The S-Word

23 Mar

It’s what the story said. In the newspaper. On the counter of the Chinese take-away. It’s what it said. I waited there for my order. I watched the little Chinese girl clean up her plates. Then her mum’s. And her da’s. She must’ve been no older than six. And on the large platter: deep fried chicken wings of some sort. Well. Mostly bones. And egg rolls. Half-eaten ones. And shrimp. All tails. Her mum and da owned this place. It was a hole in the wall with a 92 health rating. I wanted a Tsing-Tao but could not afford it. It’s what the story said. And I watched the Chinese girl diligently carry the heavy, porcelain plates up to the counter. The girl in the story in the paper on the counter of the Chinese take-away was also six. Her adopted mother had died of ovarian cancer. Her mother’s sister was now caring for her. She chuckled at how hard it was to be a parent. The mother’s sister. The girl’s aunt. Chuckled and said how she never wanted to be a mother, but. But. The little Chinese girl walked by and looked and I smiled and waved with my index finger and the middle. She didn’t do either. She was leery of the white man sitting cross legged reading the News-Observer in her parents’ take-away on a sunny, late, weekday afternoon. It’s what the story said. The little orphan girl asked for permission to use the S-word and her aunt gave it. Her aunt said:
–In our house we never used it, the S-word, we never used it and she was never raised with it, but she asked just this one time, and so I said okay.
The Chinese girl disappeared somewhere when I looked up from the story. Her mum was cooking my order. Her da was smoking over the hot plate, stirring vegetables in a pan wok.
The S-word.
Was.
–Stupid. Stupid, lousy, stupid cancer, the girl in the story said.
And then she wrote it in washable marker on the side of her tub, at bath.
–It’s only for this one time, the woman’s sister said. The aunt. We only let her use it this one time.
Dinner came. It was stuffed in a brown paper bag. The Chinese girl’s mum was on the phone, taking an order. She pushed the bag toward me and pointed to another small counter on which packets of sauce were stuffed into styrofoam cups. I took a handful. Two pairs of chopsticks.  Three fortune cookies.  Just in case. I got into the car. It started.

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4 Responses to “The S-Word”

  1. Slyboots 24/03/2008 at 7:37 PM #

    Now see, that S word is kind of sweet in a way. But also kind of sad- reminds me of the euphemisms that people teach children to avoid using the real terms. And the real cause/effects.

    Not being a parent, I don’t get that…hiding reality from children- because it will always catch them unawares. Always.

  2. (S)wine 25/03/2008 at 5:21 PM #

    Depends when you let reality seep into their lives. There is a time for that…not too late, but not necessarily too early. Just another issue to figure out.

  3. Slyboots 25/03/2008 at 7:34 PM #

    I don’t buy into the belief that they don’t come equipped for reality from the start- just in a different language. And a different level of understanding. It just doesn’t hurt as much yet, when they are little- at least that’s how I remember it. The understanding of injustice, actual permanence of death, and all the really nasty stuff does come later- but if they have been sheltered from all that, can they hope to cope effectively? But who the hell am I kidding. I don’t cope effectively on a good day!

  4. (S)wine 25/03/2008 at 7:37 PM #

    We all come equipped for it, it just takes a bit to develop the equipment–something that needs to be nurtured. For example, my 3 year-old knows quite well that her grandfather has been dead for a few years now. And in a conversation I had w/her regarding a boy she saw step on a spider, she said: “and so…he killed it.” So, conceptually she is aware of life and death…conceptually to a 3 year old. She hasn’t touched the subject of “heaven” yet, though. She just knows “dead.” As in: he died. He’s dead. But no afterlife questions. Yet.

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