Marlene helped her grandmother slide open the door that led to Angkong’s room. Kang Atsi took the bayong from the young girl’s hand and emptied its contents onto the kitchen counter.
Amah sat on her sofa and fanned herself while she elevated her tiny feet onto her favorite green stool. Marlene looked at her tiny feet, each one about three inches.
She remembered that it was only two days ago, when she had walked with Amah to La Simpatica Commercial at Ongpin St, a shop stall that sold hand-beaded slippers and tsinelas. They sewed cloth shoes for women who had bound-feet—lotus feet, as they were called.
She walked slowly into a dark room that smelled of cigarettes and the only visible lights were the signs on the exit doors. In the darkness, she saw threads of smoke. Her hand touched the rows of wooden chairs anchored to the floor. Peanut shells and candy wrappers crunched beneath the soles of her shoes
She saw a seated figure, a man who helped her draw the upturned theater seat downward to enable her to sit comfortably beside him. Chinese words appeared on the movie screen. Sneak previews of future Chinese movies flashed in front of her eyes. A Chinese female star, whose name she could not remember, sang on the screen.
He opened a bag of watermelon seeds and one by one popped the seeds into his mouth. He cracked them open with his front teeth and then spat the shells onto the floor. She held onto the ends of her skirt and tried to avoid being spattered with the shells.
Then, his hands, so much stronger than hers, removed hers from her skirt. He moved his hands up and down her legs. She tried so hard to keep her eyes on the screen, to read the English subtitles of the Chinese movie. The words came and went faster than her mind could comprehend them.