Krys Malcolm Belc’s collection of flash essays, IN TRANSIT, is forthcoming from The Cupboard Pamphlet. His work is forthcoming in or has been featured in Granta, Black Warrior Review, Brevity, and elsewhere. Krys now lives with his partner and three sons in snowy Marquette, Michigan, where he is a student in the MFA program at Northern Michigan University and an Associate Short-Shorts Editor at Passages North.
Your Mother Is Telling a Story
Your mother is telling a story. She is telling a story in English because Please, you’ve told her, No Polish, please try to remember to speak in English. She stops in the middle of a sentence and starts gesturing like she’s trying to reel words forward from the back of her mind and you say, Mom, you can say A Phrase in Polish, and you laugh. She says it in Polish; you translate. Aha! Your mother says. We all laugh, me and you and your mother. You drink tea and I hold a full, hot mug I don’t really want. In this house you are not allowed to say no and you have to try everything, Just one bite to make her happy, it’s cultural, you said in the car on the way from my parents’ in New Jersey. The sugar bowl is in the cabinet; I can’t decide whether to ask or rise myself. No one here uses milk. Everything is in translation. This is stupid, I said, sitting in traffic on the George Washington, the city slowly growing closer and bigger. I held my breath as we crossed into New York, saw the dark line on the GPS. They changed this city for me – the beauty, the roar, the closeness of all those people to one another, the closeness of me to you in my car. Them, waiting, in a stuffy apartment in Queens. Forty minutes past the open sky above my parents’ I stepped out of my car, braced for the miscues and misunderstandings of their dinner table. The quiet. So much unspoken. How I took their daughter. Who only dated men, before me. Real men. Everything forced, everyone pretending we are family for one day. I am not their daughter, not their son. I am someone who never drinks the tea. From Queens I imagined my mother desecrating the family’s turkey, hacking slices of breast straight off the bird, after it spent too much time in the oven, after it spent too little time resting. She never listens to me, never. Cut along the backbone to remove the entire breast, then slice, I reminded her. Use a thermometer. Don’t pay any mind to that white pop-out thing. She Yeah yeah yeah-ed me and told me Have fun at the in-laws and winked. I always know exactly what my mother means when she speaks.
(Previous: Breathing In, I Calm My Body by Eric Bosse)
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