Thai House: A prose poem

Photo of the interior of an elaborate restaurant
archer10/Creative Commons

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We met on a patch of green under the summer sun. I was desperately homesick for the tropics — where it is summer all the time — and you were the perfect distraction. 

Distractions don’t last long, though, and the leaves hadn’t yet turned red when I told you that I thought we shouldn’t see each other anymore. In a valiant attempt to get me out of bed and back on my feet, my friend took me to dinner where you and I had gone first. We sat outside and ordered exactly what you and I had ordered. “Here’s to new memories,” she said, and I felt fine as our glasses of Thai iced tea clinked together. I felt fine as I looked out at the strung-up lights and the flowers trembling in the evening breeze. I felt fine as I ate my stir-fried noodles and she dug into her green duck curry. I felt fine as I asked her if it was spicy enough, and she said it was perfect. You’d said it wasn’t.

It has been about three months now. It is a cold November afternoon, and the chill in the air has driven me to sit inside for the first time in a long while. I look up from my menu, and suddenly I realize that I am in a room I have only ever been in with you. There is the kitschy décor we commented on, there is the table we sat at with your puppy at our feet, there is the bathroom you suggested I use because it was “cool.” When I got back, you had already gotten the check. You just smiled as my jaw dropped. You just smiled as I squawked about how we should have split it. You just smiled as I eventually said “next time.” Imagine a world in which there was a next time.

I shake the image out of my head, but, next to me, my roommate asks for a takeout box. I feel my breath catch in my throat as my mind swallows me whole. In a split second I am new in town again, sheepishly admitting I don’t know how to close the flaps. You gestured for me to give you the box. I felt my eyes light up in wonderment as you showed me how it worked. Presently, I wonder if you know I think of you every time I close a takeout box — I wonder if you know how inconvenient that is for me. I watch my roommate struggle with her box and all I can see is the amusement in your eye that night. Amusement — and something else I hadn’t been able to place until I learned that everything about you and I had been built on a lie.

I am thankful when we finally leave. I put my jacket on and take a steadying breath as I stand. My friends are laughing about something or other and I don’t look back as I walk out the door, but in the back of my mind I consider the possibility that you have been back since we last spoke. That I cross your mind, or that I don’t. That this is just a new dinner spot to you, or maybe that you, too, tried to overwrite our memories with new ones; that you had a friend order my pad see ew, that you had green duck curry and mango sticky rice again and again with other people so that the taste of it would never remind you of me.

I consider the possibility that for you, it might have worked.

 

They say all’s well that ends well

But I’m in a new Hell every time

You double-cross my mind

You said if we had been closer in age

Maybe it would’ve been fine

And that made me want to die

— Taylor Swift, “All Too Well”

Contact Xuan Lee at [email protected]