Category: Essay

Speaking English with an Accent by Gauri Sirur

Four days after I moved with my family from Mumbai, India, to Cleveland, Ohio, I picked up the phone to order pizza. I had eaten pizza twice before in Mumbai–at a small eatery that served a spicy-sweet sauce and cheese on a six-inch pizza base. (This happened over twenty years ago. In 2021 pizza is widely available in India.) But now in Cleveland, I couldn’t wait to try the exotic version I’d seen in American TV shows and comic books.

I dialed a number from a flyer that had come in the mail. “Hello, I would like to order pizza.”

“Sure,” said a young male voice at the other end. “You have Q-pins?”

No Caller ID by Lindsey Goodrow

The other night I got a call at 4:45 AM. I half-squinted at “No Caller ID” flashing on the screen of my phone. This wasn’t the first time that I had received a call like this. My heart rate immediately accelerated and I fumbled to turn my phone on mute. I flipped it over so that the screen was facing downward and focused on controlling my breathing – big belly inhales through my nose. I tried not to wonder if I should have just turned it off, in case the calls continued to come in. Minutes passed in silence, my breath steadied, and I drifted back to sleep.

Using a loophole to call your ex is a bold and pathetic move. To call at 4:45 AM implies drug and alcohol indulgence. To know, the next morning, that “No Caller ID” was most certainly dying from regret and a bad hangover was admittedly satisfying to me for a short period of time. But the unbearable pain deep in my chest and stomach that came with that call and lingered for months after was affirmation that I needed to continue blocking “No Caller ID” from my life.

The Book That Helped Me Look Within by Shilpa Gupte

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’

The words jumped out at me from the page of the book, Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown. A friend visiting India had gifted it to me three years ago, but I couldn’t proceed beyond the first chapter and so put it away. Non-fiction not being my cup of tea, I let the book lie in a cozy corner of my bookcase. I thought I would wait for the book to prompt me to read it.

In Memoriam by Aishwarya Javalgekar

I do not have an earliest memory of my mother. Instead, I have a moment. A moment of her laughter. She tilts her head back slightly as she opens her mouth wide and lets out a sound. A wild, free sound that tinkles through the room, enters the people around her, and makes them smile. Infectious. Charming. Charismatic.

I am not a part of this moment. I am simply a spectator – watching her laugh, admiring her from a distance, waiting for her to notice me. She is wearing a saree, her trusted maroon lipstick, and a red bindi – her usual work attire. She is on her way to college, where she is an English teacher, no – lecturer, no – vice principle. Labels are important.

The Bi Women Mentee Program by Tai Farnsworth

Oh geez, I’m so sorry I’m late. I was in the middle of sixty-nining my newest lover and I completely lost track of time. Candidly, I’m usually late but you’ll learn all about that. I was thrilled to get your call! You’re my first bi mentee and, I have to say, it’s a complete honor. I still remember my days of being a bi woman mentee. What a joyful time. I’ll try and be as succinct as possible, but there’re a million things to talk about. We’ll get there over the course of our meetings, I’m sure. Before we go any further, I have to say, you are distractingly beautiful. Truly, you’re stunning. It’s almost difficult to look at you. Oh, wow, thank you so much for saying so. This is one of my favorite outfits. Okay, we can’t get carried away. There’s plenty of time for us to swoon for each other after I’ve told you all the bi women truths. I’m going to be totally transparent with you – those bi women stereotypes you’ve been dealing with since coming out, they’re true. All of them.  

The Scent of Smoke by Michelle Lawson

A heavy breath of smoke and things smoked wafts through the open doorway. It’s the scent of silver plumes spiraling from heavy stone roofs, the deep odor of smoked meats and the tang of clothing dried around the fireplace. It’s also the only sign of life in this shuttered village shadowed by the damply wooded Pyrenean foothills. Like other valleys, it’s seen a steady population decline from the end of the 19th century, although descendants of the original emigrants sometimes return to their ancestral homes during the summer months.

But the voices I hear aren’t always French. There’s a scattering of English incomers settled in this wilder western side of the Ariège département of France, following their dream of a new life across the Channel. The western Ariège, however, is a long way from sunny gourmet France, being a place of stubbornly rooted wildness. People talk about leaving England for the French way of life and an old-fashioned sense of community, then end up leaving their families to live amid the ghostly silence of abandoned and decaying houses. Some feel disquiet when they realise they share the landscape with a growing international community of pierced and dreadlocked incomers. What the French call the neo-ruraux, or marginaux, these seekers of an alternative way of life sometimes squat in empty barns, using adjacent battered vans as cupboards and wardrobes.

The Language of Birds by Gary Glass

The hermit thrush has an ethereal flutey call. It composes its serenades in a minor Dorian mode, structured around an ascending scale that concludes with a coy come-hithering, the phrase being repeated at various rather awkwardly connected pitches. Actually, like most birds, it has a variety of calls — even the “mute” swan, which sings like a crow eating a cricket. The so-called “trumpeter” swan sounds something like a hoarse goose. Many a purple poet has assayed to paint the hermit’s song in lyric:

 

gone beyond all going on beyond real gone

gone beyond all going on beyond real gone

gone beyond all going on beyond real gone