by Amanda L. Andrei
—after "Remediation through Ginger" by Jeanne F. Jalandoni
How it feels? Like paper, mostly. Handmade paper, smooth in one spot and rough in the other, delicate in this corner and scratchy in the other. You want to touch? No? Then why do you ask?
I suppose you think I should be in one of those nineteenth century touring circuses, or an Ivy League scientific lab, or the 1904 World’s Fair. You know, my grandmother was on exhibit
there. Not the oh-so- popular Igorots, not the so-called ‘dog-eaters’, but one of the Visayans. She was an embroiderer, and my grandfather was a strolling minstrel. The fair-goers loved their romance, said it gave the fair a sense of civilization and evolution. She said one white woman was so relieved to see her in a piña terno, with those butterfly sleeves of pineapple-colored lace, that she stroked her hair and patted her head. If anyone tried to stroke my hair, I’d eat them alive.
Just joking. It was a joke, see? Can you even see my mouth under this rhizomatic mask? Except it’s not a mask, it’s me, it’s really part of me, just like your tongue and eyes and lips and skin are part of you, part of your face and head and human bodies. Don’t think it’s so advantageous. Look, see?
Breaks off a piece of face.
This piece I broke off, I can cook it in tinola, I can fry it with papaya, I can bake it into Christmas cookies. I can make a tincture for my pregnant half-sister to stop her morning sickness. I already made a syrup for my niece to stop her coughing. Can you do that with your face? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t like to see you try.
I still know what it’s like, you know, having a face made of flesh. Watch.
Does a headstand in soil, emerges with a human face covered in dirt.
You see? My ginger-root face isn’t happy in its natural home, it has to revert to a human face, to a pink tongue and brown eyes and dark lips and half-kayumanggi skin.
My white father thinks it’s nuts, of course. See a dermatologist, he said. Things like this don’t happen in America. Melinda, he said to my mother, how can you think this is okay? And she snickered and asked me for more of my eyebrow so she could spicen up her stir fry. To be candid, I think she enjoys it. She couldn’t bring over much of her kayumanggi life over, but she
has me. In all my pungent glory.
Scrubs the dirt off face. It reverts to a ginger-root face.
Have I tasted my face? What a ridiculous question. Of course I have. It tastes like a holy sting. You’d know if you tried it, which you won’t, we don’t know each other that well, you see.
I suppose if we were in love – you and I – I suppose if we were desperately in love, and you loved my rhizome kisses and my tangled body, and the flowers watched and cheered us on – I suppose – I suppose –
I don’t really know. It’s complicated. Sometimes I want to bury my head in the dirt and let red spiky flowers grow from my feet like the origin myth I should be. But I’m no myth, I’m real, and
I’m here, and I’m not in love, not yet, not when I still have to explain myself to everyone who comes by. Perhaps if there were another ginger-root faced person, or a personified tuber…
No, that talk is just impossible. Just impossible.
An encyclopedia told me that I was traded on the Silk Road. Ayurvedics call me Aphrodisiac. English colonists made me into beer, ale, cake. Portuguese slave owners fed me to their black captives in hopes their human property would be strong and profitable. There’s a history of hurt in my chemicals, in the very sugars and cellulose I carry in my body.
But there’s a cure in me, I know. There’s a fire that extends. It starts on the tastebuds. It soothes through the stomach. It calms the inflammation of tissue. It allows the body its own grace to heal itself. I’ve seen it in my half-sister. I’ve seen it in my niece. I’ve seen it in my mother. There is love in us, and it grows in all directions.
Amanda L. Andrei is a mixed-race Filipina Romanian American playwright and writer from Virginia. Her plays include Crocodile (The Last Escape), Every Night I Die, Merienda, My Dove, Woohoohoo: Election Day, Reeducating Roses, and Yurchencko’s Defection. Her work has been produced and developed by Single Carrot Theatre, Bucharest Inside the Beltway, Georgetown University, LaTiDo, the Beltway Drama Series, Rorschach Theatre, Dash Productions, and the College of William & Mary. She has taught playwriting and creative writing to high schoolers, artists, and engineers in Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C., and online. She is a proud alumna of VONA and La MaMa Umbria. Andrei has a BA from the College of William and Mary, an MA from Georgetown University, and is pursuing an MFA in Dramatic Writing at the University of Southern California.
Jeanne F. Jalandoni is a Filipino-American artist based in New York City. She received her BFA in Studio Art at New York University in 2015. Jeanne has exhibited locally in NYC, Berlin, and Paris.