Mind Your Business
By Atlas Yen & A.N Wegbreit
“Mind Your Business” discusses various social justice issues with regard to people involving themselves in things that don’t concern them.
The characters used here are fictional, and are not representative of the authors themselves.
“Do NOT Enter!” Can’t they read the sign? I even wrote N-O-T in huge capital letters with my red Sharpie. But apparently, that is too much to ask in our two-bedroom Upper East Side apartment. My parents must be illiterate, because they turn the doorknob and stand in my doorway without even the slightest knock. My mom asks with her highest voice, “What are you doing up here all on your own?” Like she cares. Like she’s not going to scream at me or guilt me for actually wanting to stay up here on my own.
“Mind your own business,” I want to say. But I know that would never fly. So instead, I look up from my book peeking out behind thick bangs. “Reading,” I say, mimicking my mom’s high-pitched tone and nodding my book up in her direction.
My dad gives an apologetic smile as my mom loses her cool. “Well, you could spend some time with your family,” she says. “It wouldn’t kill you, you know.”
“It just might,” I think to myself. Doesn’t she understand just how much effort it takes for me to be social? It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted, and I just want to lose myself in the world of my book for a little while.
“Can I touch your hair?” They ask with poisonous curiosity in their eyes. Acid seeps through their teeth.
Looking up at the ceiling of the elevator, I clench my jaw. “No,” I say as politely as I can, and hate myself for it. I should be meaner. Crueler. Point out that the venom slipping through their gums smells like the remnants of disease their ancestors spread intentionally to those they drove out of their own homes.
“Mind your own business.” The words get hung behind my own teeth, which don’t stink of poison, like theirs do.
“You should think about styling it down more – this is a workplace, you know.”
“Maybe,” I lie. No way, I think. My hair is beautiful—black coils springing here and there, falling over my temples and the back of my neck, like a gorgeous entity of its own, reaching for the sun—and so far it hasn’t prevented me from filing paperwork at a desk job. These people must be wearing blindfolds. Someone needs to rip them off – someone like a quick Google search or at least some sense of human decency.
“Why are there so few Planned Parenthoods in this city?” I think to myself as I fidget with the hem of my shirt on the subway. The pump pop music blasts in my ears as I count down the minutes until I get all the way to the Bronx.
When I get off the subway and walk towards the location using Google Maps on my phone, I’m so focused on the moving blue dot I barely notice the crowd at first. But even through my headphones, the shouts are unmistakable. They shout about SHAME and GUILT and even have the audacity to bring up GOD.
Being female means I have the privilege of bringing new life into this world, but it shouldn’t mean I’m forced to. I should have the right to choose. And that’s exactly what I’m doing here. Clutching my phone tightly in my hand, I turn up the volume on my music and keep my head down as I pass through the crowd.
I reach the door and pull it open, but one of the women pulls my shoulder, her eyes asking why I’m here. “Mind your own business,” I mumble as I cross the threshold.
Imperialism. It had always seemed like a far-away concept, a series of atrocities committed two hundred years ago, until I saw it broadcasted right before my eyes. A home I’d never visited was being overtaken as I watched helplessly on my couch, where those foreign governments, who couldn’t ever seem to simply mind their own business, could never touch me.
I wondered—did anyone who shared my blood get hurt in those protests, fighting to defend their home? Were their screams echoing all the way here, causing that mad vibration deep in my bones—making tears of fire spill from my eyes?
My people sang songs of freedom and whispered rebellious slogans under their breath. Even so, their voices reached me ever so softly, loud as a typhoon, all the way across the sea.
And those who will never understand ask me why I agonize—why I sob for a family I’ve never met, as the place I’d always heard was vibrant, filled with the clanging of bells, and shouts of food venders is destroyed, slowly turned to a dystopia where children play with the guns aimed at their own families, and my people lose the war they fought so hard that their voices were lost to quiet rasps.
Somewhere in that city, a gas mask lays on the street beside a can of tear gas, and people will dismiss that, merely, a chemist had been doing graffiti. They’re minding the wrong kind of business.
Though the authors of this piece have never actually met; they worked tirelessly to write this collaboratively over Zoom meetings, using a shared Google Document.
Aren Lau is a half-HongKongese author of five finished novels, including one unpublished adventure series and half of a duology. A Posse Scholar and upcoming freshman at Middlebury College, studying history, he is currently a senior at Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, NYC. He wastes all his money on coffee instead of saving up for a publishing agent as he should, and is a huge fan of Wong Kar Wai, Neil Gaiman, and Tatsuki Fujimoto. He has hosted writing workshops at the Central Brooklyn Public Library and is a prose editor for the online magazine, The Verity Review. Aren's work has appeared in: Girls Write Now 2022 Anthology: Taking Root, HarperCollins 25th Anniversary Anthology, The Battle for the Right to Read What You Want: panel at Center for Brooklyn History & hosted by Brooklyn Public Library, The Murrow Magnet (‘21-‘22), Scholastic Gold Key in novel writing “Sage Lagoon” (2022), Gold Key for “The Stolen Solstice” (2023), Silver Key for “Oasis Zero” (2023)
Arielle is an enthusiastic educator who loves sharing her passions and helping others discover their own. She is currently a high school English/EAL teacher and librarian devoted to global perspectives and individual identity. She is constantly exploring, observing and growing—obsessively fangirling over anything from Taylor Swift to BTS or Ethan Hawke to Marissa Meyer. She wants to continue to open her own world with her involvement in Girls Write Now and hopes to help all those she meets find the fun in surrounding themselves with engaging books and endless possibilities.