Five Points, Vol. 21, no.2
Chinese Restaurant, 1973
The hostess sat me at a single table
against the window. When I looked up
from my wonton, I saw that the man
seated alone against the opposite wall
was smiling at me, and I smiled back.
After the waitress brought my braised
bok choy in tangy garlic sauce
and a tiny bowl of white rice, after
she refilled my pot of green tea,
the man sat down at my table,
across from me, steam from his plate
of shrimp lo mein blurring his face.
I was twenty-six and determined
after the breakup to covet only
myself, as the therapist suggested—
go to films on my own, plays,
cafés and restaurants like this one.
I don’t remember what the man said,
what I said, or which of us spoke first.
I remember that one of his eyes
was more green, the other more blue.
I remember thinking how brave I was,
how free. I never asked his name
or gave him mine, not even
in the morning. I remember
our laughter—how long and much
I’d missed that sound, that kind
of letting go. I loved having found
the little piece of stray pork
from whatever dish was sautéed
in the wok before mine. The way
it lay hidden in the thick, pungent
white sauce beneath the greens,
the sudden, shocking, rough
texture of the meat, so unlike
the smooth stalks that slid almost
too easily onto my tongue.