Hannah Miet is a poet, essayist, and multimedia journalist based in New Orleans and New York. A substantial portion of her personal work concerns her relationship with her younger brother, Gabe, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and Schizoaffective disorder. Miet’s writing on this topic betrays her journalistic tendencies, as she uses long blocks of actual dialog from recorded conversations to probe the touching and sometimes absurd territory in which the two interact. Below are two excerpts from Miet’s essay “Throw the Dirt, Brother,” which is available in its entirety here.
Miet will read at the Antenna Gallery this Saturday, June 25, at 7 p.m., along with Jesús Ángel García, a Bay Area transmedia novelist in town to celebrate the launch of his new book, badbadbad. More info about the event here.
The girl who Gabe likes works at a grocery store in our hometown. He wants to invite her over for dinner, but if he asks her, he might die.
This is because God is in the supermarket.
Gabe says that the supermarket has the power to shorten our lives if we fuck with it. An example of “fucking with it” is doing something cruel, like asking an attractive supermarket employee over for dinner. He says that it is especially cruel to invite a girl over to our parents’ house, since we have such a sad family.
I asked Gabe how the supermarket goes about killing people. He said the supermarket usually gives people two months to live so they can say goodbye to their families. Then the supermarket employees chop the person who did the cruel thing into tiny pieces in the supermarket bathroom, or they just shoot the person with a gun.
He said that all people die this way, unless they die of cancer or from being old.
“So why is God in the supermarket, out of all places God could be?”
“A lot of Catholic people buy groceries at the supermarket. Catholic people believe that people should die when they do cruel things like invite girls to meet their sad families.”
“Why do you think our family is sad?”
“Hey, Hannah, did you listen to Lil Wayne’s Rebirth? Did you know he’s in prison now?”
“Yeah. I think he got put away for how awful that album is. Why do we have a sad family?”
“I don’t know. I’m not sad. It’s you and my mom and my dad that are sad.”
“Your mom and your dad are my mom and my dad too, you know.”
“Why are we sad?”
“I think it’s because a lot of people have died and you’re sad about that. You get sad about things that I don’t get sad about. If my mom or my dad died, I would be devastated. But if anyone else dies, there are other things. There are other things in life.”
“What about if I died?”
“Oh, I forgot about you. Well, if you died, I’d commit suicide.”
“Gabe, don’t say—“
“Hey, Hannah, did you listen to Ludacris’ new album, Battle of the Sexes?”
“Want to hear it?”
“I can put the phone up to my boombox.”
“Go for it.”
When I ran away from the suburbs, the daily phone calls began. I moved into a railroad apartment in Spanish Harlem with a lesbian film student who had advertised the space as “420 friendly.” I changed my ring tone to “Maria, Maria,” a song that regaled me whenever Gabe bought a new rap album or Tommy Hilfiger hoodie and wanted to share the news.
He would call me when he had a crush on a teacher, a social worker, a waitress, or his therapist. He would call me when he thought that the same people he had crushes on were trying to kill him by force feeding him Swedish Fish or collaborating with the terrorist organizations that had him on their hit list. He would call me three times a day, minimum, and I soon became the fact-checker for his myriad paranoia.
I had moved to the city with the intention to become a “serious journalist.” I had purchased a voice recorder, a digital camera, a two thousand dollar laptop and every book that Norman Mailer ever wrote. I put it all on a credit card I couldn’t pay off and sat on my stoop with a 40, taking notes on the people who walked by. But on the phone with Gabe, I felt like a fraud. I wasn’t a street reporter. I was a journalist of my own life.
Hannah: So we’ve never spoken directly about the fact that you were recently dual diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and Schizoaffective disorder. I’ve wanted to know how you feel about that. What do those things mean to you?
Gabe: I have trouble looking people in the eyes and understanding if a person is interested in what I’m saying. I also talk over people and cut them off, but that’s all that there is to my autism. It’s minor.
Every second of my life I have what I call “mind creations,” where I believe a fantasy about something that didn’t happen. Sometimes it has to do with something I’m excited about and sometimes it’s something I’m upset about. I’m always very afraid when I think about them.
Sometimes, my mind creations mix with things that are true because I was loaded on medication at the time of the memory. For example, lately I have a mind creation that, when I was about 15, our babysitter Deanie Mezulla gave me the death sentence, and in the last weeks of my life she let me experience her body naked. Deanie Mezulla would drive me in her sports car totally naked.
Hannah: How did you determine that this was a “mind creation?”
Gabe: The fact that the story was just so long and weird. I was on so much medication that it felt real, but the truth is, if I were to get the death sentence, it would be from someone tougher than Deanie Mezulla. Deanie Mezulla also would have gotten arrested for driving me around naked.
Hannah: Probably. What is a death sentence?
Gabe: Sometimes minors who do illegal things, things that I was doing at that time, like being manic and pointing knives at family members, get saved from going to prison by getting the death sentence. I think I was given the death sentence then, but my body was too strong for the medication, so it didn’t rot my body like it was supposed to. I lived, but I also died.
Hannah: Once you identify that you’re worrying about something that’s not real, how do you stop?
Gabe: I don’t even know how to describe this. It’s like saying “I don’t want to do my chores because I want the aliens in space to do my chores.” I try to stop obsessing over mind creations because they prevent my body from growing into a man’s body. Your body develops depending on what goes on in your brain. If you don’t stop thinking about mind creations, you won’t become a man.