By rochelle lee

Her love is steamed buns for breakfast, cradling tender bits of pork
and hard-boiled yolks like open, blossoming hands; her love is a slippery
bag of noodles, half-bathing in ketchup and sweat, soup stinging of salt;
her love is sensing the heaviness of that hour between 3 and 4p.m. and
saying nothing but are you hungry? are you hungry? Her love is an
afternoon snack, a chunk of pandan cake, the last slice of French toast
from this morning, an egg tart pressing flakes of pastry onto sticky fingers;
her love is giving you an afternoon snack but telling you to ease up, dinner
time will be in half an hour — she’ll call you when it’s ready. Her love is

too many dishes to fit on the table; her love is digging into the fish with
her fingernails for the good crispy bits; her love is a steaming bowl of sickly
bitterness, liquids brewed long and hard with red dates and roots and herbs
that’re good for you, they really are, drink up and don’t you dare leave a drop.
Her love is calling for you to leave your plate, she’ll clear it; her love is the
cracked, spoilt-gold light of the dining room, the air softening and sinking
as the steam from the plates settle into our spoons. Her love is the cloying

flavour of oil and grease, the aftertaste of soya sauce closing up the back of
your mouth for the day. Her love is handing you a bowl of jade-polished
grapes and telling you they’ve already been washed; her love is the silence
as you savour those grapes, each subtle burst of sweetness fresh and clean
on the palate. Her love is the sound of her hand dragging across the banister
like the sweep of a broom, one step at a time, mumbling things as if half-
hoping someone would hear; her love is leaving a covered plate in the rice
cooker, filled with the meal you missed. Her love is not accepting a single

thank you / no i’ll wash the dishes / are you alright? / im sorry for the trouble;
not a word even potentially irrelevant to the next soup refill or bowl of rice.
She feeds me too much, gives me hugs I don’t understand.
When I look up halfway through my dinner she is sitting nestled tightly
in a corner of the sofa; eyes gone soft from the television. When she

catches me looking she rises up, peering to see if the bowl is empty, if
my chopsticks have gone idle; nudging
a forgotten spoonful of rice into my mouth. She returns
with the bowl replenished and kisses my forehead, sniffing my hair;
leaning in so close I have to shut my eyes. As if afraid
that if I get too close I can see in all the little creases
how hard she finds it to love her own love. That warm full feeling swells in
my belly, aching to plop to my feet. Lately, though, I find that
it doesn’t quite want to go down all the way; leaving me
half-choking, tasteless.

rochelle lee is an aspiring writer from singapore. right from the very first badly-put short story, writing became her comfort and her understanding. she writes both mood poetry and prose but tends to love more of the former for when she’s thinking too much. she regrets knowing she once published a story about evil clocks in the all in! snack fiction anthology but is still very much thankful for the opportunity. she was also very sad to see her favourite bookshop booksactually in tiong bahru go and will continue being sad until further notice.

Image: @brookelark via Unsplash

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