Pahoa Avenue

My grandfather goes shopping for groceries, rising to
meet the red-rimmed morning horizon and turn down the airconditioning
in the apartment, bleary-eyed stumbling into the refrigerator
for his sunrise papaya, trying not to wake Popo from her
pill-induced slumber, pulling off striped pajamas and on khaki shorts
hitched up to above his bellybutton and a white v-neck shirt on top,
every day the same routine as more wrinkles burrow themselves
into his handsome oval face and strengthen his jowls,
but his bright white running shoes still slip on his feet and
his Casio watch still times the walk to the supermarket,
feet dancing along the way, springing in step to the tune
in his head that plays when the mood is right, hands clutching
tightly a browned envelope with lead scribbles: bean sprouts, Okinawan sweet potato,
onion, char siu, frozen Eggo waffles, bran cereal, apple bananas,
otherwise he’d forget and Popo would get mad at him
but it’s okay now because he has a list and the first-shift cashier
will smile at him like always and sometimes the baker
will give him an extra doughnut, just because.

I could be with him for days, settling in his
happy routine with that wicked sense of humor and bawdiness
that didn’t go away even after his adolescent years. The crinkled
pink smile pulling at the corners of his mouth when he sees a pretty girl
on the Korean soap operas, the way he slaps Popo’s ass as she walks by
holding a bowl of chocolates, the grin of delight on his golden face when he
makes noodles and drops blips of sesame oil onto the naked sizzling wok,
contemplating the chopped char siu and slick bean sprouts and fresh
Chinatown rice noodles and home-harvested green onions,
all dancing in a pile on the cutting board, and finally hoisting a
mound of pork into the bubbling heat and watching the filmy smoke
rise up to meet his face.

Talk story

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