Kyle Liang

AN ABC IN A DIM SUM RESTUARANT

 

the door opens and a bell rings. grandma walks in followed by grandpa followed by grandmas left leg.1 i jump to my feet and stand behind my chair anxiously.2 i wait forty-seven seconds for grandma to get from the door to the table. her leg dragging on the carpet behind her.3 i rush to the other side to pull out a chair. i pull out another for grandpa. i hug grandpa. i hug grandma long enough for her to say bao bei bao bei wo de bao bei three times as a tide of tears wash over her with excitement to see her grandson.4

 

i rush back to my seat and grab their tea cups to wipe clean with my cloth napkin before they have a chance to reach for them.5 i carefully pour out the steaming chrysanthemum tea perhaps burning myself in the process.6 i smile at them. they smile back. grandpa gives me a thumbs up and both him and grandma tell me im handsome. i thank them. they smile. i smile.7

 

mom slaps my leg under the table as i look around the restaurant.8 i look at grandma and grandpa. they feel my eyes and turn their heads to meet my face with another smile. this time drool starts to leak out the corner of grandmas mouth.9 she reaches for the glob with the tissue in her left hand and wipes it away as if its the thousandth time today. it might be. a baby can be heard crying on the other side of the restaurant.

 

the bell rings. dad walks in smelling of home depot.10 he sits down and begins eating. i take his cup in my hand before he has a chance to think about how thirsty he is and begin wiping and pouring more of the hot chrysanthemum tea.11

 

the waitress comes over and drops off the slippery rice noodle roll that mom ordered when no one was paying attention.12 i quickly take the two wooden disposable chopsticks out of their paper sleeve and rub them together like im trying to start a fire.13 i use the ends to cut the roll into sections which i then distribute around the table. first to grandma then to grandpa then to dad then to mom and then to me. i ask if anyone is thirsty. grandpa replies that he wants beer. grandma says she wants water.14 i rehearse what im going to say to the waitress in my head before standing up and yelling our familys order to her in mandarin only to find out that she only speaks cantonese.15

 

 

1. Grandma suffered a stroke in 1995 that resulted in paralysis of the left side of her body
2. Waiting for the eldest to sit at the table first diplays respect
3. Dim sum restuarants always have carpet floors
4. Bao bei is a term of endearment, thus bao bei bao bei wo de bao bei translates to baby baby my baby
5. Tea cups are wiped thoroughly to ensure that they will be clean to drink from
6. Garanteeing another person’s health and happiness at the cost of one’s own is the greatest form of endearment
7. I attended a primarily white elementary and middle school and was bullied for being Asian so I stopped speaking Mandarin at home no matter how many times my parents begged because I claimed that no one else spoke Mandarin and that living in the United States meant that it was usless. This later severed my ability to talk to my grandparents
8. Mom always hates when I shake my leg under the table
9. One side of grandma’s face does not smile
10. Dad is also covered in paint and saw dust. His fingers are probably bleeding and the cracks of his palms are permanently packed with dirt. He dropped his parents off in front of the restaurant so that they would not have to walk from wherever he parked
11. Making sure not to let out the most bitter-tasting tea at the bottom of the pot
12. A long, thin white rice noodle wrapped into a roll, sometimes around beef or shrimp, doused in soy sauce, and steamed
13. Disposable wooden chopsticks are rubbed together to remove any potential splinters
14. Warm water, not ice water
15. A failure to overcompensate

 

 


Kyle Liang is a 22-year-old first-generation-born Asian American and author of the forthcoming chapbook, HOW TO BUILD A HOUSE, winner of the 2017 Swan Scythe Press Chapbook Contest. His work has appeared or will be appearing in Stirring, Apogee, Crab Fat Magazine, Entropy, Hobart and more. Kyle is also a Best of the Net nominee, reader at Frontier Poetry, playwright, actor, choreographer, and teary-eyed PA student at Quinnipiac University, struggling to keep up with the demands of the healthcare field and grad school. You can find more of his work at kyleliang.com.

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