I Understand Now

Kusho #1, Shinichi Maruyama. 2006.

What kind of mother leaves her kids? She asked. She and her siblings raised themselves and learned how to cook, clean, and be on their own. When she was in middle school, her mom brought them over to the States to live with her new family. Why did I have accept these new people as my family? But I understand now.

How did you come to understand why she did what she did? I asked, incredulous at the amount of compassion and growth that would take.

I’m a parent now, she said. She had a child as a teenager, and her child is now a teenager. She’s a single mother. And her son resents her.

Why do you work so much? Why aren’t you home when I come home from school? He speaks harshly and angrily.

You wouldn’t believe what kind of hold your kids have on you. I won’t let him make me feel bad. I tell him, ‘You don’t understand now, but you’ll understand one day.’

I don’t excuse what she did, but I understand now. 

Searching for CTM in East London

London’s Punjab Restaurant, established in 1946.

Finding Chicken Tikka Masala (CTM) that’s “just right” is a challenge.* In my unabashed opinion, there’s either amazing CTM, or cry-me-a-river disappointing CTM, which is better classified as ‘not CTM’.  I’ve had ‘not CTM’ at a lot of places, and CTM at a few.

I remember coming home from one of these few places and having a surprising exchange with my mom.

Mom: “How was dinner with your friends? What did you girls eat?”

Me: “It was great! We had chicken tikka masala with fresh naan.”

Mom: “Chicken tikka masala? What’s that?”

Continue reading “Searching for CTM in East London”

A Moment With: Her Past And My Present

bohemian necklace, neckline, paisley, tan
Image via cleverlyours.com

Meeting someone without your glasses or contacts can be an uncomfortably intimate experience. When things are blurry, you’re inviting someone to see more of you than you can see of them. You’re prompted to absorb this person’s voice more deeply, or even to move physically closer, just to understand what’s going on. This is how I met my optometrist. Contacts off – she saw me before I saw her. I wouldn’t come to ‘see’ her and be able to discern her features fully until the end of my exam. What ensued was a very intimate conversation as we related to each others religious experience – though the religion and religious symbol we had in common were in her past and my present. Continue reading “A Moment With: Her Past And My Present”

The Universal Face of Annoyance

The mailman for our building – a man whom I often run down to say hello so I can hear his complaints (he has a very particular style of complaining that makes me really happy) – well, he was on the other side of our block dutifully* delivering mail, when he saw that someone from another shift had delivered our package to the building across the street.

He was so annoyed, sooooo** annoyed, that he took the package, walked around the block, into our building, up four flights of stairs, to hand me the package and correct this heinous blunder by some unnerving fool, even though he still has to come back later to deliver the rest of our mail. “It SAYS the address on there, IT SAYS IT ON THERE! 123, not 132!” he exclaimed in exasperated frustration.

Like this, but backwards. Actual space stuff via Dailymail
Like this, but backwards. Actual space stuff via Dailymail

While staring at his face, I had about a million flashbacks to every time I’ve experienced this emotion or observed it in others. It was the best: like staring into the universe of a very particular emotion as it recedes into the past, connected to every emotion that came before it and will come after it, every eye roll, every grunt or sigh, every desire to flip over a table, every “I just can’t” that has existed in all of the languages of human expression. Exhilarating.

*Why hasn’t this word been shortened to ‘dutily’?
**Oh the frustration of writing an assignment for school or work and not being able to convey how much you mean something by adding extra letters because it’s not ‘proper English’.  This is why the majority of the populace cares not for grammar, and neither shall I.

A Moment With: Henry


About This Series

I’m intrigued by daily human interactions and transactions, and the ways in which our communities and cities are organized and laid out: who we interact with, who we ignore, who we get to know. Part of what I have wanted to unlearn from my self-absorbed lifestyle is being disconnected with so many human beings. These are my accounts of the people I’ve met: a moment of shared time and space, and an opportunity to get to know someone and hear what they choose and wish to share. The questions I ask make for a limited scope: a biased curiosity, never a ‘whole’, if we can ever come to know someone as a whole. 

Today I met Henry as he drove my friend and I home after an afternoon of exploring the Islamic Art Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When I first opened the door to hop in his cab, the leather interior was clean and worn. I found myself making a wish that it didn’t smell from a previous hungover passenger (it’s happened before). Thankfully, it did not.

I quickly glanced at his ID card and extended a warm greeting, “Hello, Henry! How has your day been so far?” He responded with a warm bellowing hello and ‘he he he’ giggle – every word he spoke came out of a smile. We drove along with all four windows down to let in the fabulously cool post-rain summer air. “I been here 27 years – this is the nicest summer we’ve had!” He has been living in New York for 27 years – as long as I’ve lived. Continue reading “A Moment With: Henry”

The Midday Drunk

untied shoes
Source: theobservalist.wordpress.com

I crossed the yellow-cab dotted avenue, the sound of trash truck engines and creaks filling the midday air. Walking along this fast-paced New York City sidewalk, my mind wandered to the cloud of vapor I was breathing into the frosty ten degree air, until I became distracted by a young man limping drunkenly across the intersection. ‘Stay away from him,’ I thought, and the language of the strangers around me seemed to say the same thing.

Ready to avoid him, I watched as an older African-American woman, cozy in her tennis shoes and long, beige wool jacket, pointed to the drunken man’s shoelaces. “Tie your shoe laces, honey,” she said gently. Continue reading “The Midday Drunk”

Every morning, at the crack of dawn

Source: http://www.thefeelgoodlifestyle.com/
Source: http://www.thefeelgoodlifestyle.com/

Whereabouts: Austin, Texas.

I picked up the phone and waited for the blank TV screen in front of me to show a person. I had never been to a bank where they had a system like this. Felt a little futuristic, for someone like me who lives under a rock.  With a huge smile and bursting energy, a woman in her thirty’s with beautiful ebony skin and braided hair tied in a half-ponytail greeted me.

“Are you fasting?”  Continue reading “Every morning, at the crack of dawn”