A Streetcar in Your Stomach

Noelle Oxenhandler

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Anger was carefully modulated in my family. As a small child, my supreme act of rage was to hurl my father’s toothbrush to the bottom of the carpeted stairs. For a long time, looking back, I saw this as a rather pathetically impotent gesture. But now I can see the power in that small act: for it involved the displacement, the desecration of something quite intimate.

There was also a curse that had come down to me from the Russian greatgrandmother I never met: “A streetcar shall grow in your stomach!” When I shouted this at my friends in the heat of anger, they laughed at me: “Astrika? What’s astrika?”

Now I can see the power in that seemingly ridiculous curse. A streetcar in the stomach. It was a curse of barrenness, no doubt—but here, too, a radical displacement: the inner invaded by something foreign, hard, metallic.

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