It is quick, it is cheap, it is unabashed
about its over-the-top everything,
and it makes you happy
knowing that real Chinese food would never thrive
in a place as fake as an American shopping center.
When you take your overflowing Styrofoam box
from the counter, slyly siding the slippery lo mein noodle
back into its greasy, toxic chamber, you can’t contain
your smile – you’re about to do this to yourself,
and you know you’ll like it. You tell yourself that
there is no need for subtlety.
You walk towards the tables at the center,
grab one of the sort-of-close-but-not-too-far seats
from the next nearby person, but not the ones
who were just in line with you at the Wok Dragon.
You don’t want your oral pleasure to make them awkward.
You eat your food in your own silence,
letting the voices surrounding you
tell you everything you need to know.
They already have all the answers,
sitting beside their weekend friends,
slurping on the same or similar food
that will kill us all. But they don’t seem to care,
so why do you care?
You are within with them
and without, without them.
You are separate but same,
shared, but solitary.
They will not notice you.
They will not notice you
when you are gone.
They will only hear the scrape
of chair being pushed back in
amongst the clatter of crowd.
And the person whom next takes
your seat will only see
an empty Styrofoam clamshell container,
whiff the faint smell of cheap Chinese food
that he never wanted to eat.