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The Girl in Subtitles

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

Josefina lost her voice because she was homesick.

Her words came out a bit hoarse. Josefina spoke to her mother for one moment and, after washing off shower dew from her face, she stared at a word that dripped down the bathroom mirror.

Okay, it said.

“Okay,” she said with neither a squeak nor a grunt from her mouth. She watched instead as the four-letter word materialized in front of her. It suspended itself on the hair before it fell. A faint plop on the bathroom before the word dissolved.

Go figure. Josefina had celebrated her mother’s fortieth birthday the day before. Such an occasion would have involved her extended family, her friends and everyone within the vicinity of their small farm in the Philippines. A homemade meal was the best they could offer.

She turned on the tap. Water spouted in time for three knocks on the door. “Ma lakat na ko (I’m going),” her mom said before continuing after a second pause. “Okay ka da (Are you okay?).”

The first word splattered against the mirror when she replied, “– lang ko (I’m okay).”

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