CW: Grief, language
I could peel off my skin like saran wrap pulled protectively, viciously, lovingly, over a bowl of pre-prepared dumpling filling. I call you, because you asked me to after I touched down. While the phone rings I lick the corners of my mouth, which are sweet from bile. I’m imagining how you’ll laugh, then genuinely berate me for forgetting my Dramamine. So instead I overdo it, whining about my “tummy ache.” “Think of flying,” you chuckle, “as an interactive modern art piece on the discomforts of the comforts of capitalist society.” I hate the things you say, or rather the way you say them. Each pearly statement is ready for a plaque, for a headstone, or for Twitter. Recently I’ve been trying to figure out if you’re a warm body for my reptilian soul, or if you’re someone I’d try to make dumplings for, on your birthday. But I could not call my ma, and I misread the recipe. You found me like a thief who had broken in and trashed your kitchen, staring at too much wrapping for too little pork mush. You only smiled and pulled me up, took the skins, called your mother. You sliced the dough into strips, boiled it, strained it like spaghetti, mixed it with Lao Gan Ma Chili Sauce from H-Mart. Lao Gan Ma. Old dry mother. Your taste for spice, I think, is the main reason you haven’t upgraded from fuckbuddy yet. “Have you eaten?” you ask. “Not yet,” I answer, and you remind me to eat before my next flight. At the deli I buy a 5 dollar bottle of water and a ham sandwich that flakes like ash. I am standing before the selection of NakedTM juices when I finally break down into tears. It is drastic — the cashier looks close to calling security. “Have you eaten yet?” I warble to myself, because no one had asked me that since Ma died. “Final boarding” chirps the lady on the intercom, cutting in through my first good cry in months. “Gate closes in two minutes.” I am sprinting to counter 34A, swiveling my blurry eyes at the taxless Chanel and Givenchy and Gucci stores. My ears haven’t popped yet. The world is mealy. I’m chasing a job interview, a business opportunity, or something else equally vapid. But really I’m running to your city, to you.
Catherine Xie is a Chinese-American writer living in Weston, CT. All of her pieces mention food to some degree, but she's not sure if it's because she likes the imagery or if she's just always hungry. Her writing is published or forthcoming at The Jellyfish Review, The Incandescent Review, Wrongdoing Magazine, among others. She was born in 2004.