short narrative nonfiction: “I Shouldn’t Exist?”

      …  Memories of visiting mid 1970’s NYC from NJ…

     We were in one of those tunnels, smelling the stink of the city.  Was this the Lincoln, or the Holland?  I could hear Suzanna calling the gas station owner a putz, again, over the cough of her little VW’s engine.   I thought I’d seen a flash of blue light for a second, but then the engine stuttered.  I hoped we wouldn’t break down.   She’d said that he watered down his gas to make more money.  How did they put water in the gasoline, anyway?  Wasn’t it all closed up somewhere?    I turned to Suzanna.  She knew so many interesting things, and never told me to stop asking questions.  

She wouldn’t look at me.

     My stomach started to get upset, the way it did with other people, when they got mad.  But I’d never seen Suzanna mad at me, even when I peaked in her room at the Wonder Woman poster she was saving for my seventh birthday.


     Her voice was wrong, not hers.  I tried to look over at her, but I couldn’t move.  What did I do?     It was like …   Why were we pulling over?

     Suzanna looked up at the rear view mirror, at something behind us.  When she turned back, leaning to look me in the eyes, her face wore a mask of fright.

     “Alright, that cop is going to think you’re my daughter.”  

     She looked at me in a weird way.  Like I scared her, and went on,

“So he’s going to think that I’m dating a Black guy.  So don’t go making any of your smart alec remarks.”

     She turned back to her window, working the hand crank and pushing on it to finish rolling the window down.  Just then, a big white man with a very pink face appeared in her window, looking over at me, then back at her.

     It was that same look I’d seen every time a kid was about to beat me up.

I look forward to your thoughts.


Action Prompts:

1.) Share your thoughts on how this story may encourage empathy-building cooperation, and might help, or hinder, inclusive thinking.

2.) Write a story, post or tweet that uses those thoughts.

Dear Readers, ideas on learning, especially multiple #LanguageLearning, on-going education and empathy-building, to #EndPoverty, #EndHomelessness,  #EndMoneyBail & achieve freedom for All HumanKind? 

Support our key #PublicDomainInfrastructure  & #StopSmoking at least for CCOVID-19:
1. #PublicLibraries,
2. #ProBono legal aid and Education,
3. #UniversalHealthCare, and
4. good #publictransport
Read, Write

-we can learn from the past Stayed on Freedom’s Call for free,

        by Teaching and Learning (Lesson Plans offline) in the present, to

                     We can  Do Better: a Vision of a Better World to create a kinder future



Shira Destinie A. Jones, MPhil, MAT, BSCS

the year, 2021 CE = year 12021 HE

( 5 month GED lesson 17 of 67 plans…),

  Ranger M.’s Babylon 5 review posts, because story inspires learning.  There is also my historical series  Ann&Anna.  I  hope that these stories will move you to learn more ways to help use our history to build new tools….

Stayed on Freedom’s Call
includes two ‘imagination-rich’ walking tours, with songs, of Washington, DC. New interviews and research are woven into stories of old struggles shared by both the Jewish and African-American communities in the capital city.

Shared histories are explored from a new perspective of cultural parallels and parallel institution-building which brought the two communities together culturally and historically.

Please leave a review, if you can, on the GoodReads page.


Creative Commons License
Shira Destinie Jones is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


32 thoughts on “short narrative nonfiction: “I Shouldn’t Exist?”

  1. Empathy is most important to our evolution and survival as a human species. Without it, we are at risk of becoming the Cybermen or the Borg. Children must be taught the value of empathy most of all. Thank you, Shira.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Oh wow. Powerful piece. First the build-up of what turns out to be betrayal by a trusted friend, then the gut punch at the end. This is the kind of true life story telling that changes people’s hearts and minds. It makes me want to apologize for… I dunno… being white?

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you, JeanMarie: it never felt like a betrayal, to me, but rather, just the way life was. Suzanna took me to movies, taught me to ice skate, took me to her Temple, and then, before answering my questions about her religion and people, Judaism, she insisted that I listen to Miriam Mekimbe, an African singer, saying that I must learn more about my own people, first. That taught me that not all people are bad, and that life is complicated. There is no reason to apologize for being born with less melanin, and some of my own family members took advantage of their light skin priv. to pass for white, being lost to our community, so I am not different from you, in that respect. What you and I are both doing, here, I believe, is working to educate others in various ways, and to provide part of a solution to the larger problem of lack of empathy and lack of communication.

      Thank you for being here and connecting, JeanMarie.

      Warmest Regards,

      Liked by 5 people

    1. Thanks, JYP.
      I had a really hard time with this one, making it feel finished. I kept feeling like it was missing something, but was just too tired to keep messing with it (and I’ve got higher priority work to get done, like Do Better’s re-write for Phase II…).

      Liked by 5 people

  3. Hi Shira, the first thing that I thought about when I read this story is the background story. Who was this woman driving you around, your relationship with her. If she was willing to take you for a ride in her car, why was she embarrassed that people would think that she was your child? Reminds me of the movie “A Gentlemen’s Agreement”. Everyone pretended not to be anti-Semitic, but in reality they were.
    So please in your future stories, I would like to learn more about your characters to get a well rounded view of your experiences with these people and why you are affected the way you were.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Hi, Tony!

      Thank you for commenting. And especially for giving me this detail! I’d completely forgotten those details! If this had been a novel, there would be more time to give those details later, but I keep forgetting that these short shorts are not connected to any book, and I guess I also forgot that the reader is not in my head, so I appreciate your reminder. In future stories, I will remember to give more important details like this.

      Thank you, again!


      Liked by 3 people

  4. I’m on the edge of my seat! What happened? What happened next? I can’t imagine having to worry about that. Having to worry what a policeman would think about who I was dating. As if it was any of his business. It’s so messed up. xx And you knowing what someone’s expression looked like just before they beat you up. No child should know that. No one should. Sorry for stating the obvious ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No worries: thank you for stating it, as it was not actually obvious to me! It’s just how things were.

      Sorry to say, I have no recollection, at all, of not only what happened next, but of any further interactions with Suzanna. It’s as if all of the rest of New Jersey were simply blanked from my mind, until about 4th grade. That was the year that I 1.) got the key to our apartment, which was in a different part of town from where we’d lived with Suzanna et. all, and 2.) I got my adult library card.
      Things became more bearable during the week, at that point.

      Liked by 3 people

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