Hybrid: “This is a divorce story” by Lucy Zhang

This is a divorce story 

Let vermicelli sit in a steaming bowl of broth for too long and only swollen, soup-stealing noodles will be left. This bowl of noodles is hers. The kids wake up too late for it to stay warm. In any case, she has exactly n minutes minus the minimum amount of time her noodles can sit in the oversized china bowl without absorbing all the liquid. She jumps into the bathtub headfirst, emerges from the other end of the drain, stands, dusts her leggings, stretches in a downward dog, transitions via vinyasa into upward dog. Easy does it. Her parents live just down the street, behind the translocating train station and unswinging swings. Yoga has never really done much for her. But it makes breathing feel productive, which must count for something. She inhales with the diaphragm, exhales with her nose, and begins to walk. She watches her step, careful to skip over any solid pavement, balancing on the cracks. For luck. When she arrives, her mom ushers her in, has her wear the fuzzy red slippers and duck vest, has her drink a cup of jasmine-orange-peel-barley-corn tea, which really just tastes like an herbal explosion growing more bitter as it cools. So I’m getting divorced, she says as her dad uncooks dinner into a bowl of Napa cabbage heads and raw abalone. Congratulations, I’m so proud of you, we were worried since you’re turning 30 soon, her mother says, hugging her tightly. They feast on empty plates and crippled chopsticks. But I think we were good for each other, she admits. That’s the brain trying to deceive you into complacency, her father replies, scraping his chopsticks against each other, stripping them from sticks down to bamboo fibers. She stands, well, I’ve got to go file the paperwork to get the kids demolecularized. Reproductive reintegration is a taxing procedure. Some kids don’t even fit back up their mother’s uterus. Her mother is tearing up. You’re so strong, you’ll lead the life we never had. On the way back, she rummages through the trash, picks up scraps of love smeared with ketchup and soaked in Pepsi, litters them on the ground like a proper citizen. Her big toe goes first, this time. Then her calf, thigh, torso, until the pressure sucks her through the sewage, back to her bathroom. Her spouse and kids are still sleeping as she inhales the star anise-fragrant broth. There’s at least an hour before they wake, before the kids will demand a trip to the playground to compete in who-can-swing-the-highest, before her spouse will ask for a panda-designed bento box and a wad of cash to take on the train into the city to smoke weed, before she’ll down some Ibuprofen for the tightness in her chest, before she’ll ask the doctor again why they can’t remove her heart, release some pressure, because it took up so much room and you know, there are places where hearts have entire landfills to stretch. She hasn’t been this excited in a while. 

About Lucy Zhang

Lucy Zhang writes, codes and watches anime. Her work has appeared in Superstition Review, Midway Journal, Hobart and elsewhere, and was selected for Best Microfiction 2021 and Best Small Fictions 2021. She edits for Barren Magazine, Heavy Feather Review and Pithead Chapel. Find her at https://kowaretasekai.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @Dango_Ramen.