Empty Kitchens by Eric J. Duong

My car pulls into the driveway, sputtering and

Choking from bug carcasses

Gathered

From across the desert 

 

You sit in the kitchen patiently

Quiet

I'm later than I said I’d be, so you reheat

The contents of the bowl that lays dormant on the table

"How's school going?"

You ask in Vietnamese, a native tongue passed down with care

Only to be received half-way

"Fine." I lie in English, as I drag my battered suitcase

In

Through the door

 

In one pot, toss in:

Lap xuong. It's either a type of pork or mystery sausage, depending on how funny

You feel that day

Green onion, chopped

All over sweet rice

Drizzled with a bit of soy sauce

 

I've never actually seen you piece it together. Just strong scents of sugared meat and spice wafting up

Letting me know

To come downstairs and pull up a chair

 

Your phone buzzes. It's Dad

Bà Nội has passed away

Surrounded by family, but with a grandson

Absent

I thought about getting a plane ticket in that final week, but something kept me from asking

Maybe it was the toy dog upstairs

She bought me

Years ago

On a rainy day in Chinatown

He keeps watch over a dusty pile of Dad's favorite comics

Cowboys who speak in French 

And stay young forever

 

4 eggs, scrambled

1 loaf of French bread

At least 6 strips of bacon. Pour out the fat. Twice.

Fry to a crisp. Then pat down using a paper towel 

For extra health benefits

 

"You have to be 10 times better"

For them to accept you

Was a favorite saying of yours.

I haven't checked the calculations

Because

You're still much better at math than me

 

The bread usually disappeared

Before you finished burning the bacon

Sitting at the table

In my oversized shirt (I never grew into it by the way)

I don't believe you

13 isn't an unlucky number

Just the wrong age to realize 

That sometimes you were right

 

1 can of Chef Boyardee mini-bites (the ones shaped like little dinosaurs)

Empty contents onto a saucepan

Heat on low

Let cool for at least 5 minutes. The last step would be unnecessary if only

Your son had but a little bit more 

Common sense 

 

The color green stands out

When I think about the first house 

I remembered enough of to forget

3 steps off of the bus and then

A wild sprint through 2 lawns of Kentucky bluegrass

Was a routine that you never missed

Watching

From our front porch 

 

I forgot to send you a text your last birthday 

And on the weekends, I'll admit

I only call

When it's something important

 

But I do know

That after I left home for the first time

You put 4 pictures of me 

Up by the fireplace

And I'm eating in 3 of them.

Eric Duong

Eric is a senior hailing from San Diego, California. He is an english major planning to apply to a doctorate of physical therapy program upon graduation. He enjoys reading obscure warhammer 40k lore, petting other people's dogs, and practicing martial arts on unsuspecting friends in his free time.

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