In this week’s entry to our New Voices catalog, The Masters Review is proud to share “Trick” by Vanessa Chan. This elegiac flash reflects on childhood memories, like the sound of a piano or the rain upon the house. Listen closely.
This past year I have fought the squalls of my grief, sudden and relentless like the tropical storms you loved to hate in the home we both missed where water floats everywhere in the humid air, moisture sticking to the oils of our skin and holding us down.
An untuned brown piano sat in the living room where I grew up. You loved that piano even though neither of us had the talent to play it well. You paid for me to take lessons, moving me through four different teachers until the last one pulled my fat yellow fingers back and declared I played like I had chewing gum stuck to them. We both quit her then, stuck pink tongues out at the back of the retreating teacher, our dogs barking a chorus as she left our house one last time. That woman is a trickster, you said, and I nodded vigorously, happy you took my side.
The one musical thing that did ring in that house was the loud asbestos awning that sang vibrations when it rained. On those days, you and I would cram into the bathroom with its green tiled floor, tiles that were wholly inappropriate for a bathroom because they got slippery when wet and I had to grip my toes into the dirty grout so I wouldn’t fall over when you bathed me, scooped water with a little red plastic scooper out of a tangki that stored water, or when the government cut the water supply, out of a cracked blue bucket. You pulled sheets of water through my hair, squeezing tight to wash out the lather of sweet Johnson’s baby shampoo. I would yell, Mommy Mommy about the water being cold, and you would tell me to close my eyes and trick myself by pretending the water felt good. You’ll get used to it, you said. I closed my eyes and then, just as you said, felt only the pleasure of the cold droplets rolling off my hair onto my body, coloring my skin blue and pink with goosebumps.