Chopsticks clatter. Lips smack together. The slurping of soup. Mother stares at her hand-sized bowl as she grimaces on the lemongrass chicken that I made. To my surprise, my sister devours the meat. Mother tells me it's okay, that I did my best. Not perfect, but close enough. She sighs and gives me a sympathetic smile while placing down her dish—suggests that, maybe one day, probably after a couple of trials, but I need to master the art of cooking before I’m married. She then points to my bowl—brown rice blemishes the pink flower porcelain dish—tells me to eat everything or my husband will look like that. Full of holes and dark spots. Similar to my skin. She pats my face.
“Look at you,” she says, “you ruined everything. No one will find you attractive now. Eat your rice or your husband will look like you.”
I nod as I swirl the soup, wondering if I’ll have the perfect skin like my family.
The broth breaks the clouds of rice, drowning each grain.
I drink the liquid.
Clean. Clear. Not a single seed to be found. Part of me wishes my skin could look like this. No acne. No scars. Only a white glassy exterior.
But when will that happen? I don’t want to wait. Besides, don’t I look fine just as I am? I just want to be me.
My sister snorts. She glances at our mother then back at me. “It’s just a stupid superstition. You don’t have to listen to that.”
I stare at my dish. My sister doesn’t understand. Has she looked at herself in the mirror? She’s perfect.
Mother yells—tells her to be respectful—since she knows best.
“Clean your bowl,” she demands.
My sister slams the chopsticks on the table, but I grab her arm, trying not to make the situation worse—she yanks back, shaking her head, and mutters, “God, you’re pathetic,” then clanks her ugly dish in the sink.
About the Author: Annie Trinh is an MFA fiction candidate at the University of Kansas. A VONA alumni, she has been published in the A3 Literary Review, Litro Magazine Online, and Emrys Journal Online.