BY BRIANA LU
The only three words my mother can never learn to say are, I love you. ———— She’s born and bred Hunan blood, the kind frying pepper oil barehand and foraging stalagmites at eighty. Somewhere in 张家 界 there is a fawn feasting on its own corpse; walk ten paces and you’ll find where my grandma sacrificed heart for a son. Small auntie married a chef for good measure but big auntie is renowned in hotel cash and tall sons, so I guess you could say that mom’s got it best with her eggwash daughter and organic garden. Either way, what’s a little homesickness when all of us can bond over 老干妈 and mommy issues? When I have children, I’ll tell ‘em Haikou was my Hawaii and that I’m deitel lineage on my feminine side; when I have children, I’ll carry them back to the 老家, recipe wilderness survival the Canadian way, and shove ‘em off-precipice to taste her blood like I do. Young enough to believe nothing will change, the crow asks the sun, will I ever see you again? and receives, not so that you’d ever want to remember me again. Somewhere in 张家界, the glassy river that killed me the sole time I’ve ever been home wonders if it’ll be beak or stone that shatters it first. When I have children, I’ll tell ‘em that the first time I stepped foot in Hunan, it fed me water and endeavoured to consume my guts for escaping her third generation. Making cultural dishes without your grandmother’s recipe is like nailing tramway in her coffin and driving streetcar over a warm corpse. One day, the sun will rise over dew and grass where there is no one left to call 妈妈 and I will never forgive myself for not knowing how to be someone else. One day, my soul will return to the 老家, sit on a ginkgo tree or two with her, and cook a feast for all the food she’s ever fed me. When I have children, I’ll make them seafood fried rice, apologise profusely, weep like the sky’s coming down, and tell ‘em, this is your grandmother saying she loves you. ———— The only three words I’ve learned how to say in mom’s Hunan dialect are, have you eaten?