Wild River Review

WRR 4.4 — 1 AUGUST 2007

NEW IN WILD RIVER REVIEW

NOVEL EXCERPT: In a State of Partition by Aneesha Capur

SPOTLIGHT: The Other Side Of Abu Ghraib (Part 1) — The Detainees’ Quest for Justice by Joy E. Stocke, Kim Nagy, and Chris Tiefel

COLUMN: The Mystic Pen — The Gift by Katherine Schimmel Abdel Baki

FILM REVIEW: The Prisoner, or How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair by Elizabeth Sheldon

AIRMAIL: Confessions of a Global Traveler — Hong Kong Diary: Of Courtesans and Kings by the Professor

NOVEL EXCERPT: Blood Grip Chapter 4 by Constance Garcia-Barrio

BLOG: WRR@LARGE

UP THE CREEK: Editor’s Notes — Art, Yoga, and Abu Ghraib




Red Bean Soup

Yook fidgets with the plastic knot. His fingers shake when they try to grip the plastic. At the age of sixty-five, his hands just don’t work like they used to.

“Do you need help?” says a young voice in Cantonese.

Emma, from apartment 17C, reaches over the short wall that separates Yook’s security booth and untwists the knot with a dexterous movement. Her fingers are slender, with nails colored with a chipped, red polish.

Nobody ever reaches over Yook’s desk while he’s working at the SoMa Vista. The unfamiliar hands near his desk alarm him.

When the plastic unravels, the rice porridge with pork and goose eggs releases an aroma into the air. Every morning, his wife An Ming organizes dinner into separate containers: scallions and ginger cut into thin strips in one, Chinese doughnuts called you jak gui in another, and a thermos in a plastic bag secured with a double knot. They live in a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco’s Chinatown. It takes Yook twenty minutes to walk to work.

Yook says in Chinese, “Thank you, Miss Emma.”

When she pulls away her hand, the loose sleeve around her wrist reveals a bandage. Her American husband, John, is in the corner of the lobby checking their mail. He is much taller than Emma, nearly a foot taller, with broad shoulders and light-brown hair. His chin and cheeks are covered with facial hair. Although his beard is well groomed, it makes him seem much older, much rougher than petite Emma. She has a creamy complexion and dark, oval eyes. She is probably not much older than An Ming was when they were married. When Emma runs her fingers through her fine hair — effortlessly, for she has not one tangle — Yook imagines the silky black strands sifting through the webs of his fingers. He used to comb his hands through An Ming’s hair before she cut it short, before she permed it to make it look fuller, before it turned coarse and gray.

John drapes his large hands over Emma’s shoulder, hands with sprouts of brown hairs along the knuckles. They are so large; Yook can imagine John lifting Emma with just one hand. She drops her eyes as she takes a step backwards, letting John lead her towards the elevators. They both disappear around the corner. Yook hears the elevator go “ding” and then the automatic doors shutting.

Another couple walks through the revolving doors and although they smile as they walk past him, they do not notice him like Emma does. They don’t greet him or offer to help him. They treat him just like John did, as if they can’t possibly have something in common.

In his reflection in the window, Yook does not see the gray patches in his hair. He does not see the brown spots along his skin or the nose hairs he must trim at the end of every week. He turns his face to the side, noticing his still distinguished silhouette — his thin moustache on his upper lip without a hair out of place. He licks his thumb and smoothes down a cluster of hair that puffs along his sideways part. Feeling Emma’s attention, just a young wife, just a young woman, about to embark on marriage, family, life, reminds Yook of his own beginnings.

Before Yook and An Ming moved to San Francisco, he had been the financial manager for his family’s rubber tire business in Hong Kong. They had lived in a high-rise apartment in Kowloon Tong near his ten brothers and sisters, parents, uncles and aunts; near noodle shops with men stretching dough into long strands; near the neon lights of businesses advertising radios, electronics, dance clubs. Hong Kong was the New York of Asia, where the East met the West in business and work ethic. A person in Hong Kong would work fourteen-hour days, caught up in the race for the next best business deal. In Hong Kong, he was near his family. He was surrounded by Cantonese speakers. It was the place he called home.

