Age: 16, Grade: 11
School Name: Dominican Academy, New York, NY
Educator: Susan Tzeng
I love the feeling of steam that
erupts from the ever-so-important landing of a delicately laid egg on
a pile of rice
my face and
I love the savory wafts that f l o a t up
my nostrils and
soothe my cranky brain.
I love you fried rice, my friend when I’m in need.
But I did stop loving you for a while.
When I sat at a new table
in a new cafeteria
in a new school
I saw what they were eating and felt different.
I tried to hide you.
I quickly twisted the lid of my thermos shut
and shoved you back into the lunch box
in exchange for apples and pretzels.
I asked mom to make sandwiches and pastas.
I only ate you in the dim light of the kitchen counter at home, feeling oddly guilty.
And at night,
bitter, fat wet drops
which isn’t your fault,
but I think that
might help me make friends.
You were just one of the many things that did not fit in this new place.
For many years, I ignored you in public and cherished you at home.
And for that, I’m so sorry.
Two years later,
In a brand new city
In a brand new school
I saw you in other people’s lunches. I was surprised and ashamed.
So I asked mom to pack you in my lunchbox.
I reunited with you the next day.
I love you, fried rice,
and the comfort you give me when I feel miles