Mismatching Plates

As long as I can remember my grandmother has had a bent back and a floor-kissing gaze. When I was younger, I thought it was because her body never forgot the years of crouching and squatting on the streets of Seoul, selling fish and vegetables amongst the busy feet of passersby. Now I know that it was because her soul had crunched in a little bit further with every pummel against her fragile body.

***

Our cupboard at home holds mismatching sets of cups and plates. Three cups with a thin orange rim and zigzag green patterns, but only one matching plate. There’s only one single plate with the red flowers. Whenever I return home, I peer into the cupboard and count the number of plates and cups. Usually three or four small plates have gone missing. None, if my father hasn’t come back since I last left. The bigger dinner plates are usually all intact. They require two hands to throw. And I can never tell if we’re missing cups. They’re all identical ones from IKEA, and I think my mom secretly replaces them without my knowledge.

No one talks about the missing plates or the shouting matches that underlie the staccato of shattering plates. The shards get quietly brushed into the garbage can and my mom buys new sets of plates from garage sales. Our family quietly eats off of our mismatching plates, and the windows of our suburban house go on warmly glowing to the outside world.

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