How Elsie Became Tuyet

September 2, 2013

Elsie was a straight A student,
a dutiful daughter and a speaker
of three languages.
I was nothing of the sort
but still, we became friendly enough
that I was able to ask
why the French teacher called her
Tuyet.

Americans say its hard to pronounce.

I tested it on my one language tongue.
Tuyet.
Two syllables.
Elsie.
Two syllables.

I could see no difficulty
and so discarded Elsie.

When she told me that her family
decided that she is to marry
I remembered the teenage Haitian girl
who used to live across the hall.
Enamored with her boyfriend’s anatomy
she had names for various parts
and one of those named parts
led to a hurried wedding ceremony
at the local Seventh Day Adventist Hall
as well as her disappearance
from my life..

Back then, being called Haitian was worse
than being called nigger.
but I didn’t care.
She was cool and pretty
and made me not want to have sex.

Tuyet was cool and pretty
and also on the edge
of a disappearing act.

She left me
with a picture of herself
in a spring blue and white dress
and a pageboy haircut
that stands out
more than her face.

2 Responses to “How Elsie Became Tuyet”

  1. What a lovely, compact, imagistically powerful record of a person and the impact they had.

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