Birthday Mohinga

Submitted into Contest #100 in response to: Write about a character preparing a meal for somebody else.... view prompt

20 comments

East Asian Sad Happy

‘Beep, Beep, Beep,’ I woke up to the sound of an alarm clock on my bed-stand. Its night light glowing brightly in my dark, suffocating room. It was already five in the morning which was one hour before my part-time job. Today was my 21st Birthday. I should be excited about birthday cakes, presents, and parties. But, right now, all I felt was loneliness. No one was by my side to wish me a “Happy Birthday”. I missed my home. The fact that today was my birthday worsen my longing for my sweet home more than any day. Would I be lonely on my next birthday too? The thought just made me want to buy a flight ticket so badly, but it was impossible.

         I dragged my body to a bathroom which I shared with other residents living in my landlord’s dark gray three-story building. I looked myself in the mirror hung above a white oval sink. As usual, dark circles lie below my eyes, my lips paler than yesterday and my muscles screaming me to rest. Yet, I ignored my body’s request. After doing my business, I entered a light-blue-colored kitchen in which the residents cooked and ate. Its long light bulbs were always turned on even in the night. I went straight to a huge refrigerator in the corner, cold smoke from the refrigerator hit my face as soon as I opened its door. I looked inside.

        “How depressing!” I said.

        There was only a piece of leftover bread and nearly expired milk for me. How can I survive till night with this food? I glanced at my landlord’s food; cheese, tightly packed meat, some fresh vegetables, and even ice-creams. All of them took the whole upper space of the refrigerator. I didn’t look for long, or else I might eat them, and she didn’t like to share, I guessed. I forced myself to grab my food and sat in one of the chairs. Sinking a piece of bread in a cup of milk, I pictured my birthday celebration in my imagination.

        My mother always made a special traditional recipe called “Mohinga” on every birthday of her children. That’s why it was our best moment every year. Mohinga was a rice noodle and fish soup widely eaten throughout my country. My mom had to tell fish sellers to keep a special fish for her two days before my birthday. Then, the next day, my mom, my sis, and I were busy doing our respective roles in handling the ingredients which filled the whole kitchen table in our cute, spotless kitchen. The kitchen was later filled with heat coming from burning charcoal which warmed our body. The flavorsome smell from a large, boiling pot of Mohinga would spread to our neighborhood. After everything was done, the kitchen was most likely decorated with our mess, a beautiful mess. Finally, on my birthday, my family gathered at our dining table and started eating together. I could still feel the smell of the soup coming straight into my nostril and its taste perfectly stimulated my tongue. The sounds of spoons touching plates were playing in my ears. “Wouldn’t that be nice to have a hot, delicious Mohinga in the cool early morning?” I thought.

        My phone which I set timer vibrated and interrupted my daydream. “Thank God that I set a timer or else I would be late for work. This time, I will be fired,” I said to myself. I quickly dressed and almost ran to a railway station. By the time I reached a railway station, a few people had already arrived, but not as much as in rush hours. They all looked like they were going to work. A brightly polished floor slowed my pace. The lights were not as bright as those of my residence. Every wall and every LED signboard were voids of dust and dirt. I wondered how do cleaners manage to wipe off the dust on those high, large walls and boards every day. Everything was well-organized which was completely different from my hometown. This was also a reason why I left home ‘To live in a high standard environment.’ By this point, you might be wondering where I was. Well, I was in the most disciplined and punctual country in the world, ‘Japan’. Born in a poor, developing country, I left for Japan with the hope of better job opportunities and higher education. After all, even if I would have to go back home without any degree, it would still help me to be employed in my country if I showed the history of my life in Japan.

         The announcement from a Japanese machine lady’s voice alarmed me that the train was near. As soon as the door of the train opened, everyone quickly entered. I didn’t have to struggle for a seat and so I sat in a vacant space near exist. Everyone was going about their business, a man sitting at the corner was reading a book, some youths were scrolling on their phone screens and others were just simply sitting. Even though I always came here every day and recognized some faces, they never smiled at me let alone talked.

        I sighed heavily and tilt my head against the train’s window. Today, I had to work till late at night. I didn’t always like this; depressing and unmotivated. I used to be energetic and hopeful. I still remembered that I was so excited when I first landed my feet on the land of Japan. Everything in Japan was attracting me; from clean, nice environments to various types and sizes of shops, and above all, polite manners of Japanese. I was taking everything in awe. I laughed at my old self. The pressure of studies, jobs, and living costs had successfully drained my energy. My hopes didn’t last long. Nothing lasted long.