But over the years, An Ming’s fear of Hong Kong’s 1997 handover back to China made her pester Yook for them to move overseas. “How can we raise our children as Communists?” Although he was reluctant to leave, although he had no idea what would happen after Hong Kong was given back to China, he packed their bags in 1980 and moved to San Francisco.

Yook met An Ming just once before their wedding day, over a twelve-course meal with a matchmaker and both of their families present. When his parents had told him that they might have found him a wife, Yook was nervous yet excited. Besides his sisters, mother, and aunties, he had never spoken to a woman before. He saw women in class, giggling amongst themselves in the corner, or on the streets wearing dresses with bright colors, but he had never approached one on his own before.

During the dinner, his chin was glued to his chest; his fingers linked below the table were interwoven so tightly that his knuckles turned white. Sweat gathered at his hairline. He dabbed it with the edges of the tablecloth. An Ming sat on the other side of the table. To him, she seemed so beautiful — creamy white skin, dark red lips, a fitted embroidered dress that revealed her sharp collarbones. When he looked at her, a tightness grew in his throat. He could do nothing other than swallow his own saliva to prevent himself from choking. Once An Ming raised her eyes to his. Their chattering families were muted. Neither one of them blinked. Yook gripped his hands under the table while An Ming’s eyes widened. He could feel himself growing, imagining the smoothness of her skin, the taste of sweat gathering along her collar. He gulped and she turned her eyes away.

When their families both approved of the marriage — the matchmaker ensuring them that the days and hours of their birth were auspiciously fitting — he sent her a letter asking for her consent to marry. She responded with a letter that said she would accept. Their wedding took place on a humid Hong Kong July day in 1969. Yook was twenty-six-years old. An Ming was nineteen. The wedding rituals felt like a game. First he went to her house to convince her cousins to let him in: “Please, cousin May, let me see my future wife.” They teased him and asked him questions while he pretended to be frustrated. Then they poured a potent herbal tea into tiny cups for their elders. The elders wished the couple a healthy and prosperous future while they linked solid gold chains around An Ming’s neck and wrist. They all ate dinner, played mah jang, posed for pictures. During this whole time, while their families laughed and drank together, An Ming and Yook avoided each other’s eyes.

That night, they went back to Yook’s parents’ house, to the familiar room that Yook had grown up in. An Ming’s belongings had already been unpacked — dresses and underwear folded and mixed among his pants and button-up shirts. The room smelled differently, not as musty, as if a woman’s fragrance cancelled out a man’s odor. She sat there on his double bed, her hands folded upon her lap, looking as foreign and uncomfortable as her pink shirts hanging perfectly ironed in his closet. Yook sat next to her, mirroring her exact position. He could hear his youngest uncle laughing drunkenly in the living room. “You show her a good time now, you hear?” he had advised just moments before, the stench of alcohol on his breath.

A candle was burning on a small nightstand, the flames dancing towards the ceiling. Yook dropped his chin to his chest, rubbing his bare toe against the grains of the wooden floor. Then he stood up and walked across the small room. He blew out the long candle. A darkness blanketed the room. Yook felt his way back to the bed, his hands waving in front of him. In the darkness, the waving hands Yook used to feel his way back to the bed brushed against An Ming’s bare skin.

“Oh, sorry, sorry,” he apologized as An Ming pulled the material of her silk blouse together.

“It’s OK,” she whispered back. She moved onto the bed, lying flat on her back near the wall.

“Did you have fun today?” asked Yook, lying parallel to her, his left shoulder nearly off the edge of the bed. He left a space in between them.

“Yes, the food was very flavorful,” she said.

“I especially liked the roasted pork skin,” added Yook, moving his hands towards hers. His fingers linked with her hand — sweaty, slippery, tingly in a sensation foreign to him.

