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Exercise in Translation

Story by Naira Kuzmich (Read author interview) December 18, 2012

art by Carrie Wells

I wake today with terrible start. I wake with mouth open and dry, mouth empty. In dream I have, baby birds singing in my mouth, tziv, tziv, tziv, like this, and singing they fly away. I must talk with Carol. I will say she is beautiful American person and my son is lucky for keeping her three and half years. Three and half years now that she is like daughter to me. Even if she does not touch my cheek when she kiss me, only air, like she is telling secret to my ear. She is wife and she has many secrets. I was wife too and I want so much to tell somebody everything. I want to tell mama but mama already knows. Mama sees life in bottom of coffee cup when I am just child. She says to me, Araxie, you have lonely heart. Girl like you will always be lonely. I am child, I don’t know what this mean, but I grow up. Everything grows, I will tell Carol. Belly, breasts, and I will touch breasts to show her. I will touch the way women touch. When I am old I find husband, and I am happy, not lonely, like mama says. I have child fast, and good thing, too—good luck, yes—because husband dies faster. At the end of life, mama was blind, too much sugar in body, much too sweet. I think that maybe when she was young, problem with seeing just beginning. I have son, no? So I’m believing she read coffee cup wrong. But I am only silly woman. I know now that it is cup that makes mama blind. Mama sees future of daughter and she does not want to see no more. Now it is I who sees everything. It is in our blood. So much is in blood now, good, bad, but I still live. I live for son who lives for Carol. When I have heart attack, son took me into his home with Carol, and I was not proud woman to say no, it is okay, I am fine. It is not fine to be lonely. He tells me it is easy to be sad when you are by yourself, but hard when you are with people. He thinks he is so smart, little professor. But he works all day, Carol works all day, so what is difference? I sit here with hands on knees. It is very hard to speak in this language and say what you really want. Lady Carol, I am saying I find your contraceptive. Wait, please. I want to finish. I find doctor’s note on ground and I feel in the heart that this word is dangerous. I do not even want to say this word. Con chra cep teev. Con chra cep teev. Teev, teev, like little birds. Con meaning dem—against. You think I am old lady, I don’t know what this mean, but I have idea. To check, I look up word in Armenian-English dictionary, but could not find it. After continuous, comes contract. No contraceptive. So I go find son’s fancy dictionary and I understand. In ESL class I take years ago so son is not embarrassed of me, I learn there are people who have words for some things and not others. All depends on what they use and how much of it they need. The Eskimos have lots of word for snow, you understand. Oh, you are smart woman, Lady Carol. But you like nice things, too. This vase is very pretty but I am scared to touch it because it is so gentle. How can any baby play in this house? Lady Carol, vases do not care for you when you are old like me. Sometimes children do not too, but this does not mean we do not keep trying. You might get lucky, Lady Carol. One day, I will read your son’s coffee cup and I will say, Little boy, you have bright heart and beautiful future. I will say, Little boy, you will never be lonely. I will say, Your mother has been waiting for you all of her life.

About the Author

Naira Kuzmich was born in Armenia and raised in the Los Angeles enclave of Little Armenia. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in West Branch, Blackbird, Ecotone, The O. Henry Prize Stories 2015, The Threepenny Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. She passed away in 2017 from lung cancer.

About the Artist

Carrie Wells is an artist working in the mediums of photography and sculpture. She earned her BFA in Studio Art from The University of Texas at Austin and continues to live and work in Austin, Texas.

This story appeared in Issue Thirty-Eight of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirty-Eight

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