Sad Drama

This story contains sensitive content

Author’s note: Much of this story takes place in the Republic of Georgia, where my dad is from. I dedicate this story to him, for teaching me Georgian, among other things. 


TW: Death.

I never expected to have the rug ripped out from under my feet on a Sunday morning, drinking stale coffee, watching Meet the Press, and sitting on a soft leather couch that smelled and looked like vomit. I couldn’t feel the phone in my hand or hear Chuck Todd’s analysis of the latest political fire. As if I were underwater, everything was blue, blurred, like my mother’s voice as she shouted, “Qetevan! Gesmis chemi?” Can you hear me, Qetevan? 

I made my leaden tongue move, to sound out the sharp syllables I hadn’t uttered in so long. “Kho, deda, mesmis. Gaimeore, ra tkvi?” Yes, Mom, I can hear you. What did you just say? 

If only I were deaf. If only the connection had cut, right as Mother spoke the words that sucked the air out of my lungs. Right as fate punched me in the gut and hurled a rock at the mirror-smooth surface of the lake that was my life. 

Oblivious to how I’d stopped breathing, Roger was still munching on a cinnamon raisin bagel and nodding along to the string of lies some up-and-coming congressman was spewing. Cecilia was still working on assembling the Lego pirate ship we had gifted her last Christmas. 

Static on the other line. I pulled myself out of my coma and tapped on the screen. Poor internet connection, Facebook Messenger helpfully informed me. Why did the internet never work in Georgia?

“Deda, gesmis?” I yelled into the phone. “Mipasukhe!” Mom, can you hear me? Answer me! 

Roger tore his eyes away from the television and scrunched his eyebrows at me. 

“Everything all right, honey?” Ignoring my husband, I pushed myself off the sofa and stumbled onto the balcony. 

“Deda, gesmis?” The microphone feedback knocked me back a step. 

More static. Then, finally, “Ki, shvilo, mesmis. Gaige, ra gitkhari?” Yes, child, I hear you. Did you hear what I said?

“Vera, gaimeore,” I lied. No, please repeat. I needed to hear it again, to make sure the stabbing pangs in my stomach and the cresting ripples in the lake water weren’t figments of my imagination. 

A deep breath. “Mamashens insulti daemarta.” Your father had a stroke. Choked sobs. “Gushin mokvda.” He died yesterday. 

My voice felt like it belonged to someone else when I replied, “Akhlave vikidi… ah…” How do you say ticket? Uhh… oh, right. “Akhlave vikidi bilets.” I’ll buy a ticket right away. 

After I hung up and glanced at my pale hands, the volume button of my phone was imprinted on my palm.


The lacquer of our late neighbor’s coffin glimmers in the noon soon. As I watch the men lower it into the ground, I tug on my father’s hand and whisper, “Mama, is katsi sad midis?” Dad, where is that man going?

“Saiqioshi,”  he murmurs back. To Heaven. 

Family members begin dropping fistfuls of earth into the grave. I pull on Father’s hand again. “Mama, shen tsakhval saiqioshi?” Dad, are you going to go to heaven?

“Ki. Magram dzalian didi khnis mere.” Yes. But after a very long time. 

I puzzle over this for a bit as the gravediggers fill the grave, spades clanking.  Then I tug on his arm a third time. “Mama, me shentan minda.” Dad, I want to be with you. 

He chuckles, bends down, and runs a hand down my braid. “Nu dardob, mamusio, chven koveltvis ertad viqnebit.” Don’t worry, my dear, we’ll always be together. 


Roger muted the TV when I stepped back inside, sparing me from the exhaustive list of side effects for Eliquis, or whatever goddam prescription meds they were advertising. 

“What was that all about?” he asked. 

I stared at Cecilia’s pirate ship. “I have to go to Georgia.”

“Georgia? You going to Atlanta or something?”

“No, I’m going to the country of Georgia. Where I’m from,” I replied and pinched the bridge of my nose. 

