Judy Weinberg and Marcela Kogan

Fork Handle by Judy Weinberg



SILENCE IN THE CRIB by Marcela Kogan


Perched side-by-side on a bench in Forest Hills Park in Queens overlooking the cemetery, a blanket of snow covering the dead, I ask papi point black: “How is your sexual relationship with mami going?”

I wonder for a split second if this is a weird question for a 28-year old daughter to ask.

But we’re honest with each other that way.

Papi brings the pipe to his mouth and lights it in circular motions. I stay still and wait for an answer. Papi only says things once. He takes a deep puff, lifts his eyes to the sky and exhales. The smoke settles between us.

Two blocks from Woodhaven Blvd, worlds away, I hear familiar sounds of horns beeping, sirens going off, buses humming and sighing as drivers fight through Friday afternoon rush hour traffic.

I arrived at my parent’s 4th floor apartment an hour ago from Washington D.C.  I brought with me an essay I wrote about Buenos Aires, the city I lived in until I was 12 years old, when papi decided to open up a dental practice in America in hopes of making more money.

But his dreams were shattered as he waited for hours in his dental office for patients who rarely came. Those days he looked broken, and I longed to fix him.

Papi greeted me by the doorway of the Queens apartment with outstretched arms and I walked into his embrace. I put my suitcase down and looked for my mother.

“Aqui estoy,” she said. In the tiny kitchen overlooking rooftops and train tracks, amid the steam from soup bubbling over and the sizzling sound of vegetables sautéing,  mami reached out for me. We hugged for a long time. I planted a kiss in her soft, warm cheek.

Papi was standing by the kitchen. He had on his fedora hat and tweed jacket—a signal that he was ready to go on one of our rides. I couldn’t wait!

At the park, the wind blows away the smoke and papi’s face reappears. He looks amused, mysterious as if he knows something I don’t and he won’t say what.

“I can’t complain,” he replies exaggerating a British accent with a theatrical air to mask his Spanish accent. He takes rhythmic puffs while gazing at the vast expanse of dead bodies before him as if looking at a world wonder.

“I know you don’t get along with her,” my voice a whisper. I run my fingers through my long brown hair, tilt my head back, hold in my stomach and move closer to him.

“I just wanted to make sure you were sexually satisfied,” my voice a whisper.

He looks me down. I sit, poised. He lowers his eyes, fidgets with the rim of his hat, shakes lint off his cardigan sweater.

Filled with a sudden burst of energy, my heart races. I begin to babble on about my writing assignments,  the temp agency I’m working for, the theater class I’m taking, drowning in my chatter like someone on a bad date.

“Let’s go,” he interrupts. He puts on his hat, gets up and disappears behind me.

My heart drops. “Papi wait,” I turn my head,  exasperated. “What about us?”

He picks up his pace, motioning me to follow him.

I don’t obey.

Instead, I stare at the weeds shooting through the snow. Thoughts swirl through my brain and my mind fills up with images like collages, my mother storing dishes in the dishwasher, my brother buying my father a better video recorder, the “theme” party my housemates are planning, each thought twirling up and up through a spiraling ladder into a vast space somewhere.

Then I’m gone.

A voice calls out to me, shaking me out of a trance.

“Vamos.” Let’s go.

I oblige and march toward papi’s car. The parking lot is empty except for a police car parked near us. I get in the car, but papi doesn’t say anything and I wonder if he’s mad at me. We sit for a while. The cops in the police car look over towards our car, then say something to each other.

Papi stares straight ahead. “Act like everything is normal,” he said. I notice he is gripping on to the wheel, his thumbs tapping on it

The police car backs up and leaves.

We’re all alone in this still, desolate park.

“Descansa.” He motions me to put my head on his lap and rest. I follow his order. My eye lids feel heavy and I feel nothing.

Afterwards, on the ride home, we’re quiet for I don’t know how long. It’s getting dark. I look out the window and yearn to be the woman walking out of the supermarket, the girls strolling into 7 Eleven, the older man crossing the street, the taxi driver yelling out the window, the business man waiting for a bus, the construction worker eating a sandwich—everyone and anyone other than me.

My eyes burn and breathing is shallow.

My father is talking to me but I can’t make out the words he is saying.

A metallic taste rises in my mouth, my eye lids feel heavy again and I fight falling asleep.

“No le digas a mami que somons asi o se va a poner celosa.” Don’t tell mami we are like this or she’ll get jealous.

I shake my head. I would never tell. But I wonder, what are we doing?”

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One Comment

  1. Posted September 7, 2013 at 10:07 pm | #

    I love this piece, both go so well together- the humor of the fork and the story, very well done you two!