January 26, 2010

Kyle Hemmings

The Arrival

Somebody once told her, perhaps the Chinese grocer with dried raisin skin, spots of discoloration, that if your left eye twitches between 3 and 5 a.m., it means that someone from afar will come to visit. And although Chaya doesn't believe in superstitions, she knows that person has arrived. Her belly is rotund, bursting with new life.

Chaya likes to think of it as some miraculous fruit from a mulberry tree. Her mother explained the concept of birth to her in those terms. As a child, Chaya would close her eyes and imagine her mother as a young girl gathering leeks and onions into a pot, boiling young leaves or eating them raw, tasting cucumbers spiced with vinegar. Her mother would love to explain how you can take a late fig and press it into round or square cakes. It doesn't take much to be content. Much of the world is ignorant of this fact.

Chaya is worried. Her first baby exited this world almost as soon as she entered. It must have been the air, too thin to sustain, or the climate, too harsh to ripen. What if this new baby is deformed? What if this new baby grows into a starving man, bullied each day by all the fruit gatherers of this world? Will there be any fruit left for him? What if this baby grows into a girl, mirroring Chaya's left dimple and dead sea eyes, and grows into someone who disowns Chaya, a stranger who renounces her faith in the eternal return of spring and color? Suppose. Suppose. Suppose.

Or perhaps it is more like Chaya is carrying the moon inside her, unacquainted with its mysterious laws, and when that moon drops too soon or too late--the world will go dark at daybreak.

At night, she lies next to her husband, Nathan, a man who wears his Wachovia watch and years of undisclosed baggage in bed, and dreams of a little girl offering a handful of date palms, pistachio nuts to strangers. Will she starve? Was that little girl once her? Is that little girl inside her right now? That little girl always turns and smiles, then, her features become blurred, right before Chaya awakes. The memory of that dream, that girl, will stay with Chaya for the rest of the day, a lingering sunspot.

At dinner, Chaya asks her husband whether the pot roast, carrot tzimmes and potatoes are cooked to his taste, whether he is full. Yes, he says. Yes. He would never say otherwise.


Kyle Hemmings lives in New Jersey. His work has been featured in Five Fishes, FourPaperLetters, Lacuna Journal, and others.

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