“Fiction Baby” by Tamara Jong

At eighteen, you wanted to get hitched to Peter. It’s the Jehovah Witness way and wanted out of your family since you’d been born into it. But then, your feet turned into blocks of ice, because you were straight out terrified to be anyone’s anything. You should’ve had five kids by now, a good-sized Christian family. Though your therapist doesn’t like the word should. When she talks, you listen because her words cost the you’ re-not-covered-by-company-benefits money. Maybe she can figure out what’s so wrong with you.

Peter was your rebound guy with straight red hair, freckles, and the broadest shoulders that’d you’d ever seen. Dancing to every slow song that party, you forgot Tim broke your fifteen-year-old heart, and you made a no kissing rule after him, way before “Pretty Woman” made it a thing. Tim, who was supposed to just be some diary story crush. You always fell for the whitest guy in the room. You didn’t want anything to do with your dark-haired, brown-eyed short mixed-race self. Your heart was full of all those Jane Austen happily-ever-afters. So, when Tim avoided you at the Kingdom Hall, wouldn’t take your calls, and stopped giving you love notes, you kept reading his letters hidden in a binoculars box and wondered what you did wrong.

When Tim moved to Oshawa, you hoped to heal some. Then you moved to Port Perry with all your blah-blahing of never leaving Quebec because you missed your siblings and you were just an Anglophone with a high school education and a dead mom and knew you’d never be seen as a grown-up in this God-forsaken town if you stayed there for one more second.

Tim friended you after your friend married his little brother, and you realized that you could never get away from the first person that hurt you. Tim said he was just a teenager, so he didn’t know why he hurt you and what little truth might have been in that lie, it made you happy to say you couldn’t do dinner, he was one of your first loves, and you didn’t want your hubby hanging out with an ex-girlfriend, and you’re not even a smidge, the jealous type.

Peter made you want to have his red-headed kidlets and filled the hole in your seventeen-year-old heart with love letters, gifts, and pictures that filled a Hefty. You ended it with some fool letter saying you wanted to full time preach and weren’t in love. When you read the letter, Peter kept, you see yourself stretching the telephone cord around your room while talking to him for hours in the last apartment you would ever share with Ma. And now when the radio plays “Two Less Lonely People in The World” by Air Supply, you see two young kids sitting and singing on a park bench in N.D.G., and wish that son he’s so proud of was yours too.

Tamara Jong is a Montreal-born mixed-race writer of Chinese and European ancestry. Her work has appeared in Ricepaper, Room, carte blanche, The New Quarterly, Invisible Publishing, and Body & Soul: Stories for Skeptics and Seekers and forthcoming in The Nasiona. She is a graduate of The Writer’s Studio (Simon Fraser University) and recently had her piece “Thanks for All the Lice, Pharaoh” longlisted in The New Quarterly’s 2019 Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest. You can find her on Twitter @bokchoygurl.


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