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Trees and moon stir into phantom shapes outside, playing naked
on the empty street. Inside, a heavy mood hangs over the kitchen
air. Where a platter of lemon-grass fish soup, fried pineapple rice
and green bean in brown sauce, sits motionless and cold. On an oak
table. It wobbles and moans. Every time she turns sideways in the
wooden chair to check the hanging clock, scraping against its leg.
Three hours has gone past since his promised return. Her freshly
washed hair, smelling of green papaya and autumn eve, is unbound,
falling down her back like a rivulet of black silk. For he always unfurls
it from the ivory comb, explores its thick texture, moans in its weight.
She allows the memory to stretch out within, bearing forth wrinkles
that crease the cloverleaves of her eyes. Which she then carefully
smooths into straight flat lines just as another hour strikes anew.
Tucking her sides in trembling hands, she pushes against the table’s
edge. Straightening stiff legs at the knees, lifting herself up from the
ribs. She stares at the tolling clock with her mocking eyes, grabbing
hold of the rice casserole then hurling it against the timer’s shiny
surface. Soup spoons, meat knives, sauce ladle, clang and scatter
where anger smears its painted lips. From the cupboards to floor. She
watches small, plump grains of rice, erect and sleek, stick to glass, the
adjacent wall, eroded cabinets. Clinging onto the remains of their bygone
life. Gold liquid sloshes inside the ceramic soup pot, while the bone-in
fish stares up at the half-curtain window, trying to swim out. She sits
back down in puffs of breaths, sets the forks, knives and spoons back
to their spots on the table. The fish glides past her with a curious flick
of its tail, gray and worn at the fin. Taut words prick at her esophagus,
stabbing like a driven nail. Her skin pinches, yet she remains but a waking
dream. With anger trickles down the sleeve of loneliness on her pale form.
Leaving by way of splintering smokes of the dying dark. Motionless.


Lana Bella resides in the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam with her novelist husband and two frolicsome imps.