I was raised as a hungarian
I was raised as a hungarian.
people take me metaphorically when I say this, but it is not a metaphor.
at the center of our days,
our bad moments,
in public where my mother was either ignored
or the other person was so unbothered to treat her like a human being and took her accent as
permission to treat her,
like I am a second-class citizen, ancsi.
she always said that bit in english.
second-class citizen. it felt odd and archaic to my four-, six-, nine-, thirteen-, twenty-year-old self.
I would wonder where she picked the words up. the first time I saw that phrase was in a small
civil rights paragraph of a high school textbook. second-class citizens. language is everything, we
knew that better than most. I spent my first few years of speaking english as translator in public
attempting to bring understanding
at the time the dynamic in my mind was simply that I was helping
my mom, and I could help, and I wanted to help, I wanted
I just wanted things to be okay
to be better?
to be something else.
my mother talks about me
“teaching” her the word divorce
when I was very young.
mommy, it’s called a divorce.
she always laughs
because it is kind of funny
imagine your four-year-old
telling you to leave your abusive spouse.
but she couldn’t
of course she couldn’t get a fucking divorce. my dad failed to show up to his citizenship hearing so
hers didn’t happen with the marriage.
she would be deported.
never would we
(márton and I)
have chosen to stay with apa
but I didn’t know what procedure was
if he wanted us
just to fight our mom, just to strip her of the only things he ever gave her
I imagined any court awarding us to america
for the opportunity
the conversation never went this far
one sentence heavy enough to hang in the air and dispel any notions
she would be deported.
and in the midst of the xenophobia—which will always be too weak a word to describe what she
experienced—it was alright
we had each other (my mom, my brother, and I)
and in the very beginning we had that we would be going back home
away from the americans—hateful and shorts-wearing-in-the-winter americans
ne legyél olyan amerikai. being called american was an insult it meant rude, it meant unruly, it
meant picky-eater, it meant disagreeing with her, it meant being something I wasn’t supposed to
as a result, I wouldn’t say I was hateful, but I held the country, and especially the state of
arizona—a desert that now fills me with nostalgia—in incredibly low esteem. the food here was
worse (which is true), the fruit here is much worse, and the people here were not worth as much
as my magyar family (which is profoundly false). but it made me condemn the actions of the
u.s. elsewhere in the world. understanding none of the context, but still deeply uncomfortable
by its presence in the middle east, its obsession to be the controlling hand of situations no
matter the geographic location. how strange to look back and see my small self worked up over
the vindication of such strangers
we also didn’t observe american holidays, not for a while. I remember the first thanksgiving I
maybe I was seven or eight
a family friend invited us (my mom, my brother, and I)
there had recently been a really bad fight
was it that same day? I’m no longer sure
but it was the one where my mom had a bruise on her leg
the shape of our landline
giving I thought all of us a reason to get out of the house
márton and I wanted to go
we’re in the car
my mother is anxious
she was—and is—always anxious driving. we’re in the suburban but she’s too
uncomfortable to go she doesn’t want to and I don’t understand and I definitely don’t want to go
home so I don’t see why not going to sharmel’s is the better alternative
and she doesn’t
márton and I are dropped off
and we meet sharmel’s friends
pet her dogs, eat the pie
and when asked where our mother
is we don’t know what to say
an annoyed look between us
but I don’t know what to say, we never say
but I wanted to, I wanted to know what it was like for someone else to know
so I said a little bit
but then adults did what they do and shut
work too hard at being polite and they passed
over and they did not engage