by Lacey N. Dunham
My Taiwanese girlfriend lays her head on my breasts, her mouth shaped into words I do not understand. I want to tell her my love in a meaningful language, but when I mimic her pronunciations, she teases. “You just called me a goat.” I try simple words like numbers. “You just said death.” She traces my body and sings the names: shǒu, zhǒu, jiān, jiǎozhǐ, kuān guānjié. She giggles yīndào in my ear.
Words spill from my mouth fast and quick: solipsism, sobriquet, apotheosis, anathema, multitudinous, copse.
“English is ugly,” she says.
After we have sex for the first time and her tears dry into stains on her chapped cheeks, she whispers in my ear, “I’m going to call you Lao Po.” Her voice like a ribbon.
I ask what it means but she smiles and strokes my head, Lao Po a whisper against my neck.
I call her Mamoo, a name without meaning.
“Like the sound of a cow in English,” she laughs when I christen her.
For Valentine’s, she presses a heart-shaped glass jar of paper stars into my palm. “For my sweet Lao Po.” She explains there is an old Taiwanese myth. Make enough stars, capture them in a jar, and the person who receives it will be always in your life.
I give her three roses and a greeting card, laughing cartoon cat.
We do not last. We are too different, and too alike at the same time. I leave the heart-shaped jar of stars on her apartment welcome mat, bruised with a note: Mamoo—Sometimes myths are only lies. Inside, I hear her fucking another girl. They sound elated.
We learn new names for each other, and one day, the stars shimmer dully at my door. In her floral handwriting, she has a left a note.
Sometimes the only truth is the lies.
Author Bio: Lacey N. Dunham’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Ploughshares, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, CHEAP POP, and The Other Stories, among others. A first-generation college graduate originally from the Midwest, she now lives in Washington, DC.