‘All your potatoes on the ground—you were never meant for this. The camerawoman tiptoes around spilled tubers as she zooms in on your front teeth, tearing open a parcel of dried shrimp. ‘
December 29, 2015
Reading the Yelp reviews of your family’s restaurant—you have made a mistake. “Lacking any lasting impression.” “The food is good, but the service is awful.” “Waitstaff is surly and inattentive.” Twenty-three reviews. Your mother’s English, bandaged with smiles, your father’s eyes peeking out from the kitchen, and your brother, who remains an asshole in every description. Lauren M. details in a one-star review an argument over a delivery that he brought to her house. It is so authentic—it is painful to read. Your brother becomes angry and slams a full box of food onto her driveway. In February, the steam rises from the wet noodles on the asphalt, rising with his heavy breathing. Your brother is thirty-two and has spent exactly half his life working there. Your mother has shingles and no doctor. Your father has hypertension and no doctor. You have a college degree and will not go back there. Lauren M.’s profile has zero friends and one review.
Yesterday, you took a shit so big at the office that it refused to flush. It was a Monday. You remember your old roommate once said that food is like paying rent to your body. In which case, do you have a roommate? How can you afford it? How do you live like this? When you yanked the lever to draw another surge of water, the shit stayed—dense and staid, once, twice, three, four, five times—unimpressed by the rush of plumbing. The clear and swirling water around a single object. So terrified of your own feces, it’s patriotic, you stare into the bowl with great reverential anxiety. It is like history: private—that only the parts of you unseen have memory of its creation, while your mind’s faculty flees. What in this world is so defiant, so honest and immune to eviction, that it dares you to destroy it with your own bare hands?
After the intake therapist rejects your bid at an Adderall prescription, she informs you that you have a learning disorder. Also, it seems you have been bordering on depression for a while now. She looks so serious. How long have you been like this? How do you live—like this? You reject your first therapist when you meet her, an Asian woman who unsettles you by her likeness and academic English. As you backpedal from her office you feel yourself standing on ice so crystal thin, it is like touching the wet of an eyeball, and beyond it is yourself, alive and clawing into contact. You tell all this to the next white woman sitting across from you in a fold-up chair—your mother’s immigration, your brother’s explosive and wasted life, your father’s quiet devotion to the dream of you, your resilient love for ballsack and white cock. She touches her wrist: It seems… you have a lot of problems…. adjusting her watch: to think about… See you next Monday? Her thumb pressed on the glass face.
All your potatoes on the ground—you were never meant for this. The camerawoman tiptoes around spilled tubers as she zooms in on your front teeth, tearing open a parcel of dried shrimp. Grainlike, pink nymphs packed tight with twenty hundred eyes staring out, punctuating the space between your hands. So assaulted by nostalgia, so aroused by the filth and seafood blast of umami, you can’t stop looking at Ted Allen’s mouth. It moves. Tell me chef, is there anyone special you’re competing for today? This is the moment, your fingers gripped around the handle of your cleaver: “I’m competing today to honor my mother, who taught me everything about sacrifice and generosity through the warmth she carried from the kitchen into her life.” At the word “life”, you tilt your head up and rock your blade slowly into the heft of a red onion. Then you remember your mother is still alive. A tear slides down your face.