“Oh,” Roger sat up, blinking stupidly. “Oh. Geez, is everything okay?”

“No, my dad is dead. I’m going to book a ticket on the next available flight.”

“What? God, I’m so sorry. But you can’t leave, are you crazy, Kate?” Kate. My American name, since nobody could pronounce Qetevan. “I can’t look after Cecilia by myself.”

Hearing her name, Cici cast her wide hazel eyes up to mine. “Where are you going, Mommy?”

“I won’t be gone long, you’ll be–” I took a step forward and cried out as my foot landed on a Lego block. Pain splintered through my heel. Impossibly, Cici’s eyes widened further as I crashed to the floor, right on top of her Legos. 

“No, my ship! Mommy, you broke it!” 

Roger cursed quietly; Meet the Press was back on, but he couldn't hear a thing over Cici’s wails. 

Wincing and rubbing my shoulder, I crawled over to my daughter and wrapped my arms around her. “Araushavs, sakvarelo, kvelapers gavastsorebt…” It’s okay, dear, we’ll fix everything…

“What are you even saying?” Cici sobbed and dashed away to her room.

“Great,” Roger muttered and stomped off to refill his coffee. No one helped me up off the floor. 

Glancing at the pirate ship, I realized I’d broken the hull off. Lego bricks were scattered all over the floor and the instruction booklet was crumpled under my hip. 

Later, Cici rebuilt her ship. But there were no hands helping me click the Lego bricks of myself together. No instructions explaining how to deal with the death of my father. 


Silent as stone, Roger drove me and my one haphazardly packed suitcase to the airport two days later. He had refused to allow Cici to skip kindergarten and come with us. A peck on the cheek and a gruff goodbye were all he gave me before he sped away, leaving me at the airport entrance with only echoes of past happiness for company. 

After an eight-hour flight with no entertainment, a twelve-hour layover in Frankfurt, and another four-hour flight, I finally arrived at the Shota Rustaveli International Airport in Tbilisi. While the “Georgian Citizens” counter for passport control was virtually empty, a huge line was already snaking through the “All Other Nationalities” section. My suitcase thumped behind me as I joined the line of foreigners. I stopped being a Georgian citizen years ago. 

Gamarjoba,” I greeted the customs officer when I finally got to the counter. He gave me a quizzical look as he scanned my passport, likely wondering why it was blue instead of red, American instead of Georgian. Nevertheless, he stamped it, slid it under the partition, and welcomed me back to Saqartvelo. Georgia. 

Barely standing, I stepped through the glass doors into the chaotic waiting area. People stood on their tiptoes, trying to find relatives. Taxi drivers held sheets of paper with their clients' names on them. The sound of angry clamoring and tearful reunions rang through the air. Incapable of smiling at the familiarity of the scene, I scanned the area, eventually spotting Dato elbowing his way through the throng. 

Daberebulkhar, dao!” my younger brother exclaimed, pulling me into a rib-crushing hug. You’ve gotten old, sister! 

“Shents.” You too. From afar, Dato’s grin looked genuine. I could see the fissures in it though. I could see flecks of gray in his jet-black hair and crinkles around his chestnut eyes that hadn’t been there before.

Dato started to pull away, but I hugged him tighter. “I missed you a lot.”

His cracked smile crumbled. “Me too.”

Dawn was breaking as we pulled out of the overflowing parking lot in Dato’s beat-up BMW. After honking repeatedly at another driver who’d swerved in front of him, Dato began jabbering about recent on-goings. 

I did try to oh and ah in all the right places, but it’s hard to pretend the sun is shining when black storm clouds are gathering on the horizon. He fell quiet, and I fell asleep, dozing through the entire three-hour car ride up and down the mountain to Kvareli, the village where I grew up. 

