Meals (excerpt)

Dorothy Hom

The rolling pin is stamped, “Made in Maine, USA.” I was Made in Brooklyn.

Descended from Chinese immigrants, I am neither wholly American (whatever that means), nor fully knowledgeable of Chinese speech and culture. I grow up feeling aimless. Lost. Ungrounded. I am a “Juk Sin Nue.” This is what fluent Chinese speakers call non-fluent Chinese, a “Bamboo Shoot Girl.” The name refers to a cross section of bamboo. While the joint is made of solid stuff, the slice through the reed where the outside is yellow (resembling American-born Chinese) reveals the inside to be—empty.

For much of my life, I feel like a Hollow Girl.

Hefting the smoothly-turned maple in my hand, I admire its weight. Its stable mass. This thing is most definitely not hollow. Whorls in the grain tempt me like tea leaves. I search for messages. Spinning handles respond. They seem to wink in Quaker-like humor tinged with Yankee scorn. Use me. I have purpose, the rolling pin says.

Why can’t my life’s mission be as simple as that? For years, I strive to find purpose.

Emily Gilbert