Apparitions and Notes on Apparitions
Abyssinia was a country
but now it’s just a restaurant.
It’s the type of place you don’t bring dates to.
We never enter through the bar,
where the men fight over soccer like it’s politics,
which it is, and hold their Heinekens
like they hold their women.
We go through the side door
and pick a table to avoid their wandering eyes.
This is unlearned territory.
The Ethiopian waitresses are seldom in sight
except to take your order and never return.
My mother demands the meat and vegetable combination;
she wants her Injera hot
and could the goat meat be tender
oh and don’t forget the yogurt.
We sit for a long time
and joke about the huge water glasses
how the place is never air conditioned
the stains on the table cloth
the white men who enter through the side and
the way the waitresses disappear:
we joke that they can’t get enough
of the men at the bar
so they forget about us.
The waitress balances the platter on one hand
and slips it to the middle of our table
and says they’re out of yogurt
but here’s some cottage cheese.
My mother and I exchange glances:
the way laughter hikes up our bellies
like the pink Flamingos in Lake Hawassa,
the ones that remind us of the stilt walkers
in the city back home.
The injera is warm in my palms
and I scoop the wat and vegetables
and think about how Ethiopian food is best
when you’re hungry.
When our meal is finished
we wait for the waitress to reappear.
She slides the black checkbook on our table
and gives us a look that says,
I wish I was only a visitor.
But my belly is too full
to read her eyes
so we pay the bill
and we leave.
Notes on Apparitions
I guess through all our laughter you never heard the way the waitress threw her eyes on the floor when she entered the bar. I didn’t tell you the way they grabbed at her breasts, the way they hook onto their beer caps: the ones that litter the floor with red stars, the closest thing they’ll come to seeing the sky. I noticed she stopped wearing makeup. She had taken a liking to the color purple on her eyelids. I didn’t bother to ask her what happened when it wasn’t there. I only demanded that the injera be fresh.
We laughed at the size of the water glasses. It was only innocent fun but did I tell you that God hides in the rain? They place the glasses outside during sunshower weather and keep the water by them at the bar, pretending it’s only tap.
I’ll always be able to come and go. For me, this is America, but that four syllable word doesn’t translate here so the waitress will always function as an apparition. I’ll see her when I want to.
Sojourner Ahebee is a Senior at Interlochen Arts Academy, where she majors in Creative Writing. Though she was born in Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa, she currently resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her work has been published in Stone Soup Magazine, Apiary Magazine, The Red Wheelbarrow, Teen Ink, The Best Teen Writing of 2012, and most recently, The Interlochen Review. She has received two gold medals from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, she was a 2013 finalist for the Michigan Young Playwrights Festival, as well as the Columbia College Young Authors Contest for Fiction. Much of her work is involved in her search for home, due to the fact that she left Cote d’Ivoire after the start of the Ivorian Civil War. She has recently become fascinated with hybrid poems and the effects of form in poetry. Some of her favorite writers include Junot Diaz, Flannery O’Connor, Warsan Shire, and Ai. When she’s not writing, she enjoys studying anthropology and the French language.