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Kitchen

I knelt in the grass pushing into my skin like hearing something in the middle of the knight when your lethargy is too great to investigate. Vaguely it occurred to me that I would dye my work pants with chlorophyll, but the other side of the window drew me in far too much. The Venetian blinds of the low window were pulled mostly down, and I stood on the ground as if in praise, watching the scene inside. There was a round, yellowed-wood table in the middle of the room adjoining a small kitchen. A woman served dinner to three children who accepted with quiet eyes and tenderly began to eat. The woman herself brought a smaller portion of the food to the table with her, moving gingerly in a self-conscious way that one does when they are walking in new clothes n front of a mirror and become, briefly, devoted to the people they want to be. My pupils contract in the light from inside. I watch, desperate to meet their gaze as they carry on slow conversation, their words unheard or unhearable to me, dog whistles or talking fish deep underwater.

The empty hallway sprawls out behind me in a single panicky, deep breath. I look around the corner of the cream doorway through the kitchen, cabinets painted a pseudo-nautical blue and slightly ajar, brimming with a haphazard collection of thrift glasses and silverware. A woman in coral lipstick that makes her look sallow and washed out teeters around the kitchen in a cheap, gauzy apron, filling bowls with miso soup one by one and bringing them to the table. At the table are three people, a baby, a boy, and a girl, all sitting with the poise of a thanksgiving dinner being recorded on video. They sat up straight and took the bowls from their their mother’s hands, setting them down themselves.

“Thank you,” says the girl graciously, and looks up at me. I stare back, frowning.

“Shouhei,” she says, her tone taking on a strange pitch, “Shouhei, look.”
The boy stares at me in alarm. The woman makes her place, sits down, crosses her legs almost coquettishly, and begins eating.

Seated around a small table arranged with wildflowers and bottles of Tobasco are a small child, a young man about nineteen and a woman of about the same age. The boy is tall, with the orderly, clean appearance of someone who is slightly deliberately unkempt. His shirt, made of expensive cotton, is untucked, and he sits with his back a straight rod pointing up at me with the hand motions and smile of someone who is totally relaxed inside themselves. The young woman, dressed well, has long hair and a slight forward lean, visibly enraptured in their table conversation. In response to something the boy says, she throws back her head and laughs. In doing so, she catches sight of me. With my mind, I plea for her to acknowledge me. Sensing something strange, the boy looks up to.


Just as this happens, a third, poised woman walks into the room carrying a bowl of soup and gives it to the girl, who accepts it wanly. She does the same to the boy, finally setting down a small bowl of cereal in front of the baby and an equally diminutive bowl of soup in her place Perhaps she is watching her figure.

As she sits, something breaks. The girl points to the ceiling to me, and the boy says something, the expression on his face meaningful. The world reeks to me of a yellow afternoon. The woman laughs and shakes her head. They continue, gesturing upward. The girl mouths something to me. I can hear through the whir of the ceiling fan slicing the scene her teetering, middle-aged laugh, resonating a warm and almost cruel disbelief. The solid attic floor, once almost a security, suddenly wraps me in loneliness and ridiculous self-consciousness. I yearn to be with the blossoms underneath.

I stand erect in the middle of the kitchen, my arms limp at my sides, like a child new to school, unsure of what to do with their whole body under the harsh gaze of other self-conscious children, like rats trapped in a white lit box. I feel gripped with cold longing, a sucking self pity that draws the color from my cheeks. I feel as if I am taking my first drag of black cigarette smoke, burning flesh and stink filling my lungs, creeping through my blood and curling in tendrils into my brain. My hands shake.

Diagonal to me is a slightly detached breakfast nook that I face, my entire body accommodating its magnetism. At the table are four people--an older woman, the skin on her arms sagging slightly with age, a baby, gurgling and limp in the chair next to her, and two bright eighteen or nineteen year olds, a boy and a girl. They give off the impression, like centerpieces, that they light up the entire circle table, their crystallized dynamics escaping past them out of the great windows beyond and into the kitchen where I stand, sweating in the steam off the stovetop reeking of gas.

“That’s exactly what I told him,” the boy was saying. He had a sharp look about him, broad shoulders, healthy, blush cheeks and deep, slightly neurotic apple-wood eyes. he was calm and smiling.

The girl who seemed to work like clockwork against his movements, was almost not a girl at all. Her ankles were crossed underneath the table like lighthouse beams calling a sailor out back from sea and her smile was that of a movie character, caught in a solitary chapter of happiness that could possibly be replayed over and over, never fading or giving way. She was dressed sharp, and was slender, almost nymph-like in her movements.
Her voice carried like the wind chimes from my grandmothers house when I would sit, hidden from the rattle of rain underneath a small, ivy-like tree behind her house, a whispered song of summer and the ability to dream, lucidly, while awake which fades abruptly when you begin to notice the sound of your voice when you speak.
Suddenly, there was silence, which pulled me up from my nostalgic, pathetic longing. Both the boy and the girl had stopped to look at me wanly.
“Mom,” the boy said urgently.
Aiko finished for him. “Dad. . . is standing in the kitchen.” Their mother glanced over, and I saw her bemused, coral smile for the first time in years. I felt as if I were peering up through a grave.

“Of course he’s not standing in the kitchen,” she said, her gaze passing over me like a brush of hot sesame oil. She chuckled in disbelief, and went back to her food.”

“Mom, he really is. He’s standing in the middle of the kitchen, looking wanton as hell.”

“Mom, he really is,” Shouhei almost pleaded with her.
Lin shook her head. “You two are dreaming.” The world shuddered before me like heat waves in summer and I felt a nauseating wave of warmth that pulled my body toward the ground. My eyes dilated in unnamed terror, like the feeling of rejection.

“You two must be dreaming,” she giggled, taking a languid sip of tea.





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