First Generation

for Musheng


Get the dough, roll it out paper thin, one tablespoon of filling—a little more—yes, like that. Now, marry the edges. She is teaching me how to make dumplings. She crimps the edges like a fan waved while standing in freshly mowed grass at a funeral for the mother whose dumpling recipe she is trying to recreate. No, not like that. It’s not a shark fin or a mohawk. A fan, like waving her sweaty palm in the gay club, attempting to coax a breeze, a chill, the vibration of her cellphone, her father’s number, back in Nevada where it’s still a reasonable hour for a sixty-seven-year-old man to be awake, and the click of metal as she silences his call. A fan, like he waves his hand in agitation at waiters who speak to him in Arabic, thinking him Muslim, the way he answers in English, wears his Persian proud, all the time talking on the phone to his sister in Tehran. Citizenship papers in his safety deposit box, but it’s never a good time to leave the country anymore, better to stay in Reno and let everyone call him a name that is not his name. Together we watch a YouTube video to try and get the shape perfect: the identical folds, the neat spine, each vertebra carefully aligned the way her mother made them since before she gave her that name that Starbucks baristas won’t pronounce. The recipe online doesn’t call for vermicelli noodles, but they were there—in the dumplings of her childhood—she’s just not sure how. Maybe if her Mandarin were better—like her mother had always wanted, sending her to Yunnan Province senior year, putting her on the phone with relatives she could never understand—maybe if her Mandarin were better she would have been able to locate her mother’s family in Taiwan to tell them when her mother died, how it happened so quickly, to cry with them in a blood-letting of shared sorrow instead of Google translating a message six years after her death from a cousin who finally found her on Facebook. Maybe if her Mandarin were better, they could have explained it all to her—the cabbage, the soy sauce, the noodles. A fan like a wedding dress accessory, marry the sides of dough—she doesn’t want any leakage. She doesn’t want to marry me if her father refuses to be there. But if he would agree to walk her down the aisle and toast to her in his accent that her friends can’t understand. If there were to be a wedding—with two white dresses and two bride cake toppers and her father and maybe, if her mother would allow it, something like the thickening of memory—if there were to be a wedding, she would serve dumplings.