oh that’s so funny, people say, but they rarely mean that whatever follows is comical. they mean absurd or lame or ironic or disgusting.
so in that same vein its funny that i wrote this two nights ago after kate and i had a pre-dinner conflict that led to me eating the rice noodles with peanut sauce by myself. its funny that this is the post-fight narrative that pushed itself out of my fingertips. and by funny i mean something else.
something buried and grey like ash in a plastic bag thats been sitting for years since mom’s skin and bones were cremated a few hours after she smacked her skull on the sidewalk during her morning jog and died.
this story is funny in that way. the way i’m okay giving thai massage and palm pressing thighs and hara waving bellies and thumb pressing foreheads, but when the client is leaving instead of a hip hug or full hug i flash a peace sign with my shoulder turned. its that kind of funny.
the fight happened because kate saw me at the stove and peered over my shoulder and said ohhhhh no i was saving those for when we have people over on thursday and i said oh no its okay we can have squash soup then and she says that won’t be enough and i say okay we can make macaroni to go with the soup and kate says you can’t make macaroni when you’re having people over and i say for the love of god you’ve been negative today and then she tightens her face like a knot and leaves the room and doesn’t make eye contact and then even though the bedroom door is closed we both say some more words but they’re heavy like stones and the ship has already sunk. this is the story i wrote six minutes later, eating alone while she sat in the bedroom with the door closed. both of us steaming.
one night, a young dying man sat alone at a thai restaurant. in a window seat, he slurped at a bowl of steaming noodles. his pale fingers wrapped around wooden chopsticks, slick with peanut sauce. the server came and went, wearing eyeliner that curved up at the edges like her smile. when he was finished, the man licked his chopsticks. then sat back in his chair.
the cancer doctors called this death row. each morning they looked at the man’s charts and shook their heads, telling the man that tonight was probably his last night. so each night the man went out for his last supper. the city had so many restaurants. the flavors flared on his tongue. the man ate with eyes closed, savoring.
each night before leaving the restaurant, the cancer man finger pecked a raving yelp review on his phone. “the pad thai took me to the streets of thailand,” he wrote. “tender rice noodles stir-fried with eggs and chopped tofu. each bite a delicate sweet sour balance of mmmmmm and ahhhhh. like i died and went to heaven,” he wrote. after rating true thai five stars, the man went back to his hospice room on the first floor of the hospital.
after a few weeks of this, the dying man’s yelp reviews gained popularity. fans messaged him, asking where he would eat next. he responded, said he didn’t know, couldn’t know—dinner was god willing. on twitter, the hashtag #diningwithdeath spread on twitter.
without fail, each write-up was more decadent and praiseworthy than the one before it.
three months later, the doctors’ experimental chemo treatment succeeded and the man regained his health. he stopped eating out, returned home, and resumed a normal life.
many years later, the man now a ripe old age, again found himself in the hospital. one night, the doctors said this was likely his last night. the man was asked if he had any family. the man said he did not know. dementia, the nurse thought. she was kind and brought him a plastic cup of fruit cocktail. the man was too weak to eat it by himself so the nurse fed him. he opened his cracked pink lips and the nurse tilted the spoon in. the old man closed his eyes. he felt heaven tap dancing on his tongue, light-footed and delicate. the nurse asked him if he’d like another spoonful.
sir, the nurse asked?
the man was elsewhere. he felt himself exploding like the big bang in a universe of reborn taste buds. before he could answer, or imbibe another morsel of sugary pineapple, he opened his eyes wide and warm and wondrous.
it’s funny that the story stops here. that I don’t know where to go. How to say goodbye.right at the crucial epiphany moment. it’s like dreams where you wake up before the knife sinks into your guts or the train hurdles off the cliff or before you say yes to the man or woman you’re adulterizing. it’s funny because we want so badly for stories to end, to wrap up, to come to some fucking gorgeous conclusion that fits nicely in our box. but those stories are total misrepresentations of reality, aren’t they. who knows how this story ends? i think i’m extra sensitive about endings because i never got one with my mom. maybe. or maybe i just haven’t let go. which is really the same thing.
i do think i’m going to work on hugs instead of peace signs. the holidays are a good time to start. it’s friday morning. the baby and me and kate are riding the shuttle from the hilton airport parking lot to the airport. the baby is wearing a reindeer onesie. kate’s sitting next to her. and i’m sitting behind them. fingers numb. typing for dear life.
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