “the moon has a solid iron core.”

“Where are the aliens?” My brother wants to know.

I whisper, “Let’s find them.” I spin the lens of the telescope, searching.

Metastasize sounds like something a spaceship can do in a sci-fi movie. It’s not real. It’s made up by scriptwriters in Los Angeles.

“You’re my spaceship,” my brother says. “Let me board you.” He claws at my shoulder.

We’re home alone, surrounded by a crackle of wrappers. We’re eating plasticy Halloween candy. Tomorrow, I have a middle school dance themed WAY OUT and my mother bought me a mauve dress so I could be a Purple People Eater. My brother will have surgery next week. He’ll be in a room bright like the inside of a washing machine. Doctors will cut through his skin with one swoop of their wrists.

“OK,” I say. He climbs onto my back, his breath hot at the nape of my neck.

Up on the couch, I look down at our living room and see a rug the color of band aids, an hourglass vase with a lonely daisy. I think of the word rug. The yawn of its vowels stretch wide into nothing. The word vase blinks out into ellipses. Together, we jump.


Aleksia Mira Silverman (@AleksiaMira) is a writer, editor, and content strategist. She currently serves as a contributing fiction editor for Barren Magazine. This Fall, she will begin her graduate studies as an MFA candidate in fiction. She is a Best of The Net 2020 nominee and lives in Florida.