'The Basics of Vacillation' LISP 2022 Flash Fiction Finalist by Charisse J. Tubianosa
The Basics of Vacillation
It’s better now, isn’t it? He’s more attentive. He’s not sure why it happened. He says She made it so easy, so familiar, so comforting. No, no, dammit, it wasn’t about missing white girls. Yes, you’re enough. Yes, that was a big mistake. No, he doesn’t want to lose you. Won’t you go with him on a little road trip? A weekend to visit medieval towns. One is called Castellfollit de la Roca, which sits on a cliff. Just from Google photos, your knees feel wobbly looking at the steep drop all around. Your phone rings. It’s Mommy. In between sobs, she tells you Grandma’s dead.
After the funeral, you step out to Grandma’s backyard. You almost smell her adobo wafting from the kitchen. The big old mango tree still stands, on one of its ample branches hangs the swing Grandpa had made for you. With Grandma, you’d play a little game: up-down, ask a question; up-down, get the answer. Some years ago, you’d sat here with her deciding if you would take the scholarship, leave for Spain. You go on the swing, tilt your head to lean against the thick plaited rope. Your legs know the movement.
He picks you up from the airport. The sun is high, the palmeras lining the road sparkle. He hums to a song on the radio from Jarabe de Palo about a thin brown girl. He sings when he’s happy. When you first entered the car, you inhaled deeply, checking if you’d catch a whiff of Her perfume. You couldn’t help it, this bothers you. When he stops in front of your building, you look at him. You touch his face. Later, you are alone in the elevator, which moves up and up to take you home.