Regrets

Version .1

He was charming in the way that mayonnaise is appealing because of its apparent ubiquity in sandwiches (tuna, ham, chicken salad): agreeable enough as standard (or a standard, anyway). He told the new guy how he had talked to my mother on the phone, just the other day in fact.

“She’s a lovely woman,” he said, meaning my mother, looking me in the eye. He went on and on.

Except.

He never spoke to my mother. Or, to put it in better terms, my mother never spoke to him. Has never spoken to him. He spoke to Claudia’s mother. Claudia,* the only other Asian-Canadian woman who worked there. Claudia, who was not me, whose mother was not my mother. But, I guess, “a difference that makes no difference” (even when it does and especially when you’ve already committed yourself to the convenience, the ease and matter-of-factness that comes from it), right?

He smiled at me. I smiled back. I smile back.

He left and I didn’t have anything to say to myself after that.

Except. If only. But still.

Yeah.

 

Version .05

(It’s like stepping on live snails after the evening rains in the summer: the leaden air; the sudden crunching underfoot, the pop, the grinding of shell into sidewalk; the mess that cakes to the soles of your boot. The thought of what shouldn’t have happened, what could have been done. The damage, the waste, and what possible difference there could be separating the two).

 

Version .2

She spoke in quick clipped tones that shot out from the receiver as I held the phone against my ear. I didn’t want to be there. That’s not an excuse (and barely an explanation). She asked about paper lanterns (“Paper lanterns…paper lanterns…paper lanterns!”), whether we had any in stock and how many, what colour and what etc., etc., etc.

“Who was that?” called Mom from across the store, dusting shelves, merchandise, as always (as ever).

I told her, with my hand over the receiver, for cover. The phone dropped to the floor and I looked at it for a while before picking it up.

What difference did it make?

She came into the store later that day. A woman who looked very much like my mother, like me.

“I called earlier. The girl on the phone said I was ‘some white lady.'” She laughed.

“Oh! It was her!” Mom said, pointing, laughing, looking right through me, not nearly so cheerful. “You wanted lanterns.” It wasn’t a question.

I deserved it, the reprimand, the dismissal.

Except. If only. But still.

Of course.

 

 

________________________________________________

*Not real name.

 

 

 

 

 

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