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by Jennifer Giacalone

“Sometimes I wonder who I’d be if I’d had access to all this when I was growing up.”

(“All this” means the Japanese food that they ate from the food truck on the way here, as they listened to the reggae band in the park and admired the mural of Dolores Huerta painted on the side of the Maria Caraballos Del Negro Cultural Center.  “All this” means the colors of intellect and culture of Los Angeles, mirror image of the unbearable whiteness of Nebraska. “All this” means Eufrasia, a woman he wishes he could know better.)

“You grew up in Omaha; that is fundamental to you, as Kegulu is to me,” she says.  

(She is slender and tall, darker than he, speaks with the accent of a woman who of privilege.  Her eyes are dark and sometimes he thinks he can see in them the rains steaming on her family’s teak plantation.  Sometimes, in her darker moods, he thinks he can see the trees burning.)

“Did you like the Caravaggios?”

(He can tell the tortured, milky-skinned people with their lolling eyes did not move her. When he pictures “refugee,” he thinks of his own parents, smuggling him and his sister across the border when they were babies, wet and dirty and cold, wide-eyed in the dead of night. Her parents were well-connected and they had arrived on a flight from Khartoum.)

“Fine, I suppose.”

(He brushes away the voices of all the Omaha parents who wouldn’t let their daughters date him in high school.  He knows in Kegulu, he, a cop with an LAPD badge weighing in his back pocket, would not have been good enough for her parents, either. Then she questions him:)

“Why are we here?  You are not that interested in art.”

“Thought you’d like to get to know our culture.”  

(Javier doesn’t know who he even means when he says “we” and “our”: American? Angeleno? Some days he feels American, and some days, not.  He wonders if she can see in him the constant lingering anxiety of childhood, of wondering when immigration would come pounding on their door.)

“I do.  But this is not the culture that you like.  It’s the culture you think you’re supposed to like.”  

(Her English is as good as his, if not better; her private tutors in South Sudan had probably exceeded the public education he’d gotten in Omaha.  He wonders why his parents chose Nebraska when they could have come to L.A. to begin with.)

“Well, that’s not completely true. There’s one thing I like.”

(Their footsteps make muted echoes in the dim hall, as they move through the slanting bars of light that fling themselves down from the narrow windows near the ceiling.  Swirling dust motes float in them as they move through the afternoon hush. He leads her to a wing that he knows well from his time in it as a security guard. It is filled with Japanese pottery: plates, tea sets, vases, bowls, all magnificent and perfectly lit.)


(They both struggle to blossom in a country that is not entirely theirs.)

“It’s called kintsukuroi.”  

(They both have their roots in a country they may never see again.)

“It’s... it’s all broken.”

(But in each of these perfectly, carefully lit pieces emblazoned with cranes, mountains, and flowers, seams of gold ripple through their substance and foundation.  Gold veins, gold spiderwebs, ephemeral shapes, delicately random designs, arteries that wrap around a piece and make it gleam.)

“Yeah, that’s the point.  It’s an entire art form devoted to repairing broken pottery with gold. The piece becomes more beautiful for having been broken.”

(He takes her hand and they sit on a hard, wooden bench before a glass case containing a large plate, brilliant with golden shatter marks, bearing a pair of cranes in flight, low above the surface of a lake.)

“I like it.”  

(She rests her head on his shoulder.  The two cranes remain frozen in their gold-etched water dance, suspended on the face of the porcelain, in the halo of gentle light.)

About the Author

Jennifer Giacalone is an artist, designer, and author, whose novel, "Loud Pipes," is due out this fall on Carnation Books. 

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