By Jenny Zheng
About a family, and how they drift in and out of things.
“How do you use those earplugs?” Mom asked.
“Why? Did Dad take some?”
“No,” she said, so naturally. I later found some while cleaning the house. Three bright pink earplugs, lying front and center on Dad’s desk. I pocketed them.
I managed to sneak in some yoga practice before bed. Mom was nearby watching TV, but the volume was kept low. Dad’s voice was drawing closer, calling out my name amidst “hey”s with increasing urgency. I had a leg up in standing split position, barely balanced. Then I was supposed to bend a knee out. I nearly face planted onto my mat with a “hey!” Then I growled a “what?” at him.
“Hey! What? Hey! What? Is that how you speak to me?”
I lay there hearing the pulse in my ear. Later, however, I did think back to whatever he sounded so excited to tell me about. Though I regretted it when I later caught him still in the mood. Right before bed that night, “Li Jing, do you want this apple?” he asked Mom. “No? Guess we’ll have to throw it away then,” he said, and chucked the half-apple into the trash.
The next morning, I’d just about finished making myself an egg sandwich when Dad popped into the kitchen to casually tell me to prepare one for him as well. I decided not to. He told me that I was lazy upon returning. I told him that not making a sandwich does not make me lazy. I also half-made up that I’d placed just enough oil in the pan for one egg and two pieces of bread, to which he asked what was wrong with just adding some more oil.
“Why couldn’t you just make him an egg sandwich?” Mom said after he’d left. I shot a glare at the kitchen table. She was supposed to be on my side, since I was kind of avenging her.
We’d all woken up late that day, so Mom made a pot of thin rice porridge for lunch, which we had just an hour after breakfast. Mom disapproved of me dumping brown sugar atop my bowl of porridge in place of the side dishes she’d prepared. Dad arrived at the table as I was on my way to the living room, which Mom had especially disapproved of.
“Your daughter,” Mom said, “is bringing her food into the living room.”
“Do not bring your food into the living room,” Dad called out with conviction. “You have to stay in the kitchen to eat your food.” However, he didn’t hunt me down or anything.
I stayed in my room for the entire rest of the afternoon, coming out at five for dinner before retreating back in. A while later, I passed by the kitchen. Dad was on his phone at the table. One of our fancy metal bowls was upside down at my feet. Carrots, goji berries, and pork ribs dotted the tiles. It was the soup we’d had for dinner, which was supposed to stay on the table to cool for a while before being put into the fridge.
“Mom did that,” he said.
“She got angry. Then she went out.”
I remembered hearing a brief, loud crash while in my room. It was an unwelcome interruption to the paradise of screeching vocals my headphones teleported me to.
We had dinner early that day. I gave my stomach an egg sandwich around eight. Dad came by the stove to give me tips on making egg sandwiches. He also informed me of the several boxes of water bottles he’d purchased a while back, and that they were stored in the basement, where I’d rarely explored. “But still stick with drinking boiled water whenever possible,” he said. “It’s just that you always go through the bottled water so quickly.” Later, he asked if I needed him to boil some water for me. I said no, but he filled a kettle shortly after.
I wandered into Mom’s line of sight when I heard her come back. She wasn’t even wearing a jacket.
“Why didn’t you call me? Mom was gone for so long.”
“I just don’t ever call people. I don’t use my phone for calls.”
“Stupid,” she chuckled out to my relief. “It was raining,” she added.
“Oh, I didn’t know that it was raining.”
“It was drizzling a bit.”
Later, I found Dad in my room, on my bed, on his phone.
“Yeah,” I said, flopping right next to him, but he didn’t budge. “I want to sleep now,” I said, though I had a few more hours of homework planned. “I’ll stay here for a while,” he said. He had my blanket behind his back for full-length spinal support. He had my pillow in his lap, resting his hands and phone upon it. My earplugs, which had been beneath my pillow, were out in the open and very noticeable. My bed would probably be less enticing if I stopped making it every morning. But then I wouldn’t want to sleep in it either.
I wrote “Two Days” surprisingly quickly. I was flipping through my diary and pieced together some of the things I read to form this piece.
Jenny Zheng is a college freshman planning to major in creative writing. This year, she is trying to incorporate more fantastical elements into her work.