there is a certain measure of safety in being complacent - of
shutting up and staring, that is present only in the padding of language,
of respect and tradition that translates into clenching my jaw over
a milky cup of tea, into muttering in low french so that my father does
not know that only blood trumps stubbornness.
the sound of hot oil snapping is familiar; we have to take a lighter to the
stove to get one burner working, and i can smell the fish from the room
my father thinks i hate him, that my inability to utter a word in my native
language is a sign of not incompetence but detest - if i cannot understand
him then i cannot listen to him. if i rid myself of my accent i am not his.
the dishes pile up in the sink. he never closes the door on time so three
flies buzz overhead, a necessary evil. i can smell the rice and the sweet dough
made in the throes of insomnia. one of us needs sleep and one of us
needs a wake up call.
• three bug bites lined up like the little dipper - they burn in the shower under hot water, and i struggle not to scratch
• my father neglects the air conditioner, falls asleep in the living room under the fan while i lie in bed half-naked and exhausted. i wonder if this would be better, were i the type of girl who was a good daughter
• pinkie fingers gush blood like the soft skin inside your elbow - red, dark, slippery. he hisses when i put the gauze on, wraps the bandage himself because i never do it right
• sky blue/white/light i think summer is ok if i stay where the walls are gold or in reach of the swivel of that fan. my feet curl against the peeling paint spot. is this boredom?
• the couch we can’t get rid of has a crimson slipcover, rests next to the refrigerator like it’s always been there. that golden egg my mother put on the side table lies on its side. i look at it - think: this is just for the summer
• the paint on the kitchen walls matches the tape i use to keep my laptop together; goldenrod or mustard, somewhere inbetween. all i know is that my mother picked it out.
• the ache in my stomach; muscle memory got me through yesterday night but wednesdays are for realizing that tendons snap and strings don’t stretch, by rule of thumb
• my brother does not know where i live, exactly, and it’s strange to remember that he won’t speak to my father on basis of truth, faith, and pure inherited stubbornness. honesty is only best when someone is dying or in love.
• the pipes burst last year so now the whole downstairs is a tile that looks like wood. i want to cartwheel in the living room like i did when i was nine. it’s strange - homes seem only to be home when the floors have familiar stains.
• the thing i remember first before last year is sitting on a stool while my mother braided my hair, starting too tight and tugging all the way. it hurts i never held her hand, but she spent a lot of time with hers in my hair, brushing at my neck.
it’s cold for july, breezy, and
i can’t remember why we weren’t better friends.
i only left the house because after
samosas at lunch there was a weird sort
of nausea, vertigo like at the top of a tree,
like at the top of a lighthouse, like the
tops of the lights on the youth soccer field.
we meet in the middle of the trail behind
the fenced grass; your mother disappears to give us
space - i forget to say that all we have
is space, a state worth of space, a school, a life, a race.
you remind me that everyone we know
plays volleyball in the sand on the
other side of the path and i remember why
i slept so much before.
on the swings we balance ourselves with no
hands, a strangely satisfying feat.
when we part you say we probably
won’t see each other again.
the sky is mauve/lavender/blue.
hani finds me at the entrance of the neighborhood,
scarf skipping off her head. there is something less in
the air as her sister and cousin ride circles
stranger when my brother pulls up alongside.
i took the wrong key when i left, but still
i get home and the sky is
and i catch faiza around the waist, tell
gibril happy birthday before i see
junior’s old friend across the street.
i could wave but i can’t lift my arm.
my father opens the door;
i remember why i forgot to keep talking to you.