Published on July 14th, 2016 | by Lisa Lim



My mother was a typist. She worked at a small accountant firm in the city. She didn’t make a lot, and at one point, she was having a hard time making ends meet. So during the day, she worked hard typing away. And at night, she secretly returned to the office to sleep on the floor underneath her desk. No one suspected for a long time.


My father had custody of us, but I saw my mother every weekend. I remember how we would walk all day long until my feet blistered because she had no home to take us to. Sometimes, we would skip into movies and watch three in a row for the price of one matinee. I remember walking miles upon miles to watch Rambo First Blood II.

For our movie dates, she would bring a large bright red bag and stuff Crunchy Cheez Doodles, Sugar Daddies, Mary Janes, and a cold bottle of Coca-Cola she froze the night before. A few times, we were caught red-handed, but we just pretended not to speak English. The next week, we’d do it again, at a new theater. We would always leave happy with orange Cheez Doodle fingers and our teeth coated in chewy caramel.

I used to beg my mother to have a sleep over at her office, but she always sent me home to my father in Queens. I wanted so badly to make a tent underneath her desk and pretend I was camping outdoors just like they did in the movies. I dreamt of making S’mores and telling ghost stories. But she said I couldn’t because I always peed in bed. And she couldn’t afford to clean the rug if I had an accident.


For these years, I remember a sadness that came over my mother. It was expressed through a vacant stare. Knock, knock, anyone home? She may have answered in words, but she was nowhere to be found.


To counter the sadness, my mother would walk miles upon miles. Sometimes she would walk across the city from morning until dusk. Locomotion was the only way she could try to physically move away from her pain. I would often walk beside her, but she had to bribe me with a Hershey’s Kiss for every mile I walked. At the time, I thought it was a sweet deal.


Many times my nose would bleed from eating Hershey’s Kisses. Chocolate causes nosebleeds. At least that’s what the Chinese say. Something about it being a food with too much heat. So, I would walk with a tissue plugging my nose until the blood clotted.


Being in moving vehicles also calmed her nerves. We used to ride the trains just for fun. On the train, I would spread across the car seat, lay my head on my mother’s lap, as if I were in bed. We were as rude as the graffiti, spitters, and kids carrying boom boxers on their shoulders. What can I say? It was the ‘80s.


I would often catch my mother dancing with mirrors. She would stare into the mirror for hours, as if she were trying to find her self. A different self, with a different body, a different face, and different legs. Legs without veins.


She was obsessed with her veins. And she insisted we eat Brewer’s yeast and cod liver oil every day in order to prevent the veins from taking over our bodies. I don’t think it worked.


I would marvel at how life failed to draw lines on her face. I’d ask, “Mommy, why don’t you have any wrinkles?” “Because I don’t think that hard about things,” she’d answer.


This is an excerpt from a longer comic titled “My Egyptian Fortune Cookie,” which was originally published in the Nashville Review. The part I wanted to share at MUTHA is memories of my mother. They are some of my most beautiful, yet haunting memories I have as a child.

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About the Author

Lisa Lim is a comic storyteller born and raised in Queens, New York. Her work has been featured in GuernicaPANKThe RumpusPEN America, and Mutha Magazine. Her short illustrated story, “The Hunger” was featured in an anthology edited by Joyce Carol Oates, Cutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime by Women Writers. Find more of her storytelling here.

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