Listening Class || by Eric Abalajon


I fell for the trap of believing Chekhov is universal

during the second day of my practicum.

when I picked an audio recording of 

A Country Cottage for a listening class, 

A story of intrusive relatives in newlywed’s honeymoon,

the file is less than five minutes, and subtly funny.

After checking questions about the plot, new vocabulary 

introduced, to conclude, I asked my class to talk about some 

unpleasant memories with family and what they impose.

I never thought a classroom of adults could become so chatty.

Some started speaking in Chinese and Farsi

which defeated the purpose of the exercise, 

but I can’t tell them not to stop either. 

I went around the room. Teacher, one started, 

I’m an only son. I love my relatives but my parents 

want me to miss work because of guests. His seatmate agreed,

especially true in the countryside. My mother, she begins, 

will wake me up early morning to help her cook for the day. 

I kept nodding; I don’t know what to say. 

No errors in grammar. It slipped my mind, 

Chekhov’s characters were aristocrats. In the room, 

women are talking more than men.

I went to another desk, hoping for something lighter.

My father was an officer during the Iran-Iraq War,

our town was near the border and the fighting.

Almost every night, someone would be knocking at our door,

and mention our father’s name, then daughters left at home  

would need to take care of wounded strangers.

The secret in second language acquisition 

is not functionality, but finding ears for stories 

that are otherwise kept hidden. Not one anecdote was funny. 

We ran out of time, before I can wrap things up.

I had mixed feelings to the lesson’s success.

My mentor’s only comment, the vocab list 

was too long. Maybe we should put Chekhov to rest.


ERIC ABALAJON is currently a lecturer at the University of the Philippines Visayas, Iloilo. Some of his works have appeared in Revolt Magazine, Loch Raven Review, Ani, and Katitikan. Under the pen name Jacob Laneria, his zine of short fiction, Mga Migranteng Sandali, is distributed by Kasingkasing Press. He lives near Iloilo City.

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