Aaron H. Aceves


Aaron H. Aceves is a Mexican-American writer born and raised in East L.A. He graduated in 2015 from Harvard, where he received the Le Baron Russell Briggs Award after being nominated by Jamaica Kincaid. His work has appeared in Germ Magazine, Queen Mob's Teahouse, and New Pop Lit. He currently lives in New York, where he is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University, and is the author of This Is Why They Hate Us (coming spring 2022 from Simon & Schuster). He can be found on Twitter @aaronhaceves and Instagram @aaronaceves.

Dear Bill,

Thank you so much for the planter, what a beautiful gift. I’ve already put it to use, and it is now home to my favorite cactus, which is in full bloom at the moment. My plants are my only company these days: the cactus, along with my jade plant, the haworthia, the spider plant with browning leaf tips (despite the fact that I wait until the soil has dried before I water it), and an avocado pit I recently suspended in a jar of water using toothpicks. But I don’t mind socially distancing. In fact, it hasn’t been nearly as hard as people make it out to be. I have plenty of distractions: books, TV shows, music, long walks, speculating about my roommates’ evolving relationship. Before you ask, no, except for this thank you note, I haven’t written a word in months. (And I know the quarantine only started a few weeks ago. It didn’t help.)

How’s your father? I know when we last spoke, you said he was taking the news pretty hard. Mine keeps haranguing me with grocery deliveries. I finally got him to stop by sharing with him a realization I had recently, one facilitated by my biweekly phone calls with my therapist. She was trying to help me get to the root of my resentment towards the charitable actions of my father, who is, in the opinion of many (including myself), the sweetest man on the fucking planet, and what we realized together is that what my father is saying to me with every box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and every bag of Doritos is, “You cannot provide for yourself. You are not an adult. You’re not a man. You are not in control.” Which, obviously is not what I want someone to be saying to me in the midst of a global pandemic.

Speaking of which, I hope you’re staying safe, Bill. Mask, hand sanitizer, gloves, the whole shebang. My roommates don’t seem to be taking this seriously, leaving me utterly exasperated. A week ago or so, they went to the grocery story together—even though the sign posted outside C-Town clearly states “one person per household”—and came back with nothing but five or six bottles of rosé. My male roommate teased my female roommate about her taste in wine later that night when they drank together in the living room, but she replied with something like, “You’ve already had three glasses. I think you like it just as much as I do.” It was hard for me to sleep because they were laughing obnoxiously until the morning hours. I got back at them by being extra loud the next day as I made my daily scrambled eggs.

Remember life before all this mess? I keep thinking about 9/11. How everything that exists is either pre-9/11 or post-9/11. How when you’re watching a TV show or a movie that was released before 2001 and you see how lax airport security used to be, you’re like, “Look at those idiots. Of course someone hijacked a plane.” Is that how we’re gonna watch TV shows and movies that take place pre-Corona? “Look at those idiots. Riding the subway. Hugging their grandparents without PPE. Having fun.”

There’s a moldy smell coming from the avocado pit, and there’s a milky film covering it. Those aren’t good signs, are they? My male roommate was the one who told me not to throw it away. I was in the kitchen making guacamole the right way (avocado, salt, pepper, and a little bit of mayonnaise, none of that diced onion and tomato nonsense) when he suggested I try to grow it. “That would be pointless,” I said. Eventually the resulting plant would need to be transplanted outside. “No, trust me,” he said. “If you stick some toothpicks in it and put it in water, it’ll start to sprout… eventually… and…” He trailed off as he watched me clench the slippery seed in my left hand and a knife in my right. I was thinking about my ancestors, the non-colonizing, non-rapist, non-European ones, and how they cultivated these plants centuries before Columbus dragged his unwashed ass to “America.” But I took a few deep breaths, thought about it for a few seconds, and smiled. “Actually, I think I will grow it. It’ll be a nice way to mark the time.”

I’m writing this the old-fashioned way because no one sends letters anymore. Can you imagine if I reached out via Facebook to say thank you? Twitter? Or God forbid Instagram? (Although, I did upload a picture of the planter there. It was just begging to be documented. The blooming cactus springing forth from the delicate ceramic hand? Beautiful. You haven’t liked it despite my tagging you, so I assume you just haven’t logged on in a while. Perhaps by the time you receive this letter, you’ll have already given me that double tap!) I’m also handwriting this because the thoughtfulness of your gift warrants a personal touch. As you know, the planter is very much my taste. The shiny, white porcelain really goes well with my sea-foam blue walls. Perhaps, my color scheme is what’s been keeping me so calm these days. When my female roommate moved in, she painted an accent wall. Not a solid color, of course, but an abstract design using circles of varying sizes. She began in the morning but hadn’t finished when my male roommate came home in the late afternoon (probably because she’d spent so much of her time swigging Lagunitas IPAs and blasting Selena Gomez). I heard him compliment her design, which was obviously a lie because I had seen it earlier in the day when she tried to enlist my help. She thanked him for his attempt at ingratiating himself to her and then asked him if he wanted to help her. He did. While they worked together, they drank Lagunitas, and he teased her about liking Selena Gomez. The next morning when they were both in the kitchen making coffee, she teased him back for humming a song that had played the day before. That’s how it all began. If they graduate to a sexual relationship during this quarantine, I will have to start looking for a new place to live. They’re taxing enough individually as it is.

So. I just stopped writing and read the letter over, and all I can say is that one major drawback to writing by hand is there is no delete button. I apologize for the tangents. Maybe I am experiencing just a tiny bout of cabin fever. I’ll end here by saying I hope my stray thoughts during this strange time aren’t too inane, and thank you again, Bill, for the planter. How wonderful that you thought of me when sorting through the things your mother left behind. My condolences.


Your friend,


© The Acentos Review 2020