W h y ?
Why would my mother be living with the Pavics? Anna and my mother never
liked one another. Or perhaps this was simply because my father encouraged
them to be close friends. We often flew back to Boston to spend Christmas
with their family. One Christmas, when I was nine, my father and Anna cooked
together, leaving her husband and my mother to talk in the living room.
Her husband, Uncle Max, was a handsome man, rather cynical; his contempt
of my father was clear. My mother, on the other hand, was someone whose
simplicity he seemed to admire; she, in turn, was contemptuous of him, unmoved
by his flattery or his stories.
He has no talent, she said of him once, he just talks, entertains and smoothes
things over. That's his job, that's all he does. I feel sorry for Anna.
Once, as they were sitting on a sofa, he took my mother's hand and held
it in his own. She tried to pull it away, and he held it, tracing the creases
on her palm. Look here, he said as he showed her heart line. It was shattered
into a flurry of marks.
He looked up at her, smiling slightly, It says you've married a weak man.
My mother is unruffled. Give me yours, she says.
She doesn't even look long before she folds his fingers inwards. Look, it
says you've lost your wife to a weak man.
Uncle Max flushes.
We hear my father and Anna laughing in the kitchen. My father has just pulled
something out of the bird's cavity.
He looks at me then says, Can you throw this away for me? He hands me a
small plastic bag but Anna immediately snatches it from me; she washes the
organs and simmers them in a small pot of boiling water.
After you mix the organs with flour and pepper, she explains as she slices
them up, you pour it over the meat. It's delicious.
Uncle Max and my mother stand by the doorway looking at all of us. Anna
suggests that Max show my mother and me the trail to town; there is a defiant
look on Anna's face.
I am tired, I say.
I can tell she's furious.
My father tries to smooth things over by explaining that they are missing
a few things
for the soup.
It's strange to see my father so nervous and worried in a white apron, sleeves
rolled up, brushing the hair out of his eyes:
I realize my father is an old woman in disguise--not even a woman, but an
I see why Uncle Max cannot stand him.
Since calling Anna, I have had dreams about that Christmas.
In one, my father puts aside the brick, cut through the brown paper bag,
and pulls out the
You always wanted it, he says, It's your favorite part.
It's alright, I say, I have one.
But I want to, he says, I no longer love my heart.
You can't live without one.
Then give me yours.
I shake my head. No, I 'm afraid I can't. But he walks away, holding it
in his arms. According to the strange logic of dreams, the size of my heart
is that of a small suitcase. I stand at the forked road and begin to cry.
The hole is too large. The wind begins to whip round and round my ribs.
Even with both my hands, I cannot close the breach. I take leaves and dirt
but I can't fill it.
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