The man in front of me was massaging his face using a fine-toothed comb. He hardly had a mustache, in fact it was a poor excuse for one, so I wondered if the intense grooming was for the purpose of growing more of it. I thought about how it might feel to have facial hair on my lip, if it would tickle my nose and how it would smell. I pointed my lips forward as if to sniff an imaginary mustache, but smelled only the distinct aroma of Chickenjoy.
I’ve learned not to do a double-take when a sensation reminds me of home, because other things might very well produce the same kind of stimulus. Brooklyn’s KFC (Kennedy Fried Chicken) probably used the same frying oil, and why would there be Chickenjoy, a Filipino fast food dish, on my packed downtown Q train?
Right then a man beside me ruffled his bags and drew my eyes to his feet. They were cradling a bucket of my childhood favorite fried chicken in a bag labeled Jollibee. (For the uninformed, some trivia: McDonald’s is the top fast food chain in every country in the world except for the Philippines, where an overly jolly bee is the mascot of a burger and chicken joint called Jollibee.) The bearer had just come from the Jollibee in Queens, the first in New York.
“Is the Chickenjoy any good?” I asked in Tagalog to strike up conversation.
“Oh! I didn’t know you were Filipino,” the man responded.
I laughed and repeated my question. Ronnie said he just came from his shift as a fry cook at the restaurant, where he makes Chickenjoy all day.
“How about you, Ma’am? Where do you work?”
I was embarrassed at the automatically applied term of reverence, but did not correct him. I answered him, learning in return that he was going to his second job at a Colombian restaurant in Brooklyn. He said that the chef there was a fan of the Filipino-style chicken pieces, fried naked to an unparalleled crispiness that cannot be achieved by the use of batter, coatings, or soaking in buttermilk (“Batter-whattt?!” a Pinoy cook would say.)
“This is for them,” Ronnie said.
“Come visit the store sometime and ask for me in the kitchen,” he went on, although I knew that Jollibee had been open for years and I never had the urge to go.
Maybe I was afraid to find out that what I remembered too fondly didn’t taste so good anymore. Or maybe I’d learn that it did, that I actually missed it, but that it would never taste right in New York.
A response to the Creative Exercise : Travel Companion
Like many urban cities, New York is known for its convenient public transport system. Day and night, the subway and buses transport millions of people from one destination to another. Have you ever observed your fellow passengers and found a particular person whom you believe to be trustworthy during an emergency? If you have not, try to experiment with the idea this week. This person probably reminds you of another person in your life with similar characteristics or behaviors. Create a drawing or short prose about this person or fantasy this week.
Submissions will be accepted until Sunday, May 13th. View previous creative exercise submissions here.
Jane and Mia always touched each other. It wasn’t necessarily romantic or sensual, but it was some form of comforting contact, as if they needed each other for reassurance every few minutes, the way a talisman is rubbed for strength or good luck.
Mia had long arms that could wrap around Jane twice in an expert grip. They covered Jane’s entire body the way a boa would if it ate an elephant whole in a Saint-Exuperie fashion, but without the choke hold.
Jane enjoyed being entangled in Mia, bound by her limbs and secured by them the way a belt does for a body in a vehicle’s seat. Mia wrapped Jane like a present, collecting loose ends and covering exposed areas, enjoying all parts of the ritual – a blanket for paper and arms and legs like the bows that found each other’s ends and tied knots taut for safe measure.
It seemed maternal, this swaddling of an otherwise independent adult. Mia wrapped Jane so diligently as if her life dependent on it, because truth be told it really did. Each stroke and knot, each pull and grip – to Mia these were the physical manifestations of how Jane actually kept her together. In securing Jane, Mia allowed no space for things to rattle or seep through, between them but mostly within her, where things were often flying, fighting for air, waiting for their turn to be shown.
It was as comforting to the apparent comforter, as separate and different as they seemed, their touches were reminders to each other of what they needed, and who they needed when they stepped out into the world undone.
A response to the creative exercise “Relationships”
Relationships have always been a source of inspiration for artists. For the painter, use an unfamiliar medium to create an image of a relationship that is dear to your heart. For writers, use the third person stance to describe your relationship with your significant other. For photographers, describe loving relationships by taking photos of inanimate objects.
Submissions will be accepted until April 28th. View previous creative exercise submissions here.