“I liked the shark fin soup.”

“Yes, the soup was very delicious.” Yook turned on his side and moved closer, resting his cheek against the silk of her blouse. He could smell the scent of jasmine in her hair, the powder layered against her skin. With his left hand, he slipped his fingers beneath her silk blouse, tracing her stomach, stopping near her breasts. He twisted her nipples between his fingertips, and her chest rose softly. He said, “I thought the rice bean soup had an excellent taste to the palate.”

“No," she said, “The rice bean soup was too sweet.”

Yook unbuttoned An Ming’s blouse as his hands roamed across her chest, over her collar bone, squeezing her sides. He crawled on top of her body, tasting the salt of her skin against his tongue. He kissed her breasts, her neck, and then her lips. He pulled off the rest of her clothes and his pants and felt her legs open up just slightly. He entered her—tight, dry, warm. His breathing. Panting. Sweat gathering on his brow and hairline. And then he was finished, legs numbed, his body slippery, relaxing his weight against An Ming’s petite frame. Her bony hips jutted against his stomach.

A silence accompanied the darkness. Nothing but Yook’s breathing could be heard in the emptiness. He rolled off her body and lay next to her, flat on his back. She pulled the thin covers over her bare body, covering her stomach, her breasts.

“One day,” Yook said, “you can make me some red bean soup.”

“Yes,” she answered back. “I would like that.”

“Yook?" Emma says, leaning her head into the booth. Yook jumps to his feet, knocking over his swivel chair. He feels disoriented by Emma’s sudden greeting. “Hi, Miss Emma,” he says. He picks up the chair, his face flushed a warm pink, and sits down.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

He uses his coat to cover his lap, not wanting her to notice his erection. “Just work,” he says.

Two tenants walk into SoMa Vista. They notice Emma and Yook talking, but they cannot understand their words. He feels an intimacy in speaking to Emma in Cantonese. She could say anything to him, any of her thoughts, any of her secrets, and nobody else would know.

Yook smoothes down his tie. “May I help you?”

She pulls her long black hair into a ponytail. She is dressed in a fitted tank top with skinny straps and black workout pants that fall just below her knees. The shirt ends just inches short of her pants, exposing a thin line of white flesh. She has a sweatshirt around her waist, a CD player in her hand, and earphones droop along her neck. She asks, “When are you off?”

Yook looks at the clock and says, “In just one hour. At 8:00.”

She stretches one arm over her chest, then bends her leg back, to stretch her quads. This movement causes her chest to press forward. Although she is stretching for a workout of some sort, Yook feels shy that she stretches so openly in front of his desk.

“Are you free afterwards?” she asks.

“Yes,” Yook says.

“Maybe we can grab some coffee and talk?”

“Yes!” Yook says. He is worried that he may have said yes too loudly.

“Cool," she says. “I’ll see you at 8:00.” Emma has never asked him to talk outside the building before.

He watches as she pushes through the doors, turns to her right, and disappears in a brisk jog.

Yook checks the clock: 7:04. Just fifty-six more minutes until 8:00. He relaxes into his swivel chair, wondering why Emma, who passes him every day, feels differently about today. Something must be bothering her. Why else would she invite Yook out for a cup of coffee? Why else would she propose to meet him outside SoMa Vista?

In less than an hour, they will share a cup of coffee in one of those quaint coffee shops he sees so many American couples spending hours in. Maybe there will be an American with a guitar in the background singing into a skinny microphone. Emma and he will drink warm, sweet coffee, not as a tenant and a security guard, but as friends. A man and a woman sharing the events of their days. Sharing their thoughts. Emma probably won’t bring John since he can’t speak Chinese. She’ll leave him behind, alone, on the 17th floor in their apartment. Maybe, Yook wonders, they are having problems with their marriage.

