Family Is An Email With All Caps / by Alina Stefanescu

I don’t know about extended family emails that seem harmless at first huff. One breath and the head balloons. Before the headache splits a skull which is separate. Whose aspirin is personal.

I don’t know about extended family emails with accompanying media. See attachment, a photo from a beach resort in Bali with an advertisement for 43 years of marriage underneath what resembles a belt. All the sand is white and the waves wander between turquoise and teal. Oh that’s such a nice beach. How lux. What a celebration. You two must be over the moon with happy-go-lucky. You look so relaxed, even though there isn’t a person in the photo attachment, really you look more relaxed than ever. The platitude is a native species we’re exporting everywhere Mastercard is accepted. The platitude is one big button we press to send.

I don’t know about extended family emails but Bali sounds great. Our waiter at the Japanese restaurant was from Bali. He’s been working here eight years to send money back to his wife and three sons. It takes eight months of money to buy a ticket to visit his family. He can’t afford to waste eight months. But he is happy to serve us today.

I don’t know about extended family emails when Hubcap tells the waiter his parents are in Bali. The waiter tries to sing happy birthday but a massive salmon-pink resort clogs his throat. Oh the beaches are beautiful in Bali. This must be a song from somewhere else.

I don’t know about extended family emails in which my in-laws advertise the benefits of longterm marriage. Looks nice but my mind goes back to the Duggars and how they’ve been married for so many years and photos where Michelle smiles, her lips a seam stitched across time. The stitch is pretty but not as pretty as some muzzles I’ve seen in Los Angeles with tiny pink rhinestones. I don’t know what years mean except silver and gold. The postcard is pretty but what are we celebrating except maybe a procession of steps taken through time at which point we blow confetti and birth new platitudes.

The thing about platitudes is that new ones look like old ones so you can’t tell which couple’s anniversary birthed which platitude. In profile they all look the same.

What I don’t know about extended family emails is how Duggars stick together on the same screens where dryer sheets promise to reduce static cling. Static sounds like stasis which is a lie we tell each other about electrons. A lie is not a platitude. A Duggar should not be the celebration of a marriage that fails to end.

I don’t know about extended family emails clinging like a choir of voices, clanging like a tower of bells. I don’t know about the chorus of birds in the park. I don’t know what comprises a song no one intended to sing. The tune is marital triumphalism but the lyrics look like an argument about kitchen paint, ochre or goldenrod. Once upon a time there was a flower but now we have extended family emails. A can of soda left open tastes flat by late afternoon.




Alina Stefanescu's Americanisms are hyphenated by Transylvanian blood. She lives in Tuscaloosa among four native species. You can find her fiction in current issues of PoemMemoirStory, Reservoir, Sandy River Review, and others. She still can't believe "White Tennis Shoes" won the Ryan R. Gibbs Flash Fiction Award from New Delta Review this year. More online at