The Pretty One

“Which one’s Maya again?” my mother asks. We’re at a vegan restaurant she loves, which always gives me gas.

“You know Maya. You’ve met her many times. She’s one of my closest friends.”

“Are you sure?” she says.

She splits the last beet potato pancake in two, putting half on my plate.

“She’s Indian…She lives in Boston…We met in college…” I continue. I am trying hard to avoid repeating the moniker my family has given Maya, even though I know it would be more expedient.

“The pretty one, you mean?”  my mom asks.

There it is.

“I think all my friends are beautiful,” I snap.

“Yes, yes, you have attractive friends. But she’s especially pretty. Those eyes–”

Both my sister and my brother have told me independently (and without prompting) that, out of all my friends, Maya is the one they would date. My sister is not even gay.

“Okay fine, ‘the exotic one.’ Is that better?”

“No, nope, definitely not.”

“Really? Is that bad to say? Well what am I supposed to call her!? It’s confusing. There’s Mia And then there’s Maya. And there’s that other Maya. You have so many friends named Maya.”

“There are no other Mayas in my life.”

“But what about–”

“No”

“Yes, you have–”

“No-”

“Will you stop!” my mother says, her voice rising. “You’re being so dismissive.”

“Sorry. Go on.” I take a last bite of the beet pancake.

“What about your friend, you know, her boyfriend was very handsome, an educator, and black–”

“Erin.”

“Are you sure?”

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