I renounce rice when I am nine, the way one
might renounce Barbie dolls, or multiplication
sheets, or vocabulary quizzes—unpretentious,
without pomp. Baba continues to serve me braised
pork belly and tomatoes with egg, eyes soft like
steamed gingered fish, never once picking at the
haggard bones of autumn: how I unearthed dead
silkworms from the garden, or how I would not touch
the yolk of lotus seed cakes, or how I throttled
every seditious beat until I transfigured into
symphony. I watch Mama carry jasmine rice
from the cooker to the pan, see her add onions, eggs,
sausages, scallops, salt lightly glinting through
the sheen of sesame oil. How much do I need
to carry home? I must hold my breath and pack
these away: filtered light, cemetery ash, the emptiness
between characters that swell larger than their
boxes can hold. Subtraction comes easier than
addition; that is the only truth I know. Mama
shakes her head when I exit the kitchen, clicks her teeth.
Surely this story ends in absolution, a sobered family
singing itself off the page, running across the
weathered cliff like a footnote or a seagull without wings.
Vivien Song is a high school junior from Pleasanton, California. When she’s not cramming for calculus, you can find her bullet journaling in a coffee shop. She hopes you’ve had a great day so far.