TE21 Serbian Moments

Andrea Scrima

Like Lips, Like Skins

him, and while he might not have grasped the ramifications of a millennia-long history of misogyny, or the theory behind Spero’sfeministproject,heevidentlyfeltthethreatof something ancient and sinister, and as his eyes sought mine, I could see that he’d understood. — And the two of them together, sitting at the kitchen table, Alfie here and your father over there, you can imagine. God forbid your father asked him a question—Alfie always just mumbled something into his plate and went on eating. Alfie, I used to say. Will you look at your father when he’s talking to you? Daddy would get furious because he didn’t understand a single thing he was saying. And Alfie in his own world, as usual. Alfonso, I always used to say. Speak up so your father can hear you. But trying to get Alfie to talk is like pulling teeth, and your father would get so mad that he finally just switched off his hearing aid altogether. But like I said about Lillie: she’s lucky he puts up with her. He’s an angel, an angel , I’m telling you. The winsome smile of a naughty child flashes across my mother’s face, and I smile back at her. Her voice is the voice of someone telling a story she’s told many times before; she is in no danger of recalling anything anymore, of stumbling upon a long-dormant memory, one she hasn’t been repeating, modifying, reinventing over the years. The phone rings again. I get up from the table to answer it, but there’s only a dial tone at the other end. 190

—Who was that?

—Wrong number, I guess.

— Sowhy are you standing there like that? Hang up the phone!

All at once, I hear a loud beeping sound coming from the receiver, and I lay it gently back on the hook.

—Was it hard, Mom—having us?

— What are you talking about? I never had any trouble with you kids. Look, here’s one for Aunt Millie’s Tomato Sauce, two for five dollars.

My mother tears the coupon out of the newspaper.

— Pick a couple up when you go to the store for your coffee— the coupon’s only good until tomorrow. She slides the coupon across the plastic tablecloth, looks at me through her bifocals, and smiles like we’re partners in crime. I have allowed my mother to reinvent our relationship; we’re like old buddies now, looking back on a rich, warm past we’ve never had.



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