Year One, First Friday of April
Death of Past Selves
Eating a xiaolongbao requires some practice. You have to pick up the dumpling with a delicate touch, careful not to break the skin. Transfer the dumpling to your spoon then pour some of the vinegar-ginger sauce on top. Do not make the mistake of biting into it nonchalantly because you will be burned. Instead, you carve a small hole and suck the juices. The soup will take you back to your childhood, when mother made a variety of soups every other weeknight. Black eyed pea soup had forever scarred you from eating beans. You pretended to be a vampire, slurping yin choy tong that had a maroon hue. Mother converted your distaste of bitter melon soup and armored you for a world against sweetness. All the soups that you took for granted. Since the years you’ve separated from your family ‘til now, the taste of them has been lost on you. So, you suck hard, trying to get every last drop. And when you are done with the first plate, you know it isn’t enough. You flag down the dim sum cart ladies, each one resembling more and more like mother. You take more, trying to drown in something thicker than memories and leave each drained body on a table that is slowly becoming a graveyard. When you finish, the thirst still has not been satisfied. You lift the carcasses and engorge yourself with the lukewarm bodies, a heat that has been absent for too long from your life. Swallow now, do not choke.
Ode to the Dirty Dog
We start at Jackalope where we drop balls down a pegboard for a reading of what shots we’re getting. Plain names that fail to encompass the burn we are about to ingest. Hand in hand, we skip over to Soda Popinski’s and play our luck at the wheel of spirits. Each spin rewarding us with a drink that would get us closer and closer to an alternate personality possessing our bodies. Characters that are more daring. We float on waterbeds in Kozy Kar while hearing loud moans from the background porn and make a drinking game where we sip every time we see a woman faking an orgasm. After all the fun and games, we go to Playland, becoming playthings for the sausage-infested dance floor. A light swipe across the ass. A pinch around the hips. Soft touches under the guise of permission. But we say yes if there are more drinks. So, we follow them back and forth from the dance floor and bar. Each trek getting blurrier, like flight. But then the lights come on and we’re forced to reckon with the reality of their faces and our hunger. We mutter goodbyes and rush out the exit and into the welcoming smells from carts lined up along the streets. We approach a lady grilling buns. Yes to onions. Yes to ketchup and mustard. We deep-throat the dirty dogs without gagging—nodding yes to more.
Emily Hoang is a Chinese Vietnamese writer and editor from San Francisco. She is a first generation college student who attended UCSD and attained a double major in General Biology and Literatures of the World. She recently graduated from University of San Francisco with an MFA in Creative Writing. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming in GASHER Journal, The Baram House, Ghost Heart Lit, Black Horse Review, among others. Her story, “Inheritance”, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize. She is currently working on a short story collection. When she isn’t reading or writing, you can find her kickboxing or exploring new spots around the city.