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The Museum of Vestigial Desire

Picture Completion: Malabar Nightshade

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This was her story:

“Spilovoy and Trirykhov are eating alugbati at our father’s house. They are Russian and have come to work at the sugar mill in Danao. Trirykhov says that his name means three-horned and raises his hand to splay three of his fingers against his forehead, palm forward.”


1.) They were sounded them out to me this way:
Each with acute stresses on the third syllable. I voice the names that way as well.

2.) Her brother would later own a bust of Jose Rizal and a framed reproduction of the hero’s Mi Último Adiós (English translation: My Last Farewell; this title being not entirely of Rizal’s doing). I remember those objects being in the living room of her brother’s house. I could not understand the Spanish.

3a.) [Image description: Close-up of wine-colored vine with heart-shaped leaves; twigs and foliage from other plant species in the background.]

3b.) Scientific name: Basella rubra L.

3c.) Common English names: Vine spinach, red vine spinach, climbing spinach, creeping spinach, buffalo spinach, Malabar spinach, Ceylon spinach, Malabar nightshade.

3d.) Description: Basella alba is a fast-growing, soft-stemmed vine, reaching 10 metres (33 ft) in length. Its thick, semi-succulent, heart-shaped leaves have a mild flavour and mucilaginous texture. The stem of the cultivar Basella alba Rubra is reddish-purple.

3e.) Soil and climate requirements: Basella alba grows well under full sunlight in hot, humid climate, and in areas lower than 500 metres (1,600 ft) above sea level. The plant is native to tropical Asia. Growth is slow in low temperatures resulting in low yields. Flowering is induced during the short-day months of November to February. It grows best in sandy loam soils rich in organic matter with pH ranging from 5.5 to 8.0.

4.) Before the war, the Danao sugar mill was located on the other side of the island. It has long been closed down and replaced with many others. Over time, more than half of the island’s arable land area would be devoted to sugarcane.

5a.) [Image description: Diagram titled “American Sign Language Alphabet” showing the letters of the English alphabet and contour line drawings of their associated hand symbols.]

5b.) The 23rd letter is signed by pointing three fingers upward, with the signer’s palm facing the reader, thumb holding down the last knuckle of the pinkie.

Tree. Ring. Off. Mouthing the words is a signing of my own name back to myself. I attempt to do this under someone else’s tongue and coach myself patiently until I can manage the syllables. It has a taste that never quite reaches the back of my throat because I retch the words out again and again never swallowing.

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