Dato woke me up in time to see the sign at the entrance to our town flash by, proclaiming ‘ყვარელი’ in chipped black paint. I sat up and watched the streets fly by through the car window, marveling at how everything, and simultaneously nothing, had changed. People were still selling fresh produce at the outdoor market. The red bike path was still cracked and faded. The downtown playground was as dilapidated as ever. Birshavikebi, or unemployed street loiterers, were still smoking Marlboros and cracking sunflower seeds as they squatted near the village springs. 

But bread was 90 tetri instead of 70. A bunch of Spar mini-markets had popped up all over town. Ukrainian flags hung from balconies. The hotel near Ilia’s Lake was closed. For a minute, I forgot my reason for coming here. But not for long. 

The car rattled as Dato turned onto our street, full of potholes and cars belonging to those paying their respects. I took a deep draught of air. 

“Somebody, open the door!” Dato yelled out the window. The rusted silver gate creaked open a second later, and we trundled into the yard. 

My eyes misted over as it all came into view, and suddenly I was crying, crying at the clucking chickens bobbing their heads and the grape vines spiraling around the balcony railings. Crying at the plump pears hanging from laden branches and the statue of Ilia Chavchavadze off in the distance, looking down over Kvareli. 

I wiped the salty residue off my face, the blast of hot, arid air almost painful when I opened the car door. It was only September, but like oily fingerprints on a Polaroid picture, the vestiges of summer remained. 

I barely had time to register the group of men standing in the yard when I saw a ghost: my mother, descending the stairs that connected our two-story house. Like water, each of her steps was fluid, but I knew from the emptiness of her expression that she felt anything but. 

Slamming the car door behind me, I ran over and threw my arms around her, tears filling my eyes anew. 

“Deda!” I cried, clutching the scratchy fabric of her shapeless black dress. 

“Shh, not here.” She guided me up the steps, away from the mourning men below, and into her bedroom, which still smelled like musty books and rosewater. With a pang, I realized it was her bedroom now, not her and my father’s room.  

Cupping my face in her withered white hands, my mother said, “If only your father could see how beautiful you’ve become.” 

“I think you mistakenly said beautiful instead of old,” I replied with a hollow laugh.

She just shook her head and helped me change into an identical black shift. Hands shaking, she wrapped a black headscarf over my hair and patted my shoulder. It was time. 

When someone dies in Georgia, the bereaved family holds a panashvidi. Today was the last day of my father’s panashvidi, since it had been five days since his death. 

We plodded down the steps, past the group of male mourners, and into the living room. My grip on Mother’s wrist hardened as I saw my father’s open casket on its stand, centered diagonally in the dim room so that he would face east, awaiting Jesus Christ. I took in his crossed hands, the wooden cross around his neck, and the icon of Saint Giorgi, his namesake. Took in the thick candle by his head, illuminating the bowls of salt, oil, wine, and wheat. 

I finally worked up the courage to focus on my father’s face. Shut eyes accentuating his crow’s feet, a mouth pressed into a hint of a smile, and deep lines chiseled by laughter: that was all that was left of my father’s vibrant countenance. A low shriek tore free from my chest.

Mother squeezed my shoulder and pushed me forward onto a bench at the edge of the room with the other female chirisuplebi, mourners. She then took her place at the door, accepting condolences from the slow trickle of visitors. 

Around me, the women were singing a lament song. My aunt Nino sang the words while other relatives formed the song’s base, the sound echoing in the room like a long wail. I leaned against the wall in silence, ignorant of how to engage in polyphonic singing. 

In western Georgia, chirisuplebi keen, scream, and claw at their faces until blood drips like sweat to show their grief. Those women scream out loud. Even though the chirisuplebi at my father’s panashvidi were singing, I knew they were screaming inside their heads. Like me.


The rest of the panashvidi and burial the next day were a blur. After the last mound of dirt had arced through the air and landed on my father’s grave, everyone climbed into cars and minivans to head to the qelekhi, a feast honoring the deceased. 

We filed into the banquet hall upon arrival and began filling the four long tables that lined the room. My head spun at the number of people in the hall; there had to be at least three hundred. Once everyone had taken their seat, the food was served, and the tamada began making toasts celebrating Father’s life. 

Aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends shouted at me across the table as they reached for more helpings of khashlama and wine

“So, how is life in America?” 

“How is your husband?” 

“Hey, Qeti, remember when you accidentally said ‘prostitutes’ instead of ‘columns’?” 

I picked at the khachapuri in front of me and tried to respond without wincing at my stilted, American-accented Georgian. I barely understood half of the surrounding conversation. 

The day became darker, and the guests became tipsier. With slurred words, one of my father’s friends was strumming a chonguri and singing a love song. I was staring at the cracked plaster of the ceiling when my mother tapped me on the shoulder. 

“How long will you be here?” 

“Ravi,” I sighed. I don’t know. 

For a moment, Mother observed the drunken chonguri player. Then she grabbed my hand under the table. “Stay here awhile. Bring Cecilia, I haven’t even met her.” 

Shaking my head, I bit out, “Cecilia doesn’t even know Georgian. I can barely speak either.” 

“It doesn’t matter. Your place is here,” she put her hand over my sternum. “This is your samshoblo, your home country.” It was almost as if she could feel my heart shattering. 

I’ll think about it.” 


I never expected to reach an epiphany on a Sunday morning, drinking stale coffee, watching Meet the Press, and sitting on a soft leather couch that smelled and looked like vomit. 

As soon as the commercials came on, I grabbed the remote and muted the TV. Roger’s features mushed together in surprise and he tried to wrest the remote from me, but I hung on. 

“You know something, Roger? In Georgian, there isn’t really a word that fully captures the nuances of ‘home.’ There’s sakhli, ‘house,’ but home isn’t necessarily a house. It’s with loved ones. So, I think the closest word to ‘home’ in Georgian is samshoblo, ‘home country’. Maybe that shows that Georgians don’t have individual homes like English speakers. We all share the same home: our country, our samshoblo.

Roger’s attention was solely focused on me. “Your point?”

“I think it’s time to return to my samshoblo. I’m leaving you, Roger. For good.” 

He jumped up and exploded, “What? Kate, we’re husband and wife!”

“Not anymore.” I stood up and brushed the breadcrumbs from my blouse.

“What about Cecilia?” 

“I’m taking her with me. It’s high time she learn Georgian.”

“No, no–” His face had been red a second ago, but now the color was draining, just like the way my happiness had leached out over the years. 

“It’s really quite simple, Roger, since we signed a prenup. I don’t know why you’re making such a big deal about it. You stopped loving me years ago.” 

Meet the Press was on again, but Roger made no move to unmute the TV. I walked into Cici’s room, where my daughter was disassembling her Lego pirate ship.

“Come on, Cici. We’re leaving.”

“Where are we going, Mommy?”

I smiled. “Home. We’re going home.”

December 24, 2022 00:44

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Wally Schmidt
23:57 Jan 23, 2023

Sophia, you write from the heart and that is the best place to engage your readers. I spend my time between three countries and there is always a part of me that is "lost" to the other two when I am not there. Sometimes it's language. Sometimes it's cuisine. Sometimes it is what we find humorous and what we will make us laugh out loud. Losing 'words' is the one that makes us feel the most like we are losing our culture and I think you captured that really well. I loved the passport-free trip you took us on to Georgia. It felt so real and...


Sophia Gardenia
12:54 Jan 24, 2023

Thank you for your heartfelt comment, Wally! It really makes me smile when people engage with my stories as you did on this one. When I started writing this story, the premise was that Qeti's father was sick/dying and she had to visit him before it was too late, but I realized that would have reduced the emotional punch of the story and the extent to which the reader could experience Georgian culture. The funeral was a crucial scene, not only to show Qeti's grief but also to showcase Georgian culture. I do want to expand this story into ...


Wally Schmidt
20:02 Jan 24, 2023

Glad to hear Qeti will be back at some point. Looking forward to reading more about her and Georgia.


