My cough was loud, like the braying of a donkey. It wouldn’t go away. As it blew through my mouth, I was reminded of the cow’s stomach we ate one night, (niù wèi), how its texture was gridded and yet soft.
Coughing interrupted my laughter and bowled across conversations. The French doctor’s daughter gave me pills. My mother (on the phone) suggested rest and fluids and orange (if I could find them at the local markets – did I know the word?).
I ate as well as I could but my kitchen, with its tiled benchtops, humble taps and bare concrete floor, felt like a laundry in disguise. Even the fridge stood cautiously outside it. And the stove, its teeth biting for woks I hadn’t mastered, sneered at me from beneath the hooded window.
And then we went to Jun’s house and his Mama heard me bray. She told me in her own tongue of the perfect remedy. I understood fewer than five words but I knew the care of a mother and I followed her happily into her kitchen – not dissimilar to mine except the benchtop was lined with enamel plates piled with aromatic greens, wooden ears, the fragile beauty of an omelette, and a carved chicken, bare and dimpled.
She put a saucepan on the stove with water in it, added generous amounts of sliced ginger, threw in sugar and a little vinegar and stirred and stirred. “Hao,” she smiled at me, choosing words she knew I’d understand. “Hen hao.”
the blossoming in my throat like pepper and roses Mama’s ginger soup
Written for Mish’s dVerse challenge – “Soup’s On!”