Turkey on Wheat
Ben White | Hong Rui Choo
The first thing I remember is being under something. The sheets. I felt the fabricon my face, sliding across my skin with my breathing. It was dark under there, and I liked it. It must have been in New York, before we moved. I was between three or four. Nobody seemed to notice me there, under the sheets. There was nothing to look at except the shifting shadows from the light in the ceiling. The voices rang clear.
Then there is nothing. I sleep. Time passes and this scene repeats, the shadows talking quietly, always quietly, always measured and smooth. Two people: one big one that talked in quick spurts and one small one, quiet, constantly interrupted.
I spoke too by then, when I wasn’t hiding under the sheets, learning new words and spying on my parents. I wanted to speak like them, use long loping sentences that seemed to never end. They often spoke to my brother, sitting in the halo of his desk lamp, working on his lessons. They often complained, implored, always quietly, always smoothly in a soft caress of dissatisfaction. He said very little while I was under the sheets, and he remained hunched over the desk, his eyes never leaving the pages of his black and white composition notebooks.
My brother only left the notebooks out when he left for the bathroom, and while he was gone I would rip out an old page, one he wouldn’t miss, and wipe my eyes over the crooked shapes of his writing. Then I would crumple it as tight as I could and tuck it down into the cracks between my bed and the wall.
I cannot remember my brother’s voice. I was hiding under the sheets, sticking a hand into the crack to play with my collection of papers. He must have heard the noise or noticed the pages missing, because I heard the chair move across the floor. He pulled the sheet off and looked at me. He didn’t say a word. He walked back to his desk and grabbed the notebook, came over and placed it in my hands. Then he slapped me across the face with as much cold passion as he could muster.
I pulled the sheets over my head and cried as quietly as I could. It would be bad for both of us if my father heard. And as I clutched the notebook, I thought only of what secrets it held, what wisdom my brother had passed down to me, and how the pain would be worth it when I could read and decipher its mysteries. I still feel this anticipation when I think about my brother and the notebook, even after I lost both of them unread.