The Iowa Review

Oh, My Kidneys

Angie Mazakis

- Angie mazakis

In a suburb outside of Chicago, my parents sit next to each other at their respective dialysis machines. Outside, none of the trees

are touching each other. My mom says that she never feels her blood leaving her body or entering after it’s dialyzed.

If only we could feel what didn’t work inside us as it moves out of us—our illusions, mispercept­ions, the heartlessn­ess

within the heart. In the 1980s, my grandma would sit on our sofa and watch on the news bombs falling on Beirut, missiles landing

in her neighborho­od: “Oh, my kidneys,” she’d say, because that’s what she heard when people here said, “Oh my goodness.”

My dad first knew he needed glasses when he was standing on a landing in his family’s apartment building in West Beirut during the War of 1958;

he couldn’t see the gun pointing at him from the building across the street. His mother pushed him out of the way and took him to the eye doctor

the next day. When my uncle tried to correct my grandmothe­r, so she’d finally say, “Oh my goodness,” my dad told her, “He doesn’t know English.”

His nephrologi­st keeps telling him to stop skipping dialysis. “Your kidneys are shit,” was the latest diagnosis from an ER doctor. “They’ve bottomed out.”

“Oh my kidneys,” says my dad. My brother asks my dad if he can take the standing globe my dad has had for so long that it still says Palestine

on it. He says, “Take it.” I buy a globe that lights up at a thrift store and offer it to my dad. He holds up his hand, and says, “No, I’m tired of the world.”

I lied. My parents each go to different dialysis centers in different suburbs of Chicago, but whenever I picture them

they’re together. Or I want to picture them together. They finally have something in common. What are the chances?

The last year that my mom could still walk on her own, could still drive her own car, I was on the phone with her; she was lost

in one of the suburbs near Chicago. She was supposed to see houses, but instead she saw water and trees.

“I went the wrong way,” she said. “And, wow, the wrong way is beautiful.”

I put the last piece of namoura cake in my dad’s mouth, but he says he can’t taste the same way anymore. He can’t

taste the orange blossom water. “I can taste it,” he says, “but it’s way far away, like we’re still walking toward it.”

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