Death and Noodles

The phone rings. My brother’s voice from the other side of the world.

“It’s mom. It’s bad.”

I put down the phone. I stare out the window. The Mont-Blanc glares back at me, stark and cold.

I ask for leave, pay the bills, ask the neighbor to pick up my mail. Three planes and 20 hours to get from where I am to where she is.

“Why French?” I can still hear my mom’s voice, her head over my shoulder as I fill in my college application. “Why not Chinese? You are one, after all.”

 “Precisely, I know enough Chinese. I want to learn something new. And I love the sound of French!”

“You always were different.” A shaking of the head, a shrugging of the shoulders. A giving up of her dream, an acceptance of mine.

I look out at the cotton-candy clouds, the blue sky a perfect foil to their tender puffiness. Nothing tender and everything puffy, everything angry red in my mother’s stomach. The images my brother emailed got stuck on Pause on the DVD of my mind.

I lean my head against the window. I close my eyes. I take a deep breath. Another.

“Hot towel?” A touch of Asian hospitality at the start of a long flight. I reach my hand for the towel. I hold it between thumb and index finger, shake it out, lean back and lay the towel gently over my face. The heat is a welcome sting.

I want to stay under that towel for a long time but soon the stewardess comes to collect them. She gives me the menu. Roast chicken with mashed potatoes or stir-fried beef and vegetables with noodles.

“Always pick the Asian dish. You won’t be disappointed.”

Will I always hear her voice?

I smile. She will laugh when I tell her.

“You who pay me no mind when I am alive, you will hear me from beyond the grave?”

I eat the noodles. “Always serve noodles on birthdays. It means long life.”

I watch a movie, two movies, three movies.


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