Xiao Long Bae
THE PRAGMATIST IN YOU WELL UNDERSTANDS that there can be too much of a good thing; that there can be limits to the pleasures you commit yourself to. Even now, you draw closer to terminal euphoria: You had one, and then of course you had to have another—both sliding all too easily down your throat, that wash of heat and spice—and then the sixth slipped into you, and then the seventh, the eighth, and then with much reaching, the ninth. You are fanciful enough to think you feel them inside you, small pockets of satisfaction swilling then settling deep in your gut, even as your tongue marauds over the flesh inside your mouth to catch what lingers there.
But. You understand now, too, how capable you are of gluttony; how susceptible you are to petite, white, plump creatures that hold far too many secrets and as many wonders inside of them. A curious greed has been ignited in you: You must consume all, all you can take, and then some.
The first encounter was storybook: They were spread before you in a loose rosette formation, the steam still clinging to the air around them misting their soft skin. (You thought of how that softness would feel against your lips—just your lips, no teeth, not yet, just that sure and slow rub of one tactile thing against another.) They were clean, tidy, and smart; disconcertingly scentless but for a whiff of meat. They did not beckon; they merely sat there, docile, awaiting your hands.
Your mistake was to assume submissiveness, when they were merely dormant. When you plucked one from its perch, and brought it to your mouth—when you relented and surrendered to your baser, more animal self, and sank your teeth against skin, puncturing that smoothness: There came the broth flooding your palate, washing away all thoughts, erasing all memories of banquets past. That hot and sudden sluicing, weaving its way in and out of the most private shadows of your mouth, running against your rawest flesh like a river in a rainstorm.
The heat of it! The fullness of that juice, that nectar; its lifeblood soon to course through you, and you need more. How alive you feel, and yet: How very much in want. Every fiber of your being demands assuaging. So you suck and you gulp and you swallow and you gasp, and you gasp because that gushing in your mouth was but a flick of time, and you are now left with an emptied velvet shell nestling on your tongue.
But even that sliver-and-slither of meat compels you.
It is time for teeth, more teeth, a full working of a mouth that’s become the locus of all the hunger within you. So you chew and you gulp and you swallow and you gasp—and before you know it, before the daze that’s descended over your brain lifts, you are reaching for another, another pinch of white flesh. Later, after a breath, you will learn all the variations of this pleasure: The roundness of vinegar, the sharpness of soy sauce, the shredded ginger biting back. They stoke that greed, whip the embers of your need into a conflagration. But that is much later. For now, that first swallow, that first frenzied whirlwind that took your mouth hostage: You need to take that breath, that long and ragged, shuddering breath. And when you regain speech—Oh, my little dumplings, you croon.