May 22, 2011

The library a few blocks away is my primary source of comfort in Flushing. A close second is the Golden Mall, a food court that’s been favored by the press for Xi’an Famous Foods, which in the space of two years has opened two or three other locations in Manhattan and soon another in Brooklyn. Their pork sandwiches had cost two dollars three years ago and are now a whopping two-fifty. Across the aisle, just wide enough to squeeze through a hand truck carting boxes of beverages—and yet people will try to pass through two at a time—is a spot selling hand-pulled noodles, where a thin man with dyed-copper hair twists noodle shapes from a large mound of dough. Today I’d hoped to find a chicken soup variety, but they serve only beef and lamb, so I ordered beef noodle soup, as well as a side order of dumplings. This is a meal that feels like home—MSG-laden, simple, fast, cheap. Flushing itself does not feel like home, however. I have not found a routine here. My parents will be back from Taiwan in the first week of June, and I will not have ventured past Main Street or beyond the Golden Mall and the library. My reason for this is very specific, but I will have to let go of the reason soon, since it is now spring, and spring leads to many new possibilities, both internal and external. I don’t know how my neighbors feel about this season. I don’t know much about them at all except that they push past you without a glance or stand in the middle of the flow of sidewalk traffic lost in thought, probably about money or the next Botox session. It’s easy to be closed off here, but I can’t decide if the structure of Chinatown is the main factor or something else far more mundane. If an immigrant has no friends upon arrival in America, as had been my mother’s case thirty-seven years ago, during which she was eight months pregnant with me and could rely only on my father and sister for company, what does he or she do to feel at home? One focuses on work, on making money. My own isolation here has been manageable because I am not an immigrant. Yet isolation is isolation. I’d got it into my head that I could translate, or transport—some kind of prefixed “trans-“—all the lovely lessons I’d learned last year about strangers into this place, but the failure, though predictable, has been astronomical. In a letter to my parents, which I’ll have them read when they’ve recovered from their jet lag, I am writing about metaphysical isolation in as plain terms as possible. Whether this idea will annoy them or draw them in doesn’t matter; the letter is meant to create the stage for dialogue, storytelling, mythmaking.

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2 Responses to “六”

  1. ChristineZ Says:

    You are on a mini-writing residency in Queens! (but if you’d like for me to visit you, I will). 😉

    • wmc Says:

      Oh, I guess I am. I wish I were more productive, though. Yes, when I recover from this cold, you should come on out here!


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