That’s all. Are you shy? she asks. Don’t be shy. You’re almost 8 now, aren’t you? You’re going to like it where we live. Allentown’s a nice town. You’ll go to a new school, learn new things, make new friends. Wouldn’t you like that? Wouldn’t you? The boys and girls laughing and playing in the snow holds me, and when I still don’t look at her and don’t say anything she turns around and I stare at her neck, suddenly wondering about the flower that has filled the car with its fragrance, suddenly wanting to touch the wool of her hat and feel the curls of her thick dark hair. My father works the knobs on the radio to clear the whistles, making the needle go right and left on a ruler marked with numbers 5 to 16. When the shush and crackling clears, a man’s voice booms smooth and as if he was deep down in a cave. Then a lady sings kay serah serah, her voice followed by music that says the same thing. I see her in a white dress swinging on a swing, her legs kicking out and her dress swooshing through the air while she sings kay serah serah serah serah. A happy lady, who smells good and is always smiling. In front, the hat and the feather sway side to side. She hums, then sings along with the words. My father opens the door, snuffs his nose and spits. In the mirror his eyes shift to me when a boy runs up and knocks on my window. He scrunches his face and sticks out his tongue, then wipes the snot with his sleeve and waves his hand stiffly like a wooden toy. He raps his knuckles on the fender then knocks on the trunk and on the other fender, then runs off with a loud silly laugh. My father twists his body around to look at me. He hooks a finger and pulls at the knot of his tie. Aren’t you going to say Hello to your Aunt Vera? She would like that, you know. He stares, only for a second, then turns tugging his big coat around with him.
The song ends. The man’s voice booms and the lady turns the knob and makes it go quiet. My father places both hands on the wheel, not looking and not talking. Then he rolls down the window and breathes the cold air, first in, then out, slowly, as if he was counting, like when at night I pretend I’m blind and count the steps from my bed to the toilet. He breathes a cloud on the window. His eyes close in the mirror. Inside the ruler there is a light.
Ver-ah. Ver-ah. I’m practicing the word. Silently. To myself. To learn the sound. To feel the V on my lips and the a in my throat. To make sure I push out the V and breathe out the a. I do this because Sister says I must listen and practice my words before I say them, or people will always poke fun and laugh at me. Veer-ah. Veer-ahh. And Ahhnt. Ahhnt — my mouth opens on the A and closes on the t, gulping the word like a fish. Martin Desht is a documentary photographer who has worked on projects in Philadelphia and Ireland, among other places. He has lived in Santa Fe for more than a year.