And the weird thing is, she hated Chinese food.
(“Um, no, whackjob. The weird thing is that you think your dead mom communicates with you using fortune cookies.”)
But seriously. It’s very Sylvia Browne. Only Chinese:
Before she died, my mom promised me that once she was… gone… she would figure out a way to come back and give me a sign that she was still around. Maybe this was meant to dissuade me from smoking weed, hooking or—worse—getting a B- on a final exam, but I’d like to think that she made this promise as a way of comforting me—a way of saying, “even if I’m not with you, I still am.”
Still, her solemn vow—said with such powerful conviction—made me search our house (in vain) for medical marijuana.
But then, a few days after she died, I started looking for signs. Waiting for a breath of wind on my neck. Searching for a morse code message in a flickering candle. Hoping to catch a whiff of Gap Dream and cigarettes in an empty room. Anything.
“But mom, you promised,” I sobbed one afternoon when I was back in Berkeley, missing her so much my skin hurt. “You promised!”
I fell asleep crying, falling hard and fast into wobbly dreams.
When I woke up, sledged with sticky tears and smeared mascara, I saw it: Lying next to me on the pillow was a small strip of paper with the words “You are Loved” written on it in small red typeset.
I picked up the fortune, holding it with trembling fingers. I hadn’t eaten Chinese food in weeks, and I didn’t remember seeing this particular message, and even if I had cracked open a cookie to discover “You are Loved,” what the fuck was it doing on my pillow when it hadn’t been there hours earlier.
My heart tripped, and I got out of bed and checked the door to the studio apartment. Locked.
I looked in the bathroom. Empty.
The kitchen. Clear.
Crouched down, I checked under the bed. No monsters there.
Only the plink plink plink of the faucet dripping in the bathroom played with the stillness in the apartment.
(All horror movies have this sound right before the slutty girl gets gutted.)
Plink plink plink.
But then, just as I was about to call B and ask him to get his ass home, a ray of light pierced the window and illuminated the fortune nestled on the pillow. And in my mind, I heard the words spoken clearly in my mom’s reedy voice “You are Loved.” Slowly, I picked up the fortune again and whispered the words aloud “You are Loved.” I said it again, with more conviction: “You are Loved,” and for the first time since my mom died, I felt safe.
“But mom, you hate Chinese food,” I whispered.
She didn’t answer.
But ever since that afternoon, whenever I’m really struggling with grief, or looking for advice, I head to Hop Li.
After a grueling, grouchy day she gave me this: “He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.”
When I was wrestling with my thesis, I read: “The secret to success is getting started.”
And when things were rough for a while, she was profound: “The first step to better times is to imagine them.”
She’ll always be just a delivery away.