Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2017  Vol. 16 No. 1
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Garlic Baby

Above the dining table a painting of a forest illuminated by false candelabra sconces. Hunting dogs run through a green field, fox in corner. Mimi in her jewels and high heels. Baba with his English golf cap eons old. Me still in my uniform, rolled up twice because it’s begun to miraculously slip upon my hips. How good this feels, their jutted twin selves.

Tonight Mimi has made leg of lamb. Rosemary infused. Boiled on the stove top the whole day then blasted in the oven covered with foil. Red potatoes basted in juice of meat. Olive oil hued. And rice too. Not Baba’s everyday-after-school rice, that buttery, Anatolian tomato kind. But Mimi’s special Ottoman blend. Browned orzo pieces simmered in broth from the roast, mixed up with cinnamon pine nuts. Baba and Mimi have a glass of red each. Mimi opens a Martinelli’s for me though I stick to iced water and two potato halves doused in a bit of brine. Separate them from the skin, cut each into many pieces. This is what I read in Seventeen. “Secrets to Svelte.” Chew with thought. Through the window, the armory across Park a solid red block.

Estevan, my love, is rung up by the doorman after we’ve finished and Baba is off to his den for Charlie Rose. Estevan is late, near eight, straight from football with the St. Bernard’s crew. He brings many apologies. At the table, in his Real Madrid jersey, he pours himself a large glass of cider, digs in, does not refuse Mimi’s insistence. Always she must insist. Push food in faces no matter what. Have more, have more. You look like you want more. With me Mimi now tries silence. What she’s read no doubt. But Estevan doesn’t care, says okay, licks all up. With a fist around the knife and a fist around the fork.

Gâvur,”Mimi says to me like Estevan can’t hear, can’t figure out she talks of him. He eats like an infidel, she means. Baba’s Bloomberg in the background flickers blues and whites reflected on the mirrored panels of the ajar pocket doors.

After, Estevan and I go to my room, lie on the bed in dark. Estevan keeps socks on, takes shirt off. Close to him like this I can smell his sweat, inhale into his armpits. His eyes are closed and I feel breath within him heavy. On my ceiling stars and moon begin to glow. In the kitchen Mimi and Baba talk with the click clank of dishes. Their voices come and go. What do they talk of? Gâvur, gâvur. And then there is silence and only the sound of the sink that runs and then after a bit Mimi who says yapma! Don’t! She is not serious. There is no malice but jest, a part of them I’ve missed.

“Your mother is a good cook,” Estevan says, and stretches out. “Why you don’t eat? You are skinny, like me.” He pulls me into him, undoes the skirt, unclicks the back of my bra. His fingers cold and raw on my nipples and he pushes fast. I taste the garlic on his teeth and think of how Mimi comes at night to kiss me on the tip-top of my head. Here I smell like sarimsak, she says. My garlic baby, she says. This spot, she says and inhales, smells the same with your Baba. The very same.

“Estevan, would you like some apple pie?” Mimi knocks on the door. He is only in his boxers now. And the socks. Estevan springs up, points to jersey on the floor. “Super,” he mouths in my ear. How does he speak. How I love to hear him. Super.

Mimi heats up a slice and Estevan once again does not look up from the spoon that he rapidly fists. He clears his throat, asks for a glass of milk. “Milk?” Baba says, walks in, TV still blaring behind him. “Let me get. Boys need unlike girls!” Baba brings Estevan the carton. “You drink from bottle, eh?”

Saçmalama, don’t be ridiculous,” Mimi says. “You pour in your glass.” And then because Mimi asks him how he plans to get home, Estevan says he must now catch the BQE back to Westchester. At the door, alone, he does not kiss me.

“Tell your mother thank you,” Estevan says, and I watch him, through the look-hole. He walks in his Real jersey down the hallway, turns into the elevator. Head burrowed, hands that count fingers in the way he does when he thinks. Of what I’d like to know, of what Estevan thinks. Of what he calculates. But how will I ever know.

Birak kizi,” Baba says to Mimi. I join them in the pink living room. Salmon prayer rugs on the walls. Chickering ebony baby grand. The Empire settee I sit on that stands slightly askew. The love seat where Baba is across the glass coffee table. Mimi dusts the top of the piano, adjusts corners of the upturned rug, tucks in loose tassels. The dining room still lit, plates not cleared. Outside, the armory now gone save for gas lamps. Whistles for cabs. Rustles of pigeons that coo on windowsills.

Birak kizi,” Baba says again. Leave the girl alone. Let the girl be. He takes his cap off, rubs his bare scalp, the hair at sides mossy white. “Salak, ama iyi,” Baba says. He means that Estevan is stupid but good. A stupid but good boy.

Niye? Leave her alone? All you can say. Leave her alone! Let her starve!” Mimi clicks heels to and fro, lets loose the coral cloth drapes from brass hooks. I can make out three dogs and the tail of the fox. From this angle the green of the earth is painted much darker, patches of dirt that dissipate into gold. Mimi’s feast lingers. The sarimsak, that garlic, forever infused. Upon my tongue, I daydream. Long, thin, cool, I’m barefoot, the grass a catwalk I float.  

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