        My phone lighted and vibrated in my work bag. It was a text from my best friend. I smiled, “At least, someone remembered my birthday.” Oh, how I wished I would be with her to see her bright, wide smile! I typed a reply quickly, “Thank you so much. I miss you, my friend.” She reminded me of my 17th Birthday. It was the first time I invited my friends to my home. My mother, as usual, prepared ‘Mohinga’ for them. On that particular day, when my friends ate the first spoon, they instantly fell in love with it and asked for more rounds. I was not exaggerating, everyone was like my friends, they just fell in love and addicted to my mother’s Mohinga.

        My stomach made a sound when I thought about my mom’s Mohinga for a second time. The image of it sitting on a wooden table, its beautiful smell, and me eating a huge bowl of it, was luring my gastric acid and saliva. I closed my eyes and rubbed my abdomen to ease the hunger. Since when did I last eat Mohinga? In fact, when did I last eat a proper meal? Every day went and ended with a piece of bread or an egg with some milk most of the time. “I missed you, mom, I missed your homemade recipes,” I said. When the train reached its destination, I stood and made myself ready to leave. “Here comes the day.” I encouraged myself and reminded myself of why I was here.

         By the time I reached my room, my legs gave up and I fell on my one-layered, blue bed. My bed was a haven for me in times like this even if it was not a comfortable bed for others.. I rested for a while before I decided to use my phone. There were many notifications from my friends and relatives wishing me a Happy Birthday. I couldn’t be happier if I could be personally with them. I started replying to all of the messages. A particular message caught my attention. It was from my sister. I opened the chat box and saw a message with photos. They were my family at the Cathedral church. My mom was holding a plastic basket with two long, steel-made lunch boxes in it, my sister and brother were holding a large steel pot together with their hands holding each side of it and my father was putting both of his arms behind his back. They were all smiling and looked happy. It was contagious. I might as well take this photo to a photography shop to print out.

        My sister told me in her message, “We went to the church today with mom’s Mohinga for your birthday. You’re so blessed. Our Mohinga just came at the right time because there were at least ten priests at the church which was no ordinary. The priests prayed for you and wished you a Happy Birthday. They loved our Mohinga.” I could feel her excitement through her words. “We will call you tomorrow. Oh, by the way, we have something for your birthday. Take a full rest. Love you.” I just wished I could be with them. I thought I would love Japan because it was so modern and rich, but I was wrong. No matter how much it offered, I would still love my sweet home in my hometown. The thing I longed for the most was my mom’s homemade foods, particularly Mohinga. I put my phone on my bed-stand. It was way past my usual dinner time. So, I didn't even bother to eat dinner and took off my uniforms before going to bed.

        I laid on my bed with my eyes closed. I was recalling my old birthdays. Not long after that, I fell into a deep dream. In my dream, I was with my friends and families back in my home. I was sitting at our beautifully decorated dining table. The plates and spoons were nicely and neatly prepared. It was absolutely my brother's idea. My friends were sitting around me, they were smiling and teasing each other. My father was sitting in our living room watching us with amusement. I could hear voices from the kitchen. My mom and sis then came out with two huge bowls of Mohinga. It was quite warm; its smell gained my friends' attention and they all turned around. They were all looking forward to it. My friends started taking noodles and poured the soup over them. My sis was making sure that everything was full on the plates and my mom was busy telling my friends to eat as much as they could. I saw my friends complimenting my mom and she looked proud. She always was proud whenever someone talked about her Mohinga. We ended my birthday celebration by cutting a chocolate cake, my favorite one. We all were smiling, laughing, teasing, and taking selfies, and it was such a beautiful moment.

        I woke up to the light falling on my face. I still wanted to be in my dream world. It was the best dream I had ever had since I arrived here. When my family called me, I would tell them about it. Would that make my mom cry? Probably. I picked up my diary book in my drawer and started to write down every detail, from moments of eating to talking nonsense and a birthday cake. I would also call my friends and tell them how much I missed them and how I dreamed of them. I would tell God how I wished to be with all the ones I dearly loved and eat my mom’s Mohinga together one day. I hoped my friends were not far away when I returned home. I would return home for sure because I would trade for everything, even my ambitions, to sit and eat together with my loved ones. 

