The golden Buddha gleamed under the bruised fluorescent light, dangled from her neck in a
dance of duty. Caught the eye of every aged Catholic whose wrist she held in her delicate
fingers. Between exam rooms she worried about missing medical files, about her aging parents,
about her husband trawling in The Gulf. She silently counted the days until he returned.
Every day, the Pakistani doctor burst in the back door, flinging papers, yelling for his
Cappuccino, she in blue scrubs scurrying behind, worry lines coursing rivulets in her face.
Silently she ticked off the exam room supplies he needed in her head —
Otoscope with cover
—to be certain she'd replenished them all. Each entry into a room garnered another quick,
Every night she drove back to the village on the east side of New Orleans in wilted exhaustion,
where she lived in a trailer surrounded by kohlrabi and bitter melon vines. She fingered the
growing vegetables in the moonlight, counted the fruiting bellies, the scent of seawater wafted on
the humid air.
She doesn't remember riding the rolling sea away from her childhood home clutched in the
human cradle of her parent's arms, crowded bodies clinging to each other, vomiting over the
side. She doesn't remember the faces of the ones who didn't finish the long trip to America, but a
collective chorus of hope and despair permeates her pores, lives in her marrow.
She has an altar in her living room where she burns incense and prays for her ancestors, her
family, and for the ones whose silent screams haunt the hungry maw of the sea.
She worries she'll never be good enough to justify being one who made it.
The sculpture in the photo is by Enrique Alférez
, and can be found in the New Orleans Botanical Gardens.
's poetry, prose, and photography has been published in Foliate Oak, MORIA, Connotation Press,The Rumpus, Pithead Chapel
and elsewhere. She was a finalist for the 15th Glass Woman Prize and is a Pushcart nominee. She is Creative Nonfiction Editor for Barren Magazine
and lives in New Orleans with her husband and a menagerie of rescued pets. Twitter: @charlotteAsh