Laced speech

Marlena Chertock

We stop short because the small Toyota ahead of us slammed on the brakes.
I put my hands out, push on the glove compartment, buoy back to my seat.

She tsks, changes lanes, and leans over the steering wheel as we pass the car.
“African women,” she says

in her broken dialect that doesn’t follow the rules of grammar even after ten years in America.
“I’m sorry to say, but it’s always African women who have never driven before.” Why

would she say that if she was sorry,
I should ask but bite my tongue, stopping the words from overflowing. I should have let them

escape, let them slap her face, I need to be a voice. But I am afraid of what she’d call me.


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