Yook has fifty-four minutes to think of all the problems Emma and John may be having. Once he has thoroughly figured out why she wants to have coffee with him, he will be able to offer her the kind of advice that she will seek regularly. Their post-work coffee meetings won’t happen just tonight, but once a week, or twice. Maybe she will appreciate his advice so much that they will share coffee every night. Maybe even when Yook is not working.

Yook thinks maybe she wants to have a baby, but John is not ready. The apartments in the SoMa Vista, although modern and expensive, are located in the center of downtown San Francisco. John and Emma live in a one-bedroom flat and commute just a few minutes to work. Maybe John does not want to raise a child in the city or give up the conveniences of living at the heart of everything. And when Emma suggested that they move to the East Bay into a home with a yard, three bedrooms, maybe he reminded her that they had just signed a year lease. Then Emma, realizing that he was just making up excuses, accused him of being afraid to start a family.

Whether or not to become a parent is often an argument that new couples face. Unfortunately, Yook and An Ming never had this problem. The doctors said that she wouldn’t be able to have children — something about her body unable to produce eggs. They always pretended as if they could be parents one day — living in an apartment with an extra bedroom, living in a neighborhood with a good school.

One night, when Yook had just moved to the U.S., he called his younger brother who lived in Canada and said, “You and your wife are young. You will have plenty of chances to have another child. If you let me have your son, I will care for him as if he is my own. You may see him whenever you like.” His brother politely told him that they would think about it, but when he called back later he pretended he had forgotten what Yook had asked. For years, when Yook saw children walking along the street or took his nieces and nephews swimming, he became sad. Fatherhood was something he always dreamed about—playing soccer with his son, listening to his daughter practice the piano, teaching them how to speak Chinese. But eventually, those feelings passed. Now he is too old to play with the idea of having children.

He would tell Emma to have many children now, especially if they are financially ready, especially if they are physically able to. Once they become parents, all of their problems will seem unimportant. They will never sit at home, forcing simple conversation out of obligation, because there will always be the children: “Today he took his first step. Today he got his report card and he got straight A’s. Today he got a new job and took us out to dinner.” John will never come home after a long day of work to simply a warm meal, a wife with nothing to say, a television with the Chinese news, but a house full of children telling him their day’s activities.

Maybe neither one of them is ready to have children and Emma’s true problem is John’s aggressive temper. Yook has not ever spoken to John, but he always thought that John was unfriendly. So tall, such broad shoulders, and that facial hair cannot be trusted. His hands are rather large. Maybe John thinks he is touching her gently, but doesn’t realize that he is actually hurting her. Maybe he gripped her wrist so tightly he sprained it, and that is why her wrist is wrapped up in gauze. Yook’s own father used to beat his mother when business was poor, but that was fifty years ago in Hong Kong, and Yook realizes that times have changed. Women of today, especially women in America, do not put up with beatings from their husbands.

Yook hit An Ming once. But it was years ago, during their first year away from Hong Kong. She had asked him why he was not eating more fresh vegetables. “It will give you energy,” she said. When he worked in Hong Kong, he wore a suit, told others to pick up heavy objects. But when he moved to San Francisco, before his English improved, Yook worked long hours in construction, on his feet, stirring dry bags of cement with water. The other construction workers knew he was weak, so he worked twice as hard to prove his toughness. This was his first job that exhausted him to the core. An Ming was working too, in a laundromat, also in her first physical job. She must have been as exhausted as he was and yet she insisted on carrying on unimportant conversation. All he wanted to do was eat in peace. When she neared him that night, putting more vegetables on his plate, his hand slapped the side of her cheek. The act surprised Yook just as much as An Ming. He can still feel the subtle sting against his palm, still see the look of alarm in her eyes. She hid her face and quietly walked into the other room. Yook never hit her again, nor did he apologize. They never spoke about the incident.

