CHINESE TAKE AWAY/View From Behind the Counter
They all look alike, my mother used to say.
My mother used to say all kinds of things,
None of it very nice.
They all look alike, I think,
Waiting for my order of Kung Pao chicken
With extra peanut sauce
Two Spring Rolls
And a pint of sticky rice.
A quartet of Oriental kitchen workers
Stir and sweat over gargantuan woks
With blue flames licking the sides
They are dressed for anonymity
In white shirts, black trousers, skull caps.
The quartet dances within the confined space
Sidestepping with precision
As spices are added, orders are barked
In a singsong chant
Known only to the unknown.
The food is ready, steamy and aromatic
Ladled into takeout containers
Reminiscent of goldfish sold at the dime store.
The containers are pushed across the counter
They do not contain Kung Pao chicken.
Excuse me, I say to the white-shirted Oriental man,
This is not my order.
The Oriental man smiles.
He wipes his hands on his black trousers, and slides the goldfish takeout containers
To the woman standing next to me.
Sorry, he says, dipping his head
His apology sounds more like solly.
They all look alike, he thinks.
©Sarah Ito all rights reserved
Sarah Ito is a published novelist, essayist, poet, and actor. She has been published in PennReview, Scarlet Leaf Review, Piker Press, Tuck Magazine, and more. She is also an Army veteran.