July 01, 2021 14:38

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20 comments

Ruth Smith
05:17 Jul 04, 2021

Johana, This is a very interesting story. I liked how well you described the contrasts between your character's life now and her past birthdays. I have some suggestions: "The fact that today was my birthday worsen my longing for my sweet home more than any day. " I think you meant worsened here. "The kitchen was later filled with heat coming from burning charcoal which warmed our body." It should be plural bodies if you use our as the pronoun. "My phone which I set timer vibrated and interrupted my daydream. " You are missing a comm...

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Johana Htwe
05:30 Jul 04, 2021

Oh my god! You're the first person who commented me. I thought my story was not on Reedsy stories but only on my profile. Can you see my story on Reedsy other than my profile? Thank you so much for your advice. Yeah, I've been working on my grammar and spelling mistake. Thank you again. I can't describe more how I am so excited to see your comment.

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Ruth Smith
05:44 Jul 04, 2021

Johana, We get notifications if someone likes one of our stories. After you liked one of mine, I clicked on your name and saw your profile and your story, so I read it. Once they approve your story, it's added to a list with all the other stories from the contest. Also, if you click on someone's name, you can see all of the stories that person has written and their bio. I hope I was able to help you with your writing. Keep it up, it looks like you have plenty to share!

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Johana Htwe
06:06 Jul 04, 2021

Thanks again, Ruth Smith. To be honest, I was a little discouraged before but your encouragement just gave me some confidence.

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Ruth Smith
06:39 Jul 04, 2021

I was discouraged for the first couple of stories I wrote too. No one commented and I wasn't even sure people were reading them. But I kept writing, and putting them out there. I am glad that I was able to help you so you keep writing. :)

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Johana Htwe
06:46 Jul 04, 2021

Oh, really. You really understand my feeling. I will keep writing and you keep writing too.

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And oh yup, this exact thing actually happened my first days on Reedsy lolz…basically, like Ruth said, everyone can see everyone’s stories anytime, BUT they’re all publicly posted on the Contest page once your story is approved the next week XD ALSO I LOVE YOUR NAME EEP

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Johana Htwe
02:50 Jul 05, 2021

Thank you, Rebecca. I love your stories too. Only writers can understand writers and I am glad I have some people who encouraged me.

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Johana Htwe
05:40 Jul 04, 2021

You just pointed out these things that I would never notice if you didn't tell me. Thank you so much.

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Ruth Smith
05:45 Jul 04, 2021

You are welcome.

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Keya Jadav
07:14 Jul 27, 2021

Johana, I love each and every story that you write, and this one just adds to the list. It's such a beautifully expressed truth and a lesson to each human soul that we spend all our life, gazing at the sky, running after money and secure jobs that we step on the beautiful flowers that are right with us on the ground. No matter what, money cannot give the true happiness, one gets from their loved ones. I loved this story. Looking for more!!

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Johana Htwe
08:03 Jul 27, 2021

You just surprised me again. And look at you, you write beautifully even as a comment. Thanks again for such a beautiful comment. To be honest, I was not confident in my first story, but anyway, you got the message and it dismissed my unsatisfaction.😍😊

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Keya Jadav
09:48 Jul 27, 2021

Thank you, Johana, I love the way you mould a plot, and I am still learning that. Reading thousands of stories and books. Beautiful comments just add up the fuel. Thank you.

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Johana Htwe
11:15 Jul 27, 2021

😍😍😍

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Johana Htwe
04:56 Jul 04, 2021

This story is about a girl who left her home to work in Japan. You will see how much she missed her home on her birthday. Actually, this is based on my brother's life in Japan but I created a girl protagonist. I would so much love someone's feedback because I desperately need someone to point me out what is needing in my stories.

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Nathalie Menard
13:50 Jul 08, 2021

It's a good story. You have incorporated information from your protagonist's country without it becoming boring. Maybe I would have used the word "Mohinga" a little less but otherwise I liked it.

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Johana Htwe
14:04 Jul 08, 2021

Yeah, you're right. When I reread my story, it is kind of needing something and some paragraphs are so long. Thanks for pointing out, Nathalie.

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As Ruth Smith said, very nice and interesting story! I noticed the same errors, and you might be able to fix them still. Great job contrasting her past and present experiences, it kinda gave us a window into her past. And thanks for teaching me something new, since I love to learn things about culture :D great job overall :)))

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Johana Htwe
22:28 Jul 06, 2021

Thanks for reading wolf warrior. I've always wanted ppl like you who would kindly point out what I am doing. To be honest, my family didnt really interested in writing. Whenever I showed my stories, they just simply and easily said 'good' when I am feeling it is not good. Again, Thank you. I really appreciate it. I am glad you learn my culture.

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you're very welcome! Let me know if you post any others :D

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