Yook will tell Emma that she is young and beautiful and deserves a husband who will treat her with respect. In many ways, An Ming and Emma are very different. Emma has a good job, went to college, speaks English and Cantonese. She is young, with smooth, perfect skin without any blemishes or freckles; long, healthy hair that glistens in certain light; a delicate frame that looks slender in tight clothes. She will have no problems finding a replacement for tall, bearded John. If John hits her, she should leave him for somebody else, maybe somebody older, more mature, who will protect her.

Yook checks his reflection in the window. He is grateful that he wore the clean white shirt underneath his uniform coat instead of the cream-colored one with the brown stain. An Ming had tried to scrub away the brown smear, using an old toothbrush, bleach, and detergent, but the oils from the sauce in the food were already embedded in the fabric.

He checks his watch: 7:58.

Bill, a tall black man with a sauntering walk, comes in to take over the next shift. He greets Yook with a “My main man, Yook.” Yook drops his chin and says, “Hallow Biww.” Yook grabs his vinyl raincoat and his bag with the thermos and empty containers. He stands there with his belongings tucked underneath his arms. She is not on time. Yook does not remember if she is wearing a watch.

“You need anything, Yook?” asks Bill.

Yook hovers behind the desk. He shifts his weight from side to side.

“No.” Yook smiles. “Just waiting for fwiend.”

“That’s cool. I know how people are in this city. They say meet me at 8:00, but they really mean 8:30. I can remember one time I waited two hours for this date...” Bill continues with his story. Yook thinks: if she agreed to meet him at 8:00, where could she be?

Could something have happened during her run? The sun has set. The streets are dark. The possibility of danger is high. Emma is too beautiful. She is dressed in revealing clothing. Maybe she had been crying, emotional about her problems with John. Maybe she had not paid attention to where she was going. She could be in an alleyway right now. Should he run outside to look for her? Should he search all of the closest streets? Should he call the police?

Yook is about to interrupt Bill’s story when he sees Emma on the other side of the revolving glass door. She has put on a sweatshirt — the one that had been around her waist. She smiles and waves to him. “Are you ready?”

“Yes," Yook says.

“Evening, Bill,” says Emma.

“Good evening, Mrs. O’Neil.”

They walk through the revolving doors—Emma first then Yook. They walk to the corner Starbucks. The traffic on 3rd Street is hectic, rush hour, and they don’t talk until they get there.

When they reach the Starbucks counter, Emma says, “What would you like to drink?”

Yook looks at the menu hanging on the wall. There are so many options — mochas, teas, cold drinks, blended drinks. He says in English, “Just small coffee, but please, I pay.”

Emma orders the coffee, but says in Chinese, “Please, a Ba, I invited you. No need for proper politeness.”

The title a Ba startles Yook. She addresses him not as an equal or a friend, but with the honorary term for “older man.” A Ba is not a title she would use for her father’s generation. A Ba is a term she would use for a man as old as her grandfather.

“No, Miss Emma.” He reaches into his wallet and puts a ten-dollar bill on the counter. “I pay!”

Emma steps back and says, “OK, you win.” She laughs, but Yook does not understand why she finds this funny.

He gets his change, just a few dollars, and they take their drinks to a table. He sips his coffee. It is hot and bitter. He waits for her to speak.

Emma asks, “Do you like your coffee?”

“It is warm and fresh,” he says.

“I can’t drink coffee this late, or John will have to deal with me up all night.”

He nods his head. He rarely drinks coffee this late but the menu had been so confusing; a small coffee was all he could think of.

She closes her eyes and rubs her brow. “Can I ask you a personal question?”

“Yes.” Yook sits straighter.

“Did you have an arranged marriage?”

Although he had just welcomed a personal inquiry, the question comes to him as a surprise. “Yes,” he says.

“Are you happy?”

“Yes,” he says.

“Really?”

“Yes.” But by the third “yes,” he wonders if she can see the weight of his childless marriage.

“Because my older sister has agreed to be matched. She’s American. There are men everywhere. How can she possibly be happy in an arranged marriage?” She squints, creating a line between her brows.

