SAFFRON AND BROWN SUGAR
My first horse, a palomino mare; horse shows from Del Mar to San Francisco; high school when possible; ran from the red-haired, freckle-faced bully who called out oreo, zebra, half-breed, fucking mulatto; pretended his blows to my head were no big deal; learned to care for my dying mother at home when we were both too young; saved those acquired skills for later; figured out there was a dark side to their hippie life, the darkest possible color in all the universe; twinkle twinkle little star/I know what the hell you are; scheduled a courthouse wedding, just the two of us; married the blue-eyed guy from Philadelphia who is in the Harvard Law Review 1990 photo with Barack Obama; we hung the picture on our apartment wall, the sign of a historic first yet to come, one we dared only dream about; President Barack Obama; gave birth to a baby boy, brown skin and blue eyes; baby girl, pale skin with hazel eyes; at last, hands to hold tight; learned to cook as the symbol of a functional home; noodles with lots of chopped garlic; curry with golden-red saffron; big salads with four types of delicate lettuce; Barefoot Contessa’s roast chicken; her baked shrimp scampi; her beef pot roast; her lobster potpie; her organic turkey meatloaf; her coffee cake topped with crumbled brown sugar; cooked my way through her first cookbook, then her second; memorized the details of her perfect Hampton’s home with the chef’s kitchen; stopped; exhaled; made Hoppin’ John from a soul food cookbook, but only on New Year’s Day; said screw it, Hoppin’ John whenever we wanted; framed family photos all around the house, the sign of a functional home; sent kids to a fancy prep school with uniforms and AP multivariable calculus; made Los Angeles my forever home after a magnificent palm tree winked at me, saying, there’s beauty here, as she batted her long-lashed green eyes, fronds of lush hair blowing in the warm Santa Ana wind; told the doctor I wouldn’t sue him because my sister’s death was not his fault; she hoarded the pain pills; listened to the relief in his shaky voice, realized he was younger than my thirty-eight-year-old sister; buried pain deep in the dirty beaches of Venice and Topanga, hippie towns where I grew up. Never left a marker, a headstone, a place for my grief. It will find me, always.
Christina Simon is the former nonfiction editor for Angels Flight Literary West. Her essays are forthcoming in Slag Glass City and have been published in Salon, The Offing, Columbia Journal (winner of the 2020 Black History Month Contest for Nonfiction), Another Chicago Magazine, The Citron Review, PANK Magazine’s Health and Healing Folio, CutBank Literary Journal’s Weekly Flash Prose, (Mac)ro(Mic), The Santa Ana River Review and Barren Magazine. Christina received her BA from UC Berkeley and her MA from UCLA. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Christina lives with her husband in Los Angeles. She misses her son and daughter who are away at college. www.csimonla.com. Her flash nonfiction piece “Saffron and Brown Sugar” received Honorable Mention in Cleaver’s 2022 flash contest judged by Meg Pokrass.
Read more from Cleaver Magazine’s Issue #40.