Vignettes From an Only Daughter Who is Now a Wife

Tara Tulshyan

Papang

We inhale the gas passed down from our father, thickening on our lungs fat with heat. The clouds brew sickle rain and prickly heat, enough for our lanzones to thrive. Papa owns a petrol station a few tricycle rides away from our house, across the plaza where chatters grow. The smoke gushes from his breath, glacing my forehead in soot when Papa kisses me, before he bows to Lola. He cannot eat the lumpia without thinking of his mother who made baobing, with the oysters from the pearl lake. And the yuwantang with the fish his Bàba plowed from the river. Now, he is in Ma-ao where the river stains the mud and dusts our hands with fog from the gas station opposite the plaza, where Papang leaves with his motorcycle before he could teach us Ah ma’s name.

 

Takashimaya Food Court

People like us gathered in Orchard Road. The place I left Ma-ao for. The air is thin, and there isn’t much to hold. Crowded in the central were exchanges, perfumes for remittances, earrings for cash, bodies for citizenships. So I sat alone in the shopping mall, on the fifth level where there was chicken rice: boiled drumstick, white rice, and soya sauce. The only food I could stomach.

 

On a rainy day in riverside hospital

Lola’s arms have gone stale. They have to pump her with blood they cannot find. So we ask a trisikad driver for his. One thousand pesos for three bags. He collapses and Lola survives.

 

The only daughter

in a family with only women. Our mouths are loose threads, splitting with every breath that isn’t about a man, sewed together every so often. Our hands know how to grow salt, sugar, and rice, the only ingredients needed for a son. But we do not care to cultivate such a crop, which only reaps weeds.

 

Wife/Asawa

My children eat CDO ham and broken grains for breakfast. They have more salt than rice in their bellies, inflated skins above their bones. Five children, all daughters. I put a bowl over their hair and cut around it. Their heads resemble the moon, half-empty.

Tara Tulshyan is sixteen years old and is homeschooled. “Vignettes from an Only Daughter Who is Now a Wife” won first place in the Manatee Libraries and 805 Teen Poetry Contest.