Yook feels relieved that her prior question was in reference to her sister. He asks, “Did she grow up here?”

“Just like me.”

“And your parents?”

“They grew up in China. My sister’s going to marry someone from our hang ha.” She says this last statement as if this possibility is intolerable. Matching people by their ancestral village is a practice that has long grown out of fashion. But he’s heard of the occasional Chinese families in Chinatown matching two people from the same village in an attempt to preserve familial history.

Yook says, “My wife is from my hang ha.”

She drinks her iced tea. “I am being impolite,” she says.

Behind the counter, a woman steams milk for a latte. She has wild red curls and wears a sparkling barrette that twinkles in the light. A cloud of steams floats above her like a personal cloud.

She asks, “Is it possible for two arranged people to fall in love?”

He asks, “Does your jie jie cook well?”

“Yes, and she cleans toilets, folds laundry, and I bet she gives a good foot rub.”

“Then she will make a good wife,” Yook says.

Emma chews at the end of her straw. “That was a joke. I was kidding about the cooking and cleaning thing.”

“My wife is a good cook. She always buys the freshest ingredients.”

Emma says, “In my home, John does the cooking.”

“Does he cook hamburgers?” Yook can only imagine John making sandwiches or spaghetti — raw vegetables with a thick white sauce.

“He can cook Indian curry or Chinese stir fry,” she says, “but his specialty is Japanese sushi rolls.”

Yook imagines Emma’s husband with the thick facial hair slicing thin pieces of fish and rolling them in between rice and seaweed. What does Emma do when John prepares their daily dinners? Does she just watch him chop vegetables and oil the wok? Do her parents visit them for dinner and lose face when they see that their daughter does not do the cooking?

“Sometimes, he even does the dishes,” she says.

“You are very lucky.” But he really wants to say, what kind of wife does not cook or do the dishes?

Emma asks, “What do you and your wife do for fun?” she asks.

“For fun?" Yook scratches his chin. “Fun is for children.”

“Then what did you do for fun when you were younger?”

Yook’s mind flickers with memories he had just envisioned. The dancing flames of the long, skinny candle, the smell of her long, untangled hair, fragrant like flowers, the way she felt soft yet nervous to his touch. “I worked. We had family in Hong Kong. We were very busy.”

“You never went to the movies?”

“Yes."

“Or ate at nice restaurants?”

“Yes.”

“Or traveled through China?”

“China had troubles during that time.”

She shakes her head and goes back to chewing at her straw. “I am being impolite again.”

He thinks, just a little. “I once held an executive position in a large company,” he says.

“My sister is 35. She worries that if she doesn’t get married now, she’ll never be able to have children.”

“It was a rubber tire business.”

“I’ve never invited her to a party. I’ve never introduced her to a single guy. I’m a bad sister. And this entire thing is my fault.”

“An Ming and I were married when we were your age,” Yook says.

“I married young.”

“Are you and John happy?”

“Of course, we’re just newlyweds.”

“Does John approve of your jie jie’s decision?”

She laughs in a way that Yook knows she is not humored. “John finds this all exotic and old-worldly.”

Yook says, “He does not understand the Chinese heart.”

“You mean patience and subservience? Always doing what other people tell you to do?”

Yook wraps his hands around his cup. He looks down and sees white, wrinkled hands, so white that they look blue, like the veins that push against his skin. Emma’s hands are young and smooth, soft like silk.

Yook says, “We are like water, malleable to fit around sharp rocks and unrelenting earth.”

“You’re from another time. My sister grew up here.”

“We are not so different.”

“She’s never going to be happy.”

“It is a decision for her to make.”

“A forced marriage is never a decision.”

Yook sips his coffee, bitter and unsweet. “But choosing to be content and at peace is.”

Her phone rings to music with an upbeat tune. She answers it in English. It is John and she tells him to come pick her up at Starbucks on his way back home. She ends the conversation with a quick “I love you.” And as she closes the phone, she says, “My parents never liked John. I think that’s why they’re pressuring my sister to marry someone Chinese.”

