In fourth grade Joaquin Roth and I were still officially best friends, but I was losing him. He’d play Sims with me only if there was nothing else to do—putting a toilet in the living room and gasoline in the swimming pool. “That’s life,” he’d say, shrugging, when our characters went swimming and were trapped by flames.

“He’s a nine-year-old boy, Edith,” Mrs. Roth said, stroking my hair as I wept into their corduroy sofa cushions. “You can’t expect so much.” She showed me the letter she’d gotten about her ancestor, Thomas Jefferson. She was excited because she’d just found out she’s part African American, though she’s pale and blonde.

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