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What revenge is

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

Gloria is my mother. I like the sound of her name, and how

shades of charcoal, snow and silver streak her hair. You’d never

guess she’s 92 years old. 

We play gin rummy, her cards fanned above mildly arthritic

fingers, while she tells me stories about her parents.

Their names were Nidi and Khalil. 

Gloria tells me Nidi died from asthma. Nidi inhaled smoke

from an egg cup as a remedy for her shortness of breath. 

Gloria never knew what burned in the cup, some powder, or

herbs. She tells me it smelled like marijuana which makes me

wonder how she knew that aroma at 17. 

She peels a card from her hand, careful not to discard two,

then tells me Khalil jilted a woman, a marriage arranged by his

wealthy family. 

I try to imagine the jilted bride’s shame waiting at the altar 

in the satin dress her mother had ordered from Milan while

Khalil fled the streets of Beirut. In America, he found a job as a

bellhop, saved enough for Nidi to join him. 

Gloria scoops a handful of cards, arranges them, asks if I

know what revenge is. I’m 68. I think I know what it is. Her smirk is

more lovely than dismissive. 

She tells me the jilted bride’s brother fell in love with

Khalil’s sister, Nadiyyah, with one intention – to jilt her at the altar. 

I ask if Khalil knew of Nadiyyah’s fate. Did he feel the

shame he caused two women? 

She wants me to know Khalil was a good man. After all, he

could have stayed in Beirut, lived a wealthy, unhappy life. 

That this new world would steal Nidi’s breath 

is vengeance he could not have foreseen.

By Bill Garvey

Bill Garvey's poetry has been published in Rattle, One Art, Cimarron review, San Antonio Review and others. His full length poetry book, The basement on Biella, was recently published by DarkWinter Press. He is a dual citizen of the USA and Canada, currently living in Toronto.


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