Philadelphia Roll by Kiley Reid
By Kiley Reid
The night before my 17th birthday, my mother and father spent the day in the kitchen rolling sushi, my very favorite. If I had closed my eyes walking down the stairs, I could have duped myself into believing I had entered a wharf off the coast of Cape Cod. My mother’s hands were glowing with fish oils and lingering rice. My father kept clasping the bottom of his palms to the sides of his head whenever he tried to eat more than his personal best of wasabi. I only looked on, but every time he swallowed, I could swear my sinuses cleared just from watching him. Sheryl Crow was complaining about some guy who had a secret lover from my mother’s phone in her back pocket turned up loud. I stood and watched, tapping my hips to the countertops lightly.
I asked if I could have some of the teriyaki chicken they’d prepared for my brother. My mother said through a full mouth that she thought I hated chicken, and I weakly said I just wanted to try it. It felt like a missing finger in my mouth, one that had been left in the bathtub too long.
My father offered me wine and I winced at the wonderful smell, taking a tiny sip that almost burned. My mother dropped a hefty spicy roll filled with salmon on my plate. I swallowed hard. “Take a big birthday bite,” she said. I shoved it in my mouth. What had once been my weakness, the food I rewarded myself with, the item I always took without hesitation if there was only one left, became soft and dead in my mouth. I imagined the fish as baby organs floating around and melting in my spit. The rice became teeny toes that reminded me of pressing your hand to a window to make a baby’s foot. The seaweed twirled into hair that I wondered the color of.
I delicately spit it into my napkin and said, “I’m pregnant.”
Kiley lives and writes in New York City. She can be reached at Kileyreid.com.