Chapter 30. Morning Again In America

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It was morning again in America. For God's sake, how many mornings did we need?

I showed up late for breakfast, intentionally, dreading the thought of my parents' arranged "family time". Mom had gotten up early to prepare sabich, but stuffing my face with eggplant, pickled mangoes and hummus wouldn't aid my dry mouth and uneasy stomach. I picked the wrong day to be sick. A hunch said I wouldn't be feeling so iffy had it not been for my guilt.

Mom and Dad were sitting opposite of each other at the birch table in the corner of our red tile kitchen, next to them was Isaac- who had yet to look awake, and the guest of honor: Uncle Mal.

My parents felt it was time for a family gathering, as Uncle Mal had been living with us for three days and we barely found it in us to keep a conversation with him. However, I didn't wanna be sitting surrounded by hostile parents, a brother whose trust I had just betrayed, and an extra, thirty-four-year-old man blessed with enough ignorance to see how moody everyone was.

Walking into the kitchen I headed straight for the sink, pouring myself a glass of water with little intention of forcing any other substance down my throat. No one said anything as I stood by the running sink, already set with my jacket on and my backpack over my shoulder, listening to the ongoing monologue Uncle Mal shared with his disinterested crowd:

"-In summation: if a table has breakfast on it, it's a breakfast table. If that same table has dinner on it, it's a dinner table," Mal spoke, I feared I had entered just in time for him to rehearse his stand-up act, "but if you put lunch on it, it's not a lunch table. Same as how the other way around, you put anything on a lunch table, and it's still a lunch table!"

"Wow," Mom answered, staring down at her plate, "so, you're gonna open with that?"

Instead of answering, Mal turned around to wave in my direction. Hamal Hazan wasn't so much a younger version of my father like Isaac was a younger version of me. For starters, they were only half-brothers, with Mal being born four years after Dad and my grandmother emigrated. Which was why Mal did not share Dad's "came to America when he was five but didn't learn English until he was twelve"-accent, rather expressing his New York vernacular in every word he spoke.

"Hey, Marcia! Come join us!" Mal eagerly greeted, "I haven't even seen you since I got here."

I mean, really. What did I expect coming in here, anyway? My dark cloud and I pulled out a chair at the edge of the table, crammed in between Uncle Mal and Isaac.

"Yes... and I apologize," I answered, forcing myself to grab one of the stuffed pieces of pita bread laid out on the plate before me, "I'm sure no one here would want you to feel unwelcome."

What I said had a certain sincerity to it. Both Isaac and I loved our goofy uncle, and I'm sure we would have put in more of an effort had it not been for both our lives kind of... spiraling into disaster, at the moment. And to my surprise, just this once, someone caught on to it.

"How are you feeling alright, Marcia?" Uncle Mal asked, keeping a firm expression pointed at me, "I might be overstepping my boundaries as a guest, but you don't look too good."

His phrasing of it- spoken so calmly and well-meaning, flushed over me like cold showers reminiscent of the icy rain outside the window.

"What are you talking about?" Mom sneered with a mouth full of food, "she always looks like that."

It was a fair enough retort from my mother, I rarely ever showed myself around the house without my resting aura of concern.

"What she said," I answered, sipping my glass of lukewarm water, "you don't look too good either, Mal."

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