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One hundred lucky students were selected at random to attend SEMINAR and submit a piece of short fiction for a writing contest. Congratulations to Lindsay Ferrentino, our grand prize winner! In addition to having her work published here, Lindsay will receive autographed copies of Theresa Rebeck’s plays, a signed SEMINAR poster, and a one-year subscription to New York magazine. Thank you to all the writing students that participated.

Amy
By Lindsey Ferrentino

 

We stop at Walgreens, realizing our forgotten etiquette. Even though no one will notice, we never arrive anywhere empty-handed, not even here. My mom suggests chocolate, Amy’s favorite, but I remind her that there will be no solid food. No outings to Amy’s favorite restaurant, where she’ll ask for "cheeseburgas and root beeah," her muddled speech slurring words so she sounds like a drunken Bostonian. No complaints that Amy is "hungry as a horse," or as it might sound to an ear unfamiliar with her bumbling, "You’re my whore." The nurse says she doesn’t talk much lately. She never talked much to begin with, the result of a tongue too large for its resting place. We grab a balloon and a deck of cards when I suddenly remember countless games, led by Amy, where only she knew the rules, dividing her hand into piles of red and black, declaring she’d won.

We walk down the hall of the Alzheimer’s wing, as the nurse in the tight belly shirt chirps that, at forty two, Amy is their youngest resident. The nurses don’t bother wearing scrubs, something my mom sees as an attempt to make the staff accessible, whereas I wonder if they’re even registered RN’s.

And there she is... A. M. Y. Amy because it was Jewish. Amy because it was short and easy to learn. Amy because it means beloved. She doesn’t recognize us, but that’s to be expected. She is standing, leaning to the left, a nurse’s guiding hands holding both handles on her waist wide belt.

"Is she your daughter?" the nurse asks

"My sister." My mom says. "Hiiiiiii, Amy."

But Amy clutches her radio, compulsively shaking her fist to Michael Jackson’s "Thriller."

"She’s my aunt," I say. Breathless.

The commotion of the recreation room is too much. An elderly woman tears piles of napkins into even strips. A man grinds his fists into the table, while talking about a circus in the parking lot. She is the youngest here, by far.

"If we could- maybe- take her- for awhile…" I hear my mom explaining. Before I know it, Amy’s sweatshirt is on, and the "nurse" walks Amy to our car, buckling her belt, trusting us with her care.

We drive. Heading east. Passing her old group home, the house of her foster family, the hospital where, in 1958, my grandparents were advised to turn her care over to the state. Our car dips with the road as the houses grow larger like private hotels, and Amy slouches, looking smaller in the back seat. Suddenly, my mom pulls into a beach parking lot in East Hampton.

We each grab a handle on Amy’s waist, closer to her than we’ve been since arriving, holding her upright, so the motion of her legs propels her forward. At the boardwalk’s edge, we pause, thinking that she’ll want to rest, but to our surprise, Amy’s pace quickens, stepping into the sand, her leap of faith, and we have to follow. She leans forward, rushing as fast as her legs will move. Robotic motion; fast, strange, emotionless. Her sister and niece, one on each side, as the earth shifts beneath her toes.

Out of the corner of my eye, I can really see my mom. A firm grip, a steady bearing, convinced that an hour on the beach solves anything.

Amy stops. Confused, she stares into the dark water. Looks at us for the first time.

"I did. I did-" she says excitedly. "I did."

The ride back seems too short. Soon, Amy will be passed into someone else’s able hold. She’ll trust the next adult with authority and retire to the rec. room where Bingo is being played. There will be no evidence of our visit after the balloon loses air and juice is spilt on the deck of cards.

On the way home, we don’t talk about the beach. Instead, my mom says that Amy is moving to a smaller hospital, one specifically focused on the aging process of adults with downs syndrome. That hers is the first generation to have made it this far.

We remember how she used to complain about scraped knees, brush her own teeth, brag about eating too many desserts, and wear woolen gloves, giggling endlessly at Schwarzenegger, trying to look like the Terminator herself.

Not wanting to explain the situation to my friends, I’ll say the day was spent with my aunt at her home in the Hamptons.

Just one chromosome. Between resilience and reliance.

Trisomy 21.

Bingo.


In addition, judges selected five semi-finalists, whose entries can be read on the official SEMINAR website.

Please note that the content of this sponsored page is provided by a nymag.com promotional partner and not by the nymag.com editorial team.

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