the north

the cold

the eye

the hate

the war

the sea

the boat

the seize

the war

the force

the trail

the raid

the bombs

the morale

the bury
the order

the pain

the heart

the refugee

the defenses

the south

the fish

the unit

the supply

the cost

the troop

the view

the decays

the collapse

the buried
the boat

the weapon

the infantry

the ache

the defeat

the conflict

the nguyễn

the treasons

the base

the names

the local

the rape

the tape

the resilience

the burying


Bohai’s aunt, a diplomat, and Bohai had all agreed that they would eat at Hank’s Finest Steaks at the Green Valley Casino resort because his aunt loved their crispy ahi tuna tacos, whose wide taco mouths were filled to the rim, spilling over with Big Eye Ahi Ahi, wakame, avocado, but his aunt especially loved their pork belly which came from Creekstone Farms. She imagined all of those pigs, apple gastriquing across a creek, salivating maple foam and jalapeno, and cheddar grits. His aunt used to moan to him on Skype how before she eats any meals, she would fantasize about the Chinese nationals wearing yellow rain boots and sinking in mud as they rubbed the bellies of the pigs to persuade their meat to being more tender. When they arrived, the diplomat in his own limousine, and his aunt and Bohai in the newly mint 2020 Mini Cooper. When asked why she traded in her BMW for this tiny thing, she said that she loved the illusion of being British and posh. He didn’t understand, but when they arrived at Hank’s, the landscape of their appetite changed from hunger to disappointment like her car. Over loud music, the hostess informed them that the wait time would be at least two hours. The last time they all ate here, they were seated near the bar and the pianist who entertained their ears with his dexterous fingers and obnoxious operatic voice drove him utterly mad. Each time his voice bloomed, he prayed to Comrade Mao to give the performer instantaneous diarrhea. He thought the Comrade actually fulfilled his fantasy when he suddenly left, but he was only taking a tiny break. The diplomat agreed to take them anywhere and they settled on the lame Cheesecake Factory. When they arrived, a thong of folks was idlingly outside the restaurant over terrace and tall pillars. They suspected a long wait time. To fulfill their curiosity, Bohai got out of the limousine, went inside, and discovered that a table would be available for them in thirty. Nay or yay he threw his thumb up from afar. The diplomat gave him a thumb down. As he walked towards the limousine, Bohai thought the coronavirus was selective. While Chinatown, its restaurants and businesses, was dismally deserted, all the Caucasian restaurants were overcrowded and congested. He waved the sad thought away. They agreed to eat a Vietnamese restaurant not too far to where his aunt dropped off her dry cleaning. The Italian restaurant next to Tasty Broth was packed with patrons. When they entered Tasty Pho two Malaysian folks at the table to their far left with their faces swimming in pho broth. The waiter, who they discovered several conversations later from the bus boy was also the owner, eagerly waited for them. The restaurant was oppressively desolate, an understatement. The owner explained that he had to decorate the restaurant with Christmas light because the place was so dark that visitors thought it was a nightclub. Despite trying to conceal it, Buhai could see the sadness in his eyes when he asked for a bowl of pho broth for the diplomat who had ordered a rice dish with marinated pork. His aunt was quiet as she ate her banh mi and the diplomat had to excuse himself numerous times to make several phone calls to France. He was dating a conservative woman, a Trump supporter, whose Guatemalan father was kidnapped and murdered by the guerrilla. She had gotten up very early. Too early. Fear swelled her mind that she would catch the virus on the plane, but he roasted her fear by telling her that she was too healthy. She finally boarded the plane – it was five am Paris time. As the diplomat strolled back and in forth outside with one of his hands in his slack pants as he was figure in darkness clothed and superimposed in post-Christmas’s blinking effulgence, a tear slipped from his face into his oxtail soup bowl made entire out of ceramic and glazed over in a thick coat of black paint. He rubbed his fingers back and forth on the ridges of the pho bowl like he would with the red rocks he climbed several weeks ago near the Calico Tanks Trail. He was grateful that his aunt had walked towards the cash register to speak to the owner who was washing the dishes in the back, which was his open kitchen as well. What would his aunt think of his tears? He sat there as his love for Asian people grew. He had never actually had to consider his love for a particular race, but now that his tears had become part of the pho broth ingredients, he was taking the consideration with great weight. He had read about Asian people being mistreated left and right. About hand sanitizer and face mask shortages. He even watched on Twitter how to make a makeshift facemask from two small yellow rubber bands and a simple white paper towel. He also watched a young Chinese girl who air-hugged her mother from two meters away who was a nurse at one of the hospitals in Wuhan. When he got home, he placed the oxtail soup into the freezer. Freezing tears was something he could get used to, he thought. And, he took a bowl of longans into his bedroom, sat on his bed, peeled each eyeball, sucked on its sweet, soapberry, nearly fermented tears. For each dragon eye he swallowed, he felt like a mythical monster who had stopped breathing fire and instead used his long, large, reptilian throat to gulp down tears from people who had been mistreated by the virus, places that went out of businesses, and all the victims of inaudible racism, a type of racism dressed like fear.

Vi Khi Nao

Vi Khi Nao’s work includes poetry, fiction, film, play, and cross-genre collaboration. She is the author of the novel, Fish in Exile , the story collection A Brief Alphabet of Torture(winner of the 2016 FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize) and of four poetry collections: Human Tetris, Sheep Machine, Umbilical Hospital, and The Old Philosopher (winner of the 2014 Nightboat Prize). Her poetry collection, A Bell Curve Is A Pregnant Straight Line, and her short stories collection, The Vegas Dilemma, are forthcoming from 11:11 Press Summer and Fall 2021 respectively. She was the fall 2019 fellow at the Black Mountain Institute.