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Rebecca Miles
21:33 Jan 18, 2023

Hmm is there anything I can add after Aeris, actually there's not much need for thought, as it's no! So it's up to me to play second fiddle and agree that I think there's some seriously good world building here: deep and true, getting to the heart of family ties, cultural identity, and of course what constitutes " home". Definitely not Roger and his remote. I loved the foreshadowing with the lego house and some lines have beautiful sound patterns such as the following: His cracked smile crumbled. Well done, really enjoyed this one.


Sophia Gardenia
22:02 Jan 18, 2023

Honestly, I'm so proud of the part with the legos, and that line as well. 😂 I'm glad the worldbuilding works since I was afraid it was too much for one story. I went to Georgia last summer after being away for three years and that really helped me choose what details to incorporate into the descriptions to evoke that sense of home. Thank you for your kind comment! It's always gratifying to know that someone enjoys my work.


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Aeris Walker
13:58 Jan 18, 2023

Hey Sophia! First of all, you did a wonderful job immersing us in this world. I think incorporating two languages within a short story can sometimes be jarring or feel too heavy, but it worked really well here, as we felt like we were right there with “Kate” trying to remember her first language. You’re writing is strong and emotional, and I enjoyed all of your descriptions of her journey back to her home country. This line stood out as one of the best I think: “It was only September, but like oily fingerprints on a Polaroid picture, the...


Sophia Gardenia
19:27 Jan 18, 2023

Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Aeris! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. That's my favorite line too! Originally, I had a lot more Georgian dialogue and translations, but I cut a lot of it since I realized it would slow the pace down and pull the reader out of the story. Writing this story was definitely a journey because I had to get into Qeti's head and try to understand what it would be like to lose a father. I often feel very divided between my American and Georgian sides, and it pains me to feel my Georgian skills slowly slipping. I...


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Michał Przywara
02:13 Jan 09, 2023

It's a heartbreaking moment when her mother asks her to stay, and she refuses because of the growing language barrier. That's a thing I'm sure many immigrants can relate to, myself included. And yet, it's also a touching moment. Yes, some of the specific words are alien to her, and communicating by speech takes work, but the feeling of the moment is crystal clear. So much meaning is conveyed by non-verbal means, and moments like mourning a loved one transcend any one language or culture. I found the end to be a little abrupt, but then I re...


Sophia Gardenia
15:03 Jan 09, 2023

Thanks for the feedback! This story is quite close to my heart as I struggle with trying to remember my language/culture. Honestly, I didn't know how to ease into the ending because I'm only a couple of words away from 3000. The breakup scene and Qeti's relationship with Roger and Cici could be a story in itself...


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Suma Jayachandar
06:45 Dec 29, 2022

This is an intriguing story with an unconventional title, perfect for an unfinished story I guess. Waiting for you to complete it, as the premise is too good to let it go waste.


Sophia Gardenia
15:18 Dec 29, 2022

Thanks for reading! 😊 Will hopefully be finished soon.


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AnneMarie Miles
06:02 Dec 28, 2022

Sophia, I realize this story is unfinished, but I am so eager to know what happens! You created a character I am interested in ... Qetevan has a family in America, but it doesn't seem like she's treated well there, so I really wonder if her trip back to Georgia is going to convince her to leave them behind... What will happen when she sees her parents again? I am glad you were able to write this week and submit something despite it's completion. Like all things in life, it is about the process more than the product. But this is an intriguing...


Sophia Gardenia
15:11 Dec 28, 2022

Thank you for reading despite my cheating ways 😊Honestly, I am eager to know what happens too. 😂 I found myself getting stuck on many scenes, but I really wanted to get something under this prompt. I will try to finish as soon as possible...


AnneMarie Miles
15:27 Dec 28, 2022

We all find ourselves getting stuck sometimes and that's ok! A week can go by quick and it's not always enough time to get our ideas sorted! But maybe having some space from this story will help you figure out where it's going.


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