Life Plans at 27
a) Move back to Fuzhou, China. Live with your grandma in her 16th-floor
cement apartment in a building with no elevator. Resist keeping the
same hours as your elders. Eat congee for breakfast, cockle shell soup
for dinner. Learn Mandarian all the way through. Marry Tony Leung, who
unfortunately speaks Cantonese. Good thing his bedroom eyes do all the
b) Get pregnant by someone totally inappropriate. Move to a desolate
ranch in Utah. Nurse the kid with steak and butter. Read lots of Cormac
McCarthy. Begin writing short stories with no quotation marks. Or in
general, learn how to write like a man, or at least type like one, with
more emphatic punching of the space bar. Develop a happy trigger
c) Go to grad school at Oxford for your doctorate in English
Literature. Begin with the best intentions to center your thesis on
medicine in the 19th century British novel, but gradually shift to
materiality in post-Industrial American modernist lit. Soften up your
abrasive American mannerisms. Develop a healthy complexion despite the
continual rain. Rhapsodize about marmite. Marry Gary Oldman. Wife
number five. Tragically, the fifth time is still not the charm.
d) Move out to the suburbs of Chicago. But first, get married to a man
who works at a pharmaceutical company in Indiana developing new drugs
for motormouth and existential angst. As a stay-home wife, you spend
most days at Neiman's playing dress-up in gold lame pants, turbans,
rompers. No one looks. For your sake, he develops the cure for
shopping. Unfortunately, he fails at finding the cure for vanity, and
he leaves. Attempt to become a lounge singer at the local divorcee
club, singing songs about how no man can save you. Fail. Get a real
e) Somehow, it all ends like this: True story. Some sweet-faced old guy
with an Eastern European accent studies your face on the bus. He asks
you, "Are you Japanese?"
"No," you respond. You think to yourself, I will say no to everything
this guy asks me. No no no no no.
"Are you Korean?"
"Are you a woman?"
"If you are not a woman," he says seriously, "then I am a wolf in the
You miss your intended stop. The bus drops you off in front of ancient,
Ling Ma has fiction in or coming from Another Chicago Magazine, Featherproof Press, The 2nd Hand and others.
Detail of art on main page courtesy
of Dream Glow Pumpkin Cat.
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