“It is difficult to understand another man’s culture.”

“But they have many white friends, close friends in fact.”

“Then what is their reasoning?” asks Yook.

“I get this feeling,” she says, “that they think he will get bored of me.”

“The divorce rate among Americans is high.”

“I know.” She looks down into her cup of iced tea, which is now just melting ice. “They like to remind me.”

Yook imagines what it would be like to be in a marriage that could just end one day. Would it be all of a sudden? Do these people come home after a long day of work, worried that the person they have spent years of their life with may just vanish?

John enters the café and gives them both a wave. “Hi, Yook,” he says, reaching his hand out to shake his. “What a pleasant surprise to see you outside of work.” John speaks loudly, articulating each consonant and vowel. Tenants in the building often speak to Yook in this way. It’s as if speaking louder makes them more confident that he will understand them.

“You don’t have to talk so loudly,” says Emma.

“I am not talking loudly,” John says softer.

“Do you want coffee?” asks Yook.

“No, thank you,” says John, “I don’t support large corporations.”

“We can get you small cup,” says Yook. “Coffee is very fresh and warm.”

John laughs. “Oh my God, you’re just like Emma’s dad.”

“Stop being a jerk,” says Emma.

“What did I do now?”

She turns to Yook and speaks in Chinese. “I apologize for my husband’s impoliteness. His intentions are in the right place.”

“What did you just say?” asks John.

Emma says in Cantonese, “Thank you, Yook, for your patience.”

John seems impatient at not understanding their conversation. He bites his lower lip and scratches his facial hair. Even while sitting there, he seems so much larger in presence than Emma. His shoulders are broad.

Yooks says, “You take good care of her, OK?”

John pulls Emma close to him and kisses her on the forehead, nose, chin, cheeks, and all around her face and neck. He makes loud kissing noises, muah, muah, muah.

“John!” she squeals, “Stop it!” She pushes him away, but he keeps with the kisses.

He says, “There’s a spot... there’s a spot... there’s one, too.”

He is too strong, too strong for her to force down her laughter.

When they leave the Starbucks, Yook stands on the corner and watches them as they walk away, back to their home, back to the SoMa Vista. Walking along next to one another the contrast between their heights becomes more apparent. Little Emma seems so little. When they hold hands, he has to bend his arm so that their hands align.

They disappear down the corner and Yook heads in the opposite direction, walking the same path he follows every time he leaves work. He checks his watch. He will be home by 9:30, where An Ming will have a warm soup prepared for him upon his arrival. It will be something sweet with tapioca or red beans. The Chinese newspaper will be on the kitchen table unread; she won’t read it until he has. There will be a clean towel folded on the bed, next to a freshly pressed pair of pajamas, laid out for his nightly shower. And then once he has cleaned up, drunk his soup, read the Chinese newspaper, they will sit in front of the TV watching old Chinese soap operas. When Yook falls asleep on the brown couch with his feet propped up on the coffee table, she will remove his glasses, place them on the nightstand in the bedroom, and cover him up with a faded gray blanket. She will then plug in a small night light in the hallway, so that when Yook wakes up half asleep, he will not trip over any furniture on his way to the bedroom. In the middle of the night, he will crawl into the bed. An Ming will be sleeping on the right, near the wall. Although their bodies will not touch the entire evening, they will sleep side by side.


Chellis Ying

Chellis Ying

Chellis Ying received her MFA at the University of San Francisco and her BA at Kenyon College. She has been published in Best Travel Writing 2005, Best Women’s Travel Writing 2005, SoMa Literary Review, Driftwood Literary Review, and throughout the Guardian. She is the Program Coordinator for Abroad Writers’ Conference, volunteer for the Progressive Reading Series, and the Marketing Director at China Books.

CHELLIS YING IN THIS EDITION:
SHORT STORY: Red Bean Soup