Eating With Chopsticks

Eating With Chopsticks

A Story by Tionge Rosalie Johnson
"

This was a story I wrote for my final portfolio for my Creative Writing Class. Hopefully it is an enjoyable read :).

"

A waiter with slicked black hair and a polite smile placed himself beside the couple seated at the window. When he took their orders, Selena fumbled with her words while her fiancé, Daniel, confidently asked for an order of minced chicken and rice.

“Chopsticks or utensils?” asked the waiter with a thick Korean accent.

“Chopsticks please!” Daniel grinned.

“No chopsticks for me please,” Selena said, crossing her arms.

Genuinely concerned, Daniel tried to convince her to use some. He had made it a mission in the past to make her the next chopstick master, and most of the time Selena refused.

“You sure? It looks really complicated, but I can always show you how to use them.”

“I’ve used utensils all my life. If I don’t use utensils, I use my hands.”

A lopsided smile formed at the corner of his right cheek. Selena couldn’t help but snort in amusement. She expected him to pout like a toddler in time out and grinned at the image she was too familiar with.

“No chopsticks training for you, huh?” He teased, sticking out his lower lip in a fake frown.

Selena’s face lit up as her hands gripped onto her stomach to avoid from tipping over. “I swear, you must be psychic!” she laughed, the words continuing to escape her as she fell into a fit of giggles. Daniel leaned back in his chair, enjoying the show.

When their waiter took their orders back to the kitchen and Selena regained consciousness, Daniel tried to plead once more that she use chopsticks with him.  She quickly shook her head in response, the humor in her voice suddenly lost to him. Her fiancé cocked his head and furrowed his brow, “Look, you really don’t need to.”

Selena didn’t respond and excused herself to the restroom. He fidgeted with his wine glass as she left.

“There’s something wrong with that woman,” he said to himself, taking his iPhone out of his pants pocket. His mind went to what he could have done to make her upset. Those past comments he’d made about her family or little habits he’d teased her about. He didn’t want to think about it, so he browsed through his iPhone, looking through Instagram photos and Facebook status updates. He saw a bunch of unnecessary photos of baby animals and people he’d forgotten in high school. When he came across the Instagram photo of the day he proposed to Selena his heart sank.  They looked happy and naïve. Plastic smiles pressed up against a tiny image where an Instagram filter turned the sunset into an illumination of their exuberant faces. Unaware of the torture that comes with living together forever, let alone someone of an entirely different culture. He should have taken the advice from his mother about too many flavors added into one bowl of Sam Gae Tang.

When Selena arrived from the restroom, he still had his eyes glued to the device. Selena gave him an inquisitive look, “What you looking at Daniel?”

His head popped up suddenly, “Oh, just looking at Instagram…you ok?”

“Ya, I’m fine.”

“Did I say something? I know I make fun of your parents a lot but…they are kind of crazy.” Selena took a sip from her wine glass, “ My parents are just as crazy as yours, maybe even worse. Pretty sure your mom doesn’t like me.”

“My mom is just anti-social. All she does is clean the house.”

Selena laughed at this, fully aware that Daniel was just making an excuse for her. She knew right off the bat that Daniel’s mother did not approve of her black skin. Sure her mother was from Senegal, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t also white like her father. She hated to admit it, but she was envious of her cousins from her father’s side with their straight brown hair.

“You mean your mother’s a racist,” Selena blurted. 

“Keep your voice down.”

“It wasn’t even that loud.”

“Well, the whole world doesn’t have to hear you call my mom a racist.”

“Well, she is.”

Their waiter arrived with a large plate of minced chicken, brown rice, and a bowl of noodle soup.  They thanked the waiter more assertively than they would have liked and preceded with small talk until he left. Dry topics like work and the weather. When the waiter was out of their sight, the couple brought up wedding plans.  

“So, if we have a small wedding, you still want it to be on the beach?” Selena asked, anticipating the correct answer.

“There is also Vegas, but that’s not as original,” Daniel blurted.  He set his iPhone on the table. It buzzed, startling both of them. When he grabbed it, he saw to his dismay the words MOTHER pop up on the screen. It’s vibrations shook the table.  “Damn it,” he sighed.

