For a Young, Brown-eyed Suzie-Q
At seven, you will lock yourself in your daddy’s car to try to keep him from leaving. You won’t remember much except the heat inside and the manual locks you raced to push down before he could get to you. Your grandma will watch from her porch with crossed arms. You will wrap yourself around his tanned legs and wish you could crawl into them. Your mother will always think you preferred him and will tell you over and over that you’re trying to put her in an early grave. Your brother will be quiet and sad, but you will fight and scream and get in trouble for breaking a kid’s glasses when you punch him for making fun of you. Your grandma will whip you for arguing that LaTarsha’s family was no different and you should be allowed to spend the night at her house. You will ask her why she has an ‘r’ in her name. She will laugh and say she doesn’t know. She will be the only girl you know who likes to read as much as you. She will teach you to plait and how parents do sometimes love each other. You will always hope you were as good a friend to her as she was to you.
At eight, you will move to the country, where your mom will be principal of your elementary school. People will walk away from you. You will find solace in the sound of Shel Silverstein’s voice and an empty auditorium. You will become friends with the daughter of a Jewish glassmaker and teacher and they will show you the value of art and love and making things of your own. You will never forget their one-room apartment over their garage and the hosepipe and bucket in the window or when they finally moved into the house the glassmaker built. She will be the only girl you know with a mural on her wall. She will teach you how people with different beliefs can fall in love. You will always regret losing touch and one day you’ll see a picture of the whole family scuba diving in clear blue water and you’ll cry even though you haven’t talked for years.
At fourteen, you’ll go to babysit at the home of some Montessori teachers and see a man you don’t know burning in a car. The teachers will give you boozy egg nog and call your mother. You will find out a week later the man had run a hose from his tailpipe into the window and his foot had lodged on the gas pedal and somehow the car ignited. This is your first experience with suicide. It will not be your last.
At fifteen, you’ll start getting chest pains. You won’t tell anyone. You’ll start taking apart razor blades. You’ll cut symmetrical lines in your arms and legs. You’ll wipe the blood away and feel relief. When your mom sees twenty-seven lines on your thigh, you’ll tell her you ran into some thorns. She won’t press you. You’ll smoke pot and drink and take pills and paint your bedroom and fall in love with an American boy who gets treated like an alien because he’s Chinese and long-haired and plays guitar. You will want to help, but you won’t know how except to love him because his dad beat him and left him, too, and he’s got scars to prove it, but you don’t talk about them. You only kiss, talk about the future, and getting out of there. The way he looks at you will stop the chest pains when you’re together and make them worse when you’re apart. He’ll break your heart more than once. You will break his a few years later.
At eighteen, you’ll leap from a moving Oldsmobile when you get in a fight with your brother. You are both using too many drugs and everything is urgent and misfiring. Moments later you’ll be chased upstairs—stairs that a year earlier were fire hose-drenched, not quite lost to a lightning fire, but smoke-damaged and waterlogged. You’ll both work at Pizza Hut. You will sell rolled baggies in the walk-in and work with a man who calls himself Face. You will love one man and date another and learn what it feels like to break more than glasses. Eighteen will be carpet and lung burn, sore knees, pelted insides, pepperoni-scented skin and uniforms. You’ll brain your way through the romantic poets, Phaedrus on off hours and white liquor and Xanax on weekends. Your roached fingers will be waiting to be ground into spelt flour because you read Dante and you’ll know your boyfriend’s fucking that girl who wears camouflage pants, that girl who sing-snarls with the best of your Doc-clad brethren and you’ll think man come on with that bobbed hair and those strong arms who am I anyway, not yours, not mine, not me and then one day when you’re so terribly angry you’ll bang your wrist against a weight bench at the guy’s house where everyone hangs out—the house with the porch sofa that you sleep on sometimes next to the man you’ll marry, between hours witching and dawn, when cockroaches flitter like someone blowing daffodil petals over your skin until you come out of it. Until the petals turn back to pests heavy as the bricks you dig out of porch steps and everything goes indigo because the guys, they make videos with Lego men performing Return of the Jedi. You’ll remember the mini-version of Vader’s funeral pyre and go outside for a smoke and in that moment, you’ll come out of it and know the two of you have to get away. Every year after eighteen you will be grateful you aren’t eighteen.
You will get better, stronger, until you aren’t.
You will learn progress is not linear.
Many times over.
Twenty years later you’ll watch The Lego Movie and think yeah, everything is awesome when so many of you are dead and I’m alive, but barely and you won’t know why or when Patrick held the shotgun between his knees—how long he waited or didn’t when days earlier you had talked of Disney and your first years of college, donating blood for money just to get by, to get by when there’s no getting by. Until years later, at an artists’ colony in Vermont, you’ll want to burn the red mills, the sugar houses, the maple makers, and douse people who toast with sweet liquor in gasoline and you’ll keep asking yourself man who am I? There will be hands across chasms, but you won’t know how to reach or speak from behind your mountains. There will be men and women in cropped cargos with Wonka hair. The way they subtract from paintings with X-Acto knives and their general aversion to the Almighty and the prophets will remind you we are all smoke and cinder. You will have the hubris to drink two bottles of wine and try to explain the hilarious sadness of your worldview. There will be a girl and her chair and her chair that doesn’t matter because she’ll dance when you don’t have the nerve to until you’re all tumbling in the river. You’ll think, you could just go in. We could just go in. Would it matter if we slept on April grounds cavernous cold from snowmelt with our bonfire dying? Two days later a poet of some renown will tell you no, you shouldn’t walk into the wild with a man holding weed and knives he’s forged himself though you’ve lifted, fingered, felt their weight, and got wild with it. You will spend your thirty-seventh equinox, your thirty-seventh Easter Sunday crazed with longing and in want of peace. You will think how every move, every whisper, every empty bottle is lost in translation.
Welcome to The Lost in Translation Issue.
We kick off The Lost in Translation Issue with a poem about the connection between giving birth and art in Farzana Marie’s “Something Has Left My Body.”
“Little Prayer” by Shannon Sankey looks at the subtext of a body in motion.
“One Night Fling” by Olivia Somes examines what and how we communicate in fleeting moments of pleasure.
Nigar Alam’s narrator realizes how quickly one can lose one’s dignity in “The Test.”
Nina Guttapalle grapples with the conundrum of feeling loneliest while writing in “Maelstrom.”
In “Mel and the Microphones,” Matt Tompkins explores one woman’s sad and funny way to maintain communication with her ailing husband.
Andy Plattner’s “PSH” is a beautifully stark reminder about the fluidity of perception—particularly when it comes to celebrity, addiction, and depression.
In “Realistically That’s Just Unreal,” Alexander Sammartino will leave you breathless with a dose of unreality in one long, musical sentence.
Donna Lee Miele delves into “a Filipino child’s first pantheon” in “Knotted Rope.”
Alyssandra Tobin’s “Dumb” mirrors the feelings of most eighteen-year-olds, who are merely trying to make sense of this chaotic life.
“Queen of the Night” by Aishwarya Jha-Mathur sheds light on how, when one travels outside his or her own culture, everything you think you know can become unmoored.
“Hong Kong Diary” by Mohit Parikh follows a young Punjab man on his travels to Hong Kong, where he tries to interpret his surroundings.
Alice Kaltman paints a portrait of a troubled marriage and how it can, at times, take blind ignorance to hope in “Staggerwing.”
Finally, we close The Lost in Translation Issue with “Espwa,” which is Grace Jean-Pierre’s first published story. In this gut-punching tale about love, family, and addiction, Jean-Pierre shows us that “Hope sounds more beautiful in Creole.”
Photo By: Hans Splinter