Fiction Fiction 2011

L’amour, CA

Isa couldn’t wait to leave the Philippines. But when we pull into an American town of foggy streets and gray, concrete houses, she looks confused, then panicked.

I get up, step into her room, reach for the box of tissues on her dresser and try handing it to her. But she pushes it away and asks for our mother, our father, then says she should get to a hospital, and now I think this baby will be born now, here. But I’m not ready. I don’t want to be.

I pull out a tissue and lay it down by her hand. I tell her I’ll get Darwin, that he will know what to do. “Just wait here, okay?” I close the door, tug on the knob to make sure it’s shut tight, and tell her not to leave. I take a step back and listen to her shouting my name. “Just wait,” I tell her again, then run to the end of the hallway. “I’ll be back.”

I head to the living room and walk out of the house. I go down the driveway past Darwin, who keeps bouncing his basketball against the garage door. “Where are you going?” he says, but I keep walking, even when he tells me to stay.

I continue down the sidewalk, count eleven houses. When I reach the end, I cross the street, and at the next house a lady is in the front window, holding a teacup in her hand. She sees me standing at the bottom of her driveway, but instead of drawing the curtain or looking away, she just waves, takes a sip of her drink. I don’t wave back or even smile, but I nod to let her know I see her.

Then I turn back toward my street. Night is starting, but the air is warm, all the rooftops blink with colored lights, and Christmas trees full of ornaments and silvery tinsel light up every living-room window. Soon, our house will be this way too.

This is what L’amour was meant to be. This is the place my sister called home. Finally, after a long, long year, we’re here. And so I go back, walking first, then running fast, because I can’t wait to ask her, Isa, how are you? Isa, how have you been?

Lysley Tenorio’s stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Zoetrope: All-Story, Ploughshares, and Manoa. His first book, Monstress, will be published in early 2012 by Ecco/HarperCollins.
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