"Appetite" is the story of Mayling, a woman living in the bustling metropolis of postwar Taiwan. It follows decades of her fruitful and gentle life that, despite its capacity for yearning, never satisfies what it craves.
PEN AMERICA BEST DEBUT SHORT STORIES 2018
AVAILABLE ONLINE AND IN STORES.
Originally published in SLICE Magazine
with an introduction by Sigrid Nunez.
'Mayling and Shutian were married in July, with a costly banquet and many blessings. They were not unhappy at their wedding. In fact, each was genuinely satisfied with their choice of the other. Their eyes were not offended by the faces they had vowed to look at for the rest of their lives; their hearts were fond of the same music, popular songs imported from England and America with which they would fill their home—songs their future children would soon tire of but would nevertheless feel obliged to play at their parents’ funerals.'
'Mayling paid painstaking attention to Liang’s appearance because it was the only thing she could take from him without anyone else noticing. He was neither a great teacher nor a bad one. They began with C, E minor, G, D, A, A minor. She had great difficulty with F. He demonstrated on his own guitar, brushing her fingertips to make slight adjustments. A little more curved, he would say. Press harder, but don’t squeeze, press.
'Twice a week she paid him five hundred Taiwanese dollars to soak in his scent of tobacco and laundry powder and, curiously, a hint of vanilla ice cream. His face was sunburned, even though it was the tail end of autumn. How? she wondered. She looked, and wondered more. The shape of his throat. The curve of his nose. The freckles on the backs of his hands. Did he sleep with another body at night?'
'At home, Mayling watched the man to whom she had given her life. Shutian, meanwhile, continued living his routine without ever noticing her gaze: reading newspapers at dinner, picking his ears and then sniffing the sullied finger, changing the television channel without asking, wriggling his strangely long gray toes while guffawing at political talk shows, requesting endless beers and endless massages. The beers distended his soft stomach and the backs of his arms and the skin under his chin. The massages forced Mayling to dig her fingers into these growing mounds of pillowy flesh. She felt them appear and expand in all the expected (and some unexpected) places on his body.
'On one of his birthdays, he received a bottle of cologne from his mother. He began dousing himself every morning, leaving pungent traces in the sheets, in the furniture, in the children’s hair—even in the food on the table. Why did he never buy new records anymore?'