The mother’s nimble fingers
lifted the chopsticks,
the smooth, straight edges
sliding perfectly in between her thumb and forefinger.
The chopsticks danced among the plump dumplings,
scouring to find the chubbiest little morsel.
Once the favorite was chosen,
they swooped down swiftly,
raising the small dumpling.
With her mouth already
the child was eager to imitate her mother.
her pair of chopsticks sat awkwardly on her hands,
tumbling on top of one another.
The clanking sounds of them
falling to the floor echoed like a chiming windpipe,
and soon the fallen pair was replaced.
Armed with this new pair of chopsticks,
the youngster poked at the dumplings clumsily,
until she accidentally broke the skin of one.
The soft pink and green filling
peaked though the puncture,
causing her belly to rumble.
She stabbed her victim,
but its skin was stuck on the skin of another;
almost as if they were hugging,
saying, “No, don’t leave me!”
When she yanked the dumpling towards her,
part of it remained stuck to the other one,
exposing the juicy meat.
And the mosaic of pinks and greens
contrasted the pale outside.
Her mouth lurched forward,
catching the delicious filling
before it fell onto the table.
The juice flooded her mouth
as she bit down on the dumpling,
the familiar flavors of pork and green onions
and the texture of the handmade, traditional dough
greeting her taste buds.
She rolled the tasty filling around her mouth,
savoring every second of this meal.
Every day the girl’s stomach waited in anticipation for the night,
and every night the mother and daughter enjoyed this hearty food.
Soon the little girl was no longer so little,
and her hands learned to properly manage the chopsticks,
so only two pairs would be washed at night,
Every day the girl would head off to school,
and every night the mother would pick her up.
She was the Cai Mei Ling
in a school full of Emmas and Lucys and Saras.
Her eyes would squint when she smiled,
and her shiny, black hair cascaded down her back.
All other girls had eyes that where round like dolls
and hair in shades of blonde and brown.
Cai Mei Ling stood out
like a blooming rose in a sea of lilies,
her pink, luminous cheeks glowing with naïve pride.
Her beloved chopsticks were a mystery to these Americans
who used forks to eat their salads and hands to devour their hamburgers.
But these high school girls did not eat at all.
Thin waists were the style
and flat stomachs were the trend.
The mother only had to wash one pair of chopsticks at night,
no longer two.
Silence invaded dinner time as
the teenager stared at her phone,
the blue light washing out her once radiant smile.
Her legs were as thin as the chopsticks
that gathered dust in the kitchen drawer.
Bleached blonde at the tips,
her hair was not a silky waterfall anymore;
the blonde strands resembled dry hay.
Her eyes no longer twinkled
at the thought of eating dumplings,
and her hands no longer copied
her mother’s deft movements.
All that was left of this girl was a skeleton.
“Do you want some dumplings, Cai Mei Ling?”
the mother called to her.
“Who is Cai Mei Ling? My name is…