My parents only bought stuff in bulk or on discount, No Name brands. They saved up for years, saying no to all our requests, then bought everything in cash, even the car. Eventually we learned not to ask for things, not even to want them. Even desire was pared from us.

Our salt was no name. Our milk. Our clothes. Ourselves. In their plain white boxes with blue writing, the label of No Money fell on us through these objects, stuck to our skin, told us that we ourselves were generic, interchangeable. “No name” was clear on our bodies. To not matter at the level of skin was the law, but to not matter at the level of what we wore and ate—that cut deeper than law.

Now, after all those decades of discipline, something is loosening, being overwritten by the body, by the present. My mother grumbles about a...

You do not currently have access to this content.