It’s not love, but a sense of duty, which is like love, only dependable.

From Why, Grandmother

Short fiction

Published at Print-Oriented Bastards

II. The Sickness

Soon I will be eighteen. My studies are going well. The weather is bad but I have not been ill. These are the sort of things I’m ready to say. My mother pretends to read as I dial my grandmother’s number. Now that I’m home for the summer, we go through this every month. When I was in primary school, I would wait at her old flat until my parents finished work. My grandmother never went out. She hung up wet clothes, or boiled soup, or surveyed Chinese newspapers with a silver magnifying glass. Please take care; I’m taking care of myself. I’m glad to have talked to you. But my grandmother and I are gladder still to keep our conversations short. We still haven’t learned how to interest each other. My mother clears her throat; she wants me to give her the phone. In the background I hear the television going. “Yes, she’s fine, we’re all very well,” my mother says, words we always need to hear. Whatever it takes to secure a family, I imagine they’ve fixed it in me too, waiting only to be put to the test. It’s not love, but a sense of duty, which is like love, only dependable. No. When I’m honest, I know it is love. And the sickness is only the way I am – reluctant to give, to receive.

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