1 flash story
by Senna Xiang
Senna Xiang is a 16-year-old writer from New Jersey. Her work is published or forthcoming in Superfroot Mag, Sledgehammer Lit, GASHER Journal, and other lovely places.
I’d like to think that I deserved a softer mother. One who would let me go out on a Friday when school was closed because of the three inches of snow that fell in backslashes; one who would affectionately tell me to wear sneakers when going to NYC instead of heels and offer me her 22-year-old pair of New Balances; one who would wave from the red front door of a secluded suburb home to the high school senior who was illegally driving our group of friends. If we ever made it to NYC before night fell, we would gorge ourselves on Koreatown fried chicken, watch Brian sneak a shot of soju on the sidewalk, swallow then spew it onto our shoes. That was the first dare. When I would come back, I wanted a mother who would already be fast asleep, who left out a plate of apples and a cup of coffee on the counter.
Instead, I watched my friends drive out to Asbury Park, where Daeun said she wanted to go to see her “fellow gays,” and hung up on the FaceTime call when the connection got shitty out by the clear water. I threw my phone onto my bed and imagined that Daeun tossed her phone into the ocean, equally bitter that I couldn’t be there with them. Later that evening, they deluged me with happiness or envy; a photo of a little girl standing on a crag that jutted out like a tooth into the sea; a photo of the overpriced souvenir shop that sold sea glass; a photo of them posing on the boardwalk as a half-naked, sweaty man blurred past. I showed these photos to my mother and she scoffed. Said no one there was being safe about it. Fuck being safe. I relished the risk. I wanted to chase down the apocalypse and ask it to ruin my life. I’m bored, I would say, I’m looking for an adventure.
I’d like to think I deserved a comfortable mother. I would want to tell her that I liked girls, too. This mother wouldn’t think I was queer in the wrong sense of the word, wouldn’t think that there was something wrong with me. This mother would say she didn’t care who I liked as long as they made me happy. This mother would not say that my breasts and hips were getting too chunky, then in the same breath say that men like curvy women, so maybe I wouldn’t have that much trouble entrapping a husband like prey. This comfortable mother would not make me feel bad for spooning an extra helping of vermicelli noodles onto my plate, glassy as fish eyes. I would want to share with this version of my mother all the stories I had written. The trashy, the stupid, the terrible, the comedic. This mother wouldn’t tell me that she felt nothing from my words, wouldn’t sigh and get up from my computer, walking out of my room in silence. If I happened to help her fold dumplings later that night for dinner, she would say that she liked what I had written and not tear it–or me–down. This version of my mother does not exist.
I wanted to cry, without her telling me to stop crying. What kind of mother tells her child that if she cries, then it makes it seem like it’s the mother’s fault? So what if it is the mother’s fault? Take responsibility for these tears. Don’t take a hammer to these walls that I’ve built against you. Does it sound selfish of me to say that all I wanted you to do was knock?
Generally, I’m glad I lied to you. I’m not sorry that I never submitted a single application to any colleges on the East Coast. It’s fine with me that my early 20s won’t be spent in the midst of syrupy New England trees, where the light filters through the leaves just right so that it looks like a scene from any manic pixie dream girl movie. All that golden light reminds me of now is a diffuse ache so haunting it can only be the ghosts of a mother’s grief. A demand to be felt, a cry to be healed.