Mai Lin

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We all worked at the restaurant. Me, Mom, Dad, Carol, and Mao. Sometimes we shelled shrimp. 50 lbs each, staring at us with eyes as small as beads. We stuffed wontons; we wrapped eggrolls. We tried to be like the others. Take orders, deliver food, smile. Wash dishes, count money. Wrong. Do it over again. We eyed the chef: jaws dropped. The food, flying, floating through the air like clouds, landed. Perfection. The waiters. Swift; accurate. In, out, in, out. Andreas. Scrub, peel, rinse, scrub, spotless.

The restaurant. In North Hollywood, with all the stars. Right next to the studios. Maybe celebrities do not like Chinese food. Maybe they do.

Through the doors. In, out, in, out, out, in. Smack! The floor, with lamps and décor hanging from it – the ceiling. Plates scattered. Voices spinning. Where am I? Who are you? On my feet. Back to work. In, out, in, out, in out.

Chinese jackets, white shirts, black slacks. This way, Mao says. Thank you. Footsteps. Her eyes, warm like chocolate, paving the way. Black tables, upholstered chairs. To eat, she asks. The pen flows automatically to the sound of their voices. Order up.

Through the doors. Orange, red. Bright colors to lighten the mood. 1960. Booths, chairs, tables. Bamboo drapery. White placemats. Many hungry people. Food to serve and waiters to serve it.

Jingling coins and overflowing wallets. People are ready to pay. The cash register is quick. Money goes in – change comes out. But I am quicker. Numbers go in, the total comes out. I study hard. I use my brain. I like math.

I also like weekends. Time for fun and friends. Time for laughter. Time for work. Every Friday night. Every Saturday night. Work, work, work. No play. No friends. Just work. Bus tables, wash dishes. Prepare food, serve people. All work, all the time.

Mai Lin. The restaurant: it is like a boat. Dad is the bow. He owns the restaurant, runs the restaurant, and keeps the restaurant afloat. Mom is the wheel. She knows which way to go, and she steers us in the right direction. Carol is the deck. She is too young to work, so she just watches. But she provides support. Mao is the stern. She pushes us forward and keeps us going. She is like the wheel. And me. I am the mast. I stand tall and proud. I tower above the others, watching over. I see everything.

The restaurant. In North Hollywood, with all the stars. Right next to the studios. Maybe the celebrities do not like the Chinese food. But I do.





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