📖[PDF] America Is Not the Heart von | Perlego (2024)

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The First Picture of You, 1990

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WHEN HERO RETURNED TO RONI, HAIR WASHED AND blown dry, the girl had torn through a dozen fashion magazines, sample perfume flaps thrown open and savagely rubbed at, producing a hazy veil of mingled scents around Roni’s body so strong that Hero stopped just short of sitting back down next to her. Oh, you’re back, Roni said, sensing the shadow above her. She was still peering down at her outer right forearm, where there was no eczema, just a fine layer of black hair. She sniffed at it, considering. ex’cla ma’tion.

Then she looked up, took Hero in. Balked. Said, You look, uh. Different.

Hero knew that, hair cascading down her back, free from its usual ponytail. Something soft touched at her shoulder. She looked down to see Rosalyn’s fingers pulling back.

Hey Roni, Rosalyn said. My grandma’s gonna be ready for you just a little bit. You wanna eat something? You want some barbecue?

Roni slapped her hands atop the magazine in her lap. Barbecue? Yeah!

Tell my grandpa that I sent you, and that grandma’s on her way.

Then Rosalyn flicked at Hero’s shoulder. Don’t drop your thing, she said, before walking away from them, back toward the sinks.

Hero reached up to touch her own shoulder. The hair elastic she’d been wearing earlier was precariously balanced there.

Roni was halfway out the door. There wasn’t anything Hero could think of to say back that didn’t sound stupid; she had to quit while she was ahead. Rosalyn was out of earshot anyway. So when Roni said, Hurry up, let’s go—Hero hurried up. Went.

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There were a few more people in the restaurant when Hero and Roni returned. At one table, what looked like a family: a mom, a dad, and two toddlers, one of whom was beating on the other mercilessly. The one being beaten was sucking a thumb, oblivious. At another table, two middle-aged men wearing uniforms that resembled Pol’s security guard uniform: gray slacks, itchy-looking blazer, cheap badges. In front of all of them, Styrofoam plates, filled with sticky white rice and barbecued pork.

The grandpa was out of the kitchen now, perched on a chair behind the display counter. He’d brought the radio out with him; it was still broadcasting the baseball game. Hero saw Roni shoot a glance that way, disappointed.

Kumusta po kayo, ako si Geronima, ito si Roni, we’re here waiting to see Lola Adela. Rosalyn told us to come here.

Lolo Boy smiled vaguely, adjusting his baseball cap. Okay—sit down, anywhere.

Salamat po, Hero murmured and pointed Roni toward a table at the back of the restaurant, in the far corner, away from the other customers. Go sit down.

Gutom kayo? Lolo Boy called. It was odd; he was speaking Tagalog, but his accent in Tagalog was more American than anything else, as if he’d come to America as a youth and had spoken both languages simultaneously so that they were one. It reminded Hero of the way Roni would sometimes switch between English, Pangasinan, and Tagalog, seamlessly, oblivious to the differences between them.

Hero forgot that Rosalyn had mentioned barbecue. She looked down to ask Roni, but Roni had understood the question.

Yeah, I’m hungry! she replied, climbing into a chair so she was kneeling on it, rather than sitting on it, her hands slapping at the table.

Lolo Boy’s smile turned genuine. What do you want to eat?

Barbecue! Roni cheered.

Barbecue! Lolo Boy cheered back. Roger. He turned around and began busying himself with the plates, filling one with a heaping mound of rice and three sticks of barbecue. When he took a second plate, he stopped and glanced back at Hero, only just remembering she existed. Ah—ikaw rin, you want barbecue?

Hero nodded. Oo po, barbecue na lang, thank you.

We have a lot of other dishes, Lolo Boy said, gesturing at the metal warming dishes. Meron kami, ahh, afritada, adobo, pinakbet, pinapaitan, laing, kaldereta, daing na bangus, tortang talong, lechon kawali—take your pick.

Barbecue’s fine, po, Hero said, though her heart had skipped at the mention of pinakbet.

Lolo Boy looked skeptical; why, Hero couldn’t quite figure out. He made no move to fill the plate. Waiting.

Okay, sige po, pinakbet, Hero said, flustered, more to shuffle his expectation off of her.

Pakbet! Coming up.

Hero turned to Roni. Sit down properly in your chair.

Roni flopped down, losing energy abruptly. I’m hungry. How come they turned the TV off? I wanted to watch that show. Ah! We forgot to ask Rosalyn.

It’s not a show, it’s a movie, Hero said, wondering why she even remembered.

Lolo Boy appeared in front of them, holding their plates. One barbecue, he announced, sliding the plate in front of Roni. At isang pinakbet. He lifted his chin at the utensils gathered in an empty can of Chaokoh coconut milk, washed and repurposed. There’s forks and spoons there.

Roni was picking up a stick of barbecue with her hands, not even looking at the forks and spoons.

Hero reached across her for a spoon. The first bite was sitaw and kalabasa, sweet, but the sabaw was just too bitter and too salty; they’d been over generous with the bagoong, and there was too much okra, not enough ampalaya. Maybe American-born Filipinos didn’t like ampalaya, she thought. It was fine; this version wasn’t her favorite, but it was fine. She had another spoonful, then another—then another, getting hungrier as she was eating. It often happened to her like that; she wouldn’t realize how hungry she was until she started eating. But by the time that happened, the food had an inverse relationship to her hunger: eating, she got hungrier, but the food wasn’t enough, ran out too fast, even if it wasn’t even that good. She and Roni ate in silence.