Selena lost herself in the ritual of spinning noodles around her spoon.  When he answered, it sounded as if he had taken a one-way flight to Korea and never came back; the thickness of his language too fresh for her liking. Her parents spoke French, a common language in Senegal, but they spoke English fluently. She knew her family preferred she spoke French, but they didn’t force her too either. Almost everyone spoke English in her family. So, she was either going to have to accept it, or somehow convince Daniel that his strong nationalistic family should speak English. Her face grew wide with horror at the thought. So, she decided not to say anything about it as Daniel swung his arms and groaned incisively.

“No, Mother, you know I’m busy right now. I’m in a meeting!” She heard him say, before hanging up with a worried look on his face.

“How long will it take you to finish your soup?” he asked.

“Not long, why?”

“Um…ya, we have a little issue.”

Selena raised an eyebrow, “Something tells me this is far from little.”

Daniel’s iPhone started buzzing again. This time he picked it up with extra force.

“Goddamn it!”

Selena crossed her arms and grinned matter-of-factly, “So, I guess you win in the crazy parent department.”

Daniel covered his hand over the iPhone and questioned in a low voice, “how did you know?”

“The screen said MOTHER on it.”

“Oh.”

“What does she want anyways?”

Daniel reached a hand over and touched her arm to quiet her. He had no choice but to return to his nagging mother, even if it meant sacrificing their dinnertime.  Selena raised her arms and rolled her eyes, shaking her head in annoyance. This wasn’t the first time she’d noticed this occurrence. His mother was always calling him. To her, it seemed like an Asian thing. Her parents rarely called to check up on her. If they did, it was usually for money. Most of her family on her mother’s side still lived in Senegal. They weren’t living in poverty, but they weren’t sitting comfortably on wealth either. On her father’s side, everyone was too wrapped up in their own lives to bother to call. Selena was ok with this; otherwise she would have gotten to Daniel’s point in sanity.

He slammed his fist on the restaurant table, “Mother, I said I was in a meeting!”

A shrill, high-pitched sound burst through the receiver as the skin between Selena’s eyes wrinkled in concern. She felt horrible every time she saw him sigh and run his hands through his hair.

“Ok, OK! You got me! I’m at a restaurant with my girlfriend! SHOOT ME!”

Selena dropped the spoon into her soup and her body grew stiff. When he hung up, he violently slammed the iPhone onto the table. He buried his face in his hands. She was stuck to her chair. Unable to think of anything that could ease his suffering. If she gave him time to calm down, she could have at least seen him with that lopsided smile that had her in good spirits a moment ago.

She finally decided to let him eat the rest of his minced chicken in silence. She still had a ways to go with her soup, so to bide time she kept eating. Suddenly, the ringing of a bell tied to the front door broke their silence. They heard the shallow greeting from the hostess, as a short and stout Korean woman made her way towards their table. Daniel swallowed hard on a small chicken bone, making him cough slightly. He quickly drank some water to stop from making a scene. Selena turned her head to stare at the pigeons outside the window.

“You’re almost 30 year old and you still lie!” his mother screeched at Daniel, her hands placed firmly on her hips.  

The act flipped a personality switch in his brain. He pulled his chair back, stood up straight, and towered over her.  “This is my life, Mother. I understand we have traditions, no…sorry I made a grammatical error, I understand you have traditions, but this is what I have chosen for my life.”

His mother opened her mouth to say something, but Daniel made a threatening gesture with his hand and said, “Don’t say anything.”

Daniel’s assertiveness made Selena fidget in her chair. She so badly wanted to make a break for it through the front door. Anything but her presence becoming a nuisance to the current situation.

It only got worse the more defiant Daniel became. Mother and son now yelling at each other in a battle of who’s louder than who. The other customers and restaurant staff froze in whatever positions they were in to watch. Stuck in place like Selena.

A shiver traveled through Daniel’s body, as the aching secret made its way to his lips. He screamed at his mother, “I love Selena and we are getting MA-RR-ED. It’s done, it’s final!”

Their waiter approached with a full pitcher of water and almost ran into him. The other customers scrunched up their faces and turned away, indifferent. Their waiter turned to Selena and asked if she’d like more water. Selena refused and asked if he could instead bring water for Daniel’s mother. She’d hoped her polite gesture would make up for Daniel’s outburst.

