i) Ah Ma
when my hair was still no talking cut straight across my forehead
I was watched by my Ah Ma’s wooden back-scratcher
together it baby-sitted my blinking
always waiting for my body to stray out of bounds sit quiet quiet
me and Ah Ma we watched the Lion King II together every day of the school
learn good good
holidays after Maggi Noodles with black sauce and frankfurters sliced
I slid my pirated copy of the Lion King II out of the plastic sleeve
protecting the sun-smeared colours of Pride Rock and put in into the VCR player and my grandma’s voice faded into the sound of the
TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV TV
it was about a girl lion called Kiera
Nala falls in love with Kovu a boy lion and even as a kid I could tell
he was total eye-candy because it was the nineties
Kovu’s mane had a love
lock that hid his bad boy scar he had tan skin and round
peppermint lolly wrappers for eyes
but according to Simba Kovu is bad because he is related to Scar who killed Simba’s dad
when I got a bit older I wondered whether this was a tacky as hell black/white/segregation/Romeo/Juliet story
because Kovu’s skin is the colour of chocolate ice-cream and Kiara’s is the colour of a fifty-cent cone
two lions who fall in love with each other against their parent’s wishes isn’t that just so
nineties? interracial love taboos
iii) Show and Tell
when I told my Ah Ma that my boyfriend was no longer a hypothetical she asked me if he owned property what colour his skin was his vocation and told me not to change my mind
then she said
no don’t tell me don’t tell me
no I know I know you like Ang Moh
(and laughed and it did me good to hear her laugh because nowadays I miss the days when she disciplined me because at least she was alive to me then
now I’m not always so sure she knows what’s going on and it hurts me
more than her back-scratcher ever did)
Ang Moh = red hair = White People
I wonder if Babel Fish would have translated my grandma as saying
I know I know you like rangas Or Or Or I know I know you like baboons
because in Chinese-Hokkien
ang kah chui = red butts = baboons
I told my boyfriend about the mistranslation and he didn’t find it as funny as I thought he would
when your hair was still overgrown and you showed
your two front teeth in photographs
you slid your long belly and enoki limbs under the pleather couch
hiding from the bulldog your nonna kept to protect her and only her
its eyes were like thrift-shop china cracked and pink and polished
in front of the TV you ate soccer ball ham cut thick from its paper wrapping
when you were old enough to drive your Nonno’[sign of the cross here]s battered Corolla
Nonna would sit in the passenger seat and love you more
times she would love you more
times over than the rosary
you’re wearing purple today Nonna sexy!
only son of her only son she would slip fifties Ooh new glasses Nonna
cicci bella in my car into your back pocket as you drove her to the cemetery and her mouth was always full of small talk family small talk how are the children? she would ask of your little sisters your little sisters too jealous to speak to you when you drove home bloated with love and warm-hued oil
be careful driving home and when you cross the road
drive slowly no risks you come for lunch again this week?
iii) Show and Tell
you were too afraid to tell your Nonna about me
she would have too much advice about meeting and marrying and
it doesn’t matter no I don’t mind just take all the time in the world of course
are you sure?
no yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes no yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
well okay I’m okay if you’re okay
i) The End
the day we drove past your Nonna’s house on the way to the supermarket and you pointed it out to me on the corner of Eliza St and Droop Pde
it’s very Italian you laughed
it looks like any suburban house looks
I didn’t say
I was thinking aloud less and less often around you in those days
should we go in?
you asked me always daring yourself to do things always proving to yourself that you were unscareable that you could laugh at things that made me scream
Yeah sure if you want
I was always ready to tell you yes or okay or sure not on purpose it wasn’t really conscious but sometimes you’d tell me something you wanted to do or eat or see or whatever and just the sound of you saying what you wanted made me start to wonder if that was exactly what I wanted all along only you had articulated it for me perfectly like a book and so I would say yes yes
let’s do it
you did a U-turn and braked outside her house
you opened the gate for me it was such a tiny gate
well it’s the thought that counts
I said with my heart and not my mouth
a-Nonnnnnnnnaaaaaaaah you sang like it was a musical that we were starring in
you knocked and rang and knocked and rang knocked and rang knocked and rang knocked
I’m worried. Where else could she be? She doesn’t go anywhere.
do you wanna call?
she won’t pick up
should we break in?
let’s just try the gate she might be in the backyard
your Nonna opened the gate for us
she was like a human that had been made in half-size a family mascot her eyes and chin a symbol of you
I was always bowing when she spoke to me because I didn’t want to tower over her you made a racist joke about this in front of your mum and she made excuses for you or maybe for me
Nonna this is my girlfriend
she tried not to let her eye-line bump into mine
I went to the bathroom to be alone with myself and I heard the wallpaper saying
is she a sensible girl?
yeah way more sensible than me Nonna
no you are good boy you are sensible
when I came out unsure of whether I wiped my sweaty hands on the right towel
she smiled and talked about silverbeet and the neighbour’s birthday cake and shoved a tenner and a fifty into your board shorts
does she speak English?
do you love him?
we don’t use language like that Nonna I think so
you said it like she’d sworn at me
I told her and tried not to look at you
is she a good girl?
yeah Nonna no alcohol no tatts no gambling no swearing even
if you’re a good girl I’ll like you
she told me like a truce or maybe it was a threat
how old are you
you’re such a skinny girl it’s beautiful
shyness doesn’t equal respect here you whispered in my ear
you are beautiful too
I told her going against the grain of myself
come on Nonna it’s my cicci bella! be happy for me
I am I just don’t feel too good today no bad feelings just don’t feel good I am
does your grandmother want anything from the supermarket?
I needed you to translate something not language but something else I couldn’t quite spell out
Artichokes soccer ball ham
she told me her face changing for the better
when you cross the road take care of each other look for cars
you both come for lunch this week?
hold each other’s hands when you cross the road, you hold his hand so he doesn’t take risks
and oh mama no showing off
she told you as if she could stop you
you unlatched the tiny gate for me and clicked it back in place
I think our grandmas have some things in common
they would be friends if we if we if we oh if we if we if we if we if we we if we we if we
I thought but did not say to your face beautiful
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