Thursday, June 21, 2018

I Invite My Parents to a Dinner Party by Chen Chen

I Invite My Parents to a Dinner Party
In the invitation, I tell them for the seventeenth time 
(the fourth in writing), that I am gay.  
In the invitation, I include a picture of my boyfriend 
& write, You’ve met him two times. But this time,  

you will ask him things other than can you pass the
whatever. You will ask him  

about him. You will enjoy dinner. You will be 
enjoyable. Please RSVP.  
They RSVP. They come. 
They sit at the table & ask my boyfriend  
the first of the conversation starters I slip them
upon arrival: How is work going?   
I’m like the kid in Home Alone, orchestrating
every movement of a proper family, as if a pair   
of scary yet deeply incompetent burglars 
is watching from the outside.   
My boyfriend responds in his chipper way. 
I pass my father a bowl of fish ball soup—So comforting,  

isn’t it? My mother smiles her best 
Sitting with Her Son’s Boyfriend  
Who Is a Boy Smile. I smile my Hurray for Doing 
a Little Better Smile.  
Everyone eats soup. 
Then, my mother turns  
to me, whispers in Mandarin, Is he coming with you 
for Thanksgiving? My good friend is & she wouldn’t like  

this. I’m like the kid in Home Alone, pulling 
on the string that makes my cardboard mother  
more motherly, except she is 
not cardboard, she is  
already, exceedingly my mother. Waiting 
for my answer.  
While my father opens up 
a Boston Globe, when the invitation  
clearly stated: No security 
blankets. I’m like the kid  
in Home Alone, except the home 
is my apartment, & I’m much older, & not alone,  
& not the one who needs 
to learn, has to—Remind me  

what’s in that recipe again, my boyfriend says 
to my mother, as though they have always, easily  
talked. As though no one has told him 
many times, what a nonlinear slapstick meets  
slasher flick meets psychological 
pit he is now co-starring in.  
Remind me, he says 
to our family. 


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