Their waiter nodded and quickly took off for a glass. Daniel’s mother fell limp into his chair, the realization of his statement making imprints in her head. He remained standing and Selena unconsciously held his hand. 

Selena looked up and whispered to him, “You know, we can call it off. It’s ok.” He squeezed her fingers as if to reply and welled up in tears. Selena let her mouth hang loose as she realized he too was stuck. She sat looking up at him and tried to find the strength to stand beside him. She was able to, but with much effort. When their waiter arrived with a glass of water, his mother took a large gulp and set it down. She stared down at her glass and made a sigh. She finally spoke after leaving the couple in anticipation.

“So, you love him?”

Selena stared in disbelief at who was addressing her. His mother rarely acknowledged her existence. 

The word slipped out of her lips with ease, “Yes.”

“I don’t know what you see in that girl.”

Daniel took a long breath to control his anger, “I see my wife.”

“Her family is not…our family. You must understand.”

Daniel was about to retort, when Selena turned her attention to the chopsticks on his plate. She reached over and placed them in-between her fingers. And, with ease, Selena picked up two pieces of chicken in her soup.

 “You knew how to use them all along!” Daniel laughed. He held his mother’s shoulder and smiled wide. “How about that! Don’t you see why I’m marrying her?”

His mother furrowed her brow, “because she uses chopsticks?”

He fell into hysterics after witnessing her comical ignorance. Selena finished her soup and placed the chopsticks neatly onto his plate.

 

 

 


© 2016 Tionge Rosalie Johnson



My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register




Featured Review

I made a fake frown while sticking my lip out as I read that line. Oh God I'm dying hehe Love that image!
I loved how as the dinner is playing out you also throw in some story history about both characters and the contrast between both of their families.
the ending was so funny and released the tension I felt once the mother came in.
I have also taken a Creative Nonfiction class and it had to be one of my favorites.
Was this a true story?

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This comment has been deleted by the poster.
Tionge Rosalie Johnson

1 Year Ago

Thank you for the wonderful comment! I'm so glad it made you laugh, my goal was to send a message of.. read more



Reviews

I made a fake frown while sticking my lip out as I read that line. Oh God I'm dying hehe Love that image!
I loved how as the dinner is playing out you also throw in some story history about both characters and the contrast between both of their families.
the ending was so funny and released the tension I felt once the mother came in.
I have also taken a Creative Nonfiction class and it had to be one of my favorites.
Was this a true story?

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This comment has been deleted by the poster.
Tionge Rosalie Johnson

1 Year Ago

Thank you for the wonderful comment! I'm so glad it made you laugh, my goal was to send a message of.. read more
Great piece lady! Very well written. The title drew me in at first and once I started I couldn't stop. I especially love how you ended it, I couldn't stop laughing. I look forward to reading your other pieces!

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Tionge Rosalie Johnson

1 Year Ago

It makes me feel so accomplished that I made you laugh! I was actually chuckling to myself while wri.. read more
[send message][befriend] Subscribe
hi
i like this alot, i like how you can make the characters have emotions that the reader can see,
i struggle with this but it seems like a talent for you. good write and i want to know are you going to write more, i kinda want them to get married.lol.


Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This story really drew me in, Rosalie. I liked how the tension kept you guessing about what was going to happen next, with the calm dinner scene to start with and the family dramatics as the story progresses. My other half is a Torres Strait Islander (I'm Caucasian) and she studied sociology, so we discuss racial and cultural issues fairly often. You sound like you have had the odd discussion yourself. Anyway, loved it to bits!

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Tionge Rosalie Johnson

3 Years Ago

That is so sweet of you to say that! This story is one of my prized possessions so your feedback mea.. read more

Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

604 Views
4 Reviews
Rating
Added on December 6, 2013
Last Updated on July 26, 2016
Tags: short story, fiction writing

Author

Tionge Rosalie Johnson
Tionge Rosalie Johnson

Syracuse , NY



About
I'm a graduate student at the S.I Newhouse School of Public Communications studying Arts Journalism where I am specializing in theatre. I have a great passion for writing and editing written work and .. more..

Writing