The door opened with a chime. Adela walked in, her hand raised to greet the customers. She stopped at the family for a moment, chatting with the woman then reaching out to firmly pull back the chubby fist of the toddler who hadn’t yet stopped beating on its sibling.

Del, Lolo Boy called.

Adela turned around, the toddler’s fist still in her hand.

Boy gestured toward Hero and Roni.

Adela glanced over at Hero and Roni without moving her head. Hero straightened in her chair.

Then Adela let go of the child’s fist, turned, and waved. Hi guys, she said brightly, in English. I’ll be with you in a minute.

Her accent, when she spoke English, was stronger than Boy’s, but only just. They both sounded more American than Paz or Pol. Her demeanor reminded Hero of Rosalyn; that tone in her voice when she’d told Hero to relax.

Hero became aware of someone’s small hand reaching over to pick up her spoon. She looked down; Roni was stealing a large bite of pinakbet.

Don’t take people’s food when they’re not looking—

You can steal some of mine.

Then it’s not stealing. Still, Hero leaned over, picked up a stick of barbecue and bit a chunk of it off. She was startled; it was surprisingly good, flavorful, juicy, overcharred in the best way, so that the sugar in the marinade became smoky and caramelized. She took another bite.

Adela walked over and sat down across from Roni. Hello, hello, she said, leaning forward to put her elbows on the table. Adela left her mouth wide open when she smiled; Hero saw she had two gold teeth in the upper row.

Roni hesitated, looking down at Adela’s hand. She seemed to be calculating as to whether or not she should give Adela the mano. Amused, Adela let her. Roni touched her forehead to the tops of Adela’s knuckles and mumbled, Mano po.

Lolo Boy was approaching the table with a plate of sticky black sampalok candy, wrapped in red cellophane. He placed the plate down onto the table while Adela patted her pockets, pulling out a packet of Lucky Strikes. She turned to her husband and made a face at him. Lolo Boy went back to the counter, then returned with a lighter. Adela had the cigarette in her mouth, leaning forward without skipping a beat into the space that Boy lit up.

Thanks, handsome, she said. Don’t overdo it, Boy replied, but left the lighter on the table.

Adela leaned forward again, plucking one of the sampalok candies off the plate, pulling off the cellophane and chewing at it, then spitting out the shiny maroon seed and licking the salty-syrupy residue on her fingers. Then she took a drag of her cigarette and brought her gaze over to look at Roni, again without moving her head. Just the skating over of those mobile, precise eyes, so open they were unreadable. It was the look of a person confident enough that she didn’t have to bother with defenses, the look of someone whose feet were planted firmly but flexibly in the ground, muscles loose and warm.

In Hero’s makeshift clinic, the small kitchen in an abandoned nipa hut, stitching up Teresa’s forehead after she’d gotten into a fight with a young man from the village who’d taken a new female cadre into an alley and tried to shove his tongue down her throat. Her first time treating Teresa, hands trembling and voice brusque, ordering her not to laugh or she would make a mistake, Maybe you’ll think before you act now that you’ve seen how much a head wound bleeds, and Teresa chuckling through gritted teeth, Donya, people think scars are sexy in their leaders, and do you really think this is my first head wound? What Hero had thought to herself back then was what Hero thought to herself now: There isn’t anything, anything in the world scarier than a strong person.

So. I hear you’re kinda sick, Adela began, smiling like it was an inside joke, waving the smoke away.

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Hero was sent to a faith healer, just once in her life. Neither Hamin nor Concepcion knew about it. As far as Hero knew, it wasn’t their idea. It was all Lulay’s doing.

Lulay, a woman so scrawny she looked like she’d either die within the day or never succumb to death at all, like one of those fasting saints Hamin used to talk about. It had been Concepcion’s firm policy not to have young, beautiful yayas or maids in the house, even if Hamin had never really been the babaero type, nowhere in the league of Melchior or even Pol. Lulay had worked for the De Vera family all her life, as the personal maid of Hamin and Pol’s mother, the original Geronima De Vera, and then, after her early death, as Escolastica’s yaya. Escolastica had never taken to her, and so when Hero was born, Lulay came to live with them.

Lulay only spoke Tagalog to Hero, but neither Tagalog nor Ilocano had been her first languages—what language was her first, Hero never knew. Lulay didn’t talk about it. Lulay had age-washed tattoos on her upper arms and chest that Hero only vaguely remembered seeing when she was a child, when they would be in the bath together. Lulay was from the north of Luzon, that much Hero knew, which meant she was practically a local, and thus an artifact from a rapidly disappearing era of De Vera servitude; the newer generation had begun looking farther afield when it came to their help. Hero’s younger cousins were raised and driven around by people from Negros, Samar, Davao, Sulu. Hiring servants from farther-...

Zitierstile für America Is Not the Heart

APA 6 Citation

[author missing]. (2018). America Is Not the Heart ([edition unavailable]). Atlantic Books. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/3523431 (Original work published 2018)

Chicago Citation

[author missing]. (2018) 2018. America Is Not the Heart. [Edition unavailable]. Atlantic Books. https://www.perlego.com/book/3523431.

Harvard Citation

[author missing] (2018) America Is Not the Heart. [edition unavailable]. Atlantic Books. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/3523431 (Accessed: 15 June 2024).

MLA 7 Citation

[author missing]. America Is Not the Heart. [edition unavailable]. Atlantic Books, 2018. Web. 15 June 2024.

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