Today, Cassandra Khaw’s beautiful, poignant story brings new insight to the phrase ‘hungry ghosts’. ~ Fran Wilde, August 14, 2022
We Can Make Death Work
By Cassandra Khaw
The dead are picky eaters. Not picky in the way of some children, who prefer beige to any other flavor, or picky in a fashion concurrent with their parents, who shy away from tripe and stews thick with peppercorn. The dead can eat anything, but what they want is whatever reminds them of what it was like to be alive. For some, this is the tang of blood, still hot from the vein, or muscle and offal winnowed from a fan of ribs. For others, well, that’s why I wish you were here. You knew these things and because you did, I knew I would be okay.
But you’re gone now.
I don’t know how to run this restaurant without you. I try, I keep trying, but what I make tastes gray, gray like the ash from your urn atop the dresser to the right of our bed. I’m sorry. I shuttered the business the year after you died. I was glutted on the sympathy of your regulars. I was choking on their care, unable to breathe through the kindness, the many ways they tried to tell me it would be all right.
You were the cook, not I. That was our bargain. I brought you a harvest from the supermarket, and you’d cook, a sheen of garlic clinging to your fingertips for hours after. I cleaned the plates. I waited on the hungry, brought their orders to you, a priest with a queue of prayers. I remember how you tried to teach me, how I wouldn’t listen, how you pressed what-ifs into my hands, worried about what might happen.
I wish I’d listened.
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