The kitchen was my father’s. Thick membranes of spices that coated the air. Musky cinnamon, crystalline mahlepi It marked your lungs. Sat atop a stool I watched him brew his coffee – thick tar. The scent would stick to him, stain the back of his teeth. Just like home.
We chatted, flittering through subjects, jumping from English to native tongue – before my foot caught.
“Yeah, well it’s like how I like girls too.”
It was bound to come out eventually, I was careless, I took the opportunity. I didn’t intend to be so crass – but to wrap it in any sense of formality, To dip it in ceremony – it wouldn’t have been me. I had hoped that if I played it off nonchalantly; let it spring from my tongue quickly, So as not to catch on my teeth It would be fine.
…I hoped I wasn’t wrong
He paused mid sip – drinking in what I had said Swishing it around his mouth So as to coat his next words carefully.
“Don’t go spreading that around, boys don’t like that.” “Oh no, not the boys.” I muttered.
Irony mingled with discomfort – filling the space between us.
My father nodded quickly, putting down his coffee. Distracting himself he fiddled with the kitchen tea towel – wiping down clean benches.
“No, y-you know what I mean.”
He was stumbling through his words. I sat there. My news brought no fireworks, no music, no chorus of dancing girls. No fanfare but my father, trying his best to form a ribbon of words in a foreign tongue to show his care. It tied around his uvula, choking him. He was right…I did know what he meant. He wasn’t wrong. He meant to protect me from everything in his mind – from all the possibilities.
He looked at me, not fishing for anything to say. Thick eyebrows furrowed, thin lips curled.
I say I’m currently seeing a man – I watch the tension evaporate from my father as he has been pricked in the back with a pin. Bursting.
“I’m glad” Was all that he said before continuing with his coffee.
It was not bigotry or malice that spiked his response it was fear. In his eyes I saw a man who watching watched his eldest daughter – Thrown to the sharks; a garland of dead and bloodied fish around her neck. He wrongly saw this male partner -an unknown to him – as a rubber raft. Flimsy and imperfect. But able to keep her dry and afloat as waves crash and predators swam beneath.