To-Go ~ Outside the Margins with Atom Yang

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I didn’t have the happiest of childhoods. Surprise! I’m unique like everybody else, right? Hey, my punch card of life is stamped with tears, but it isn’t all bad.

During one of the scarier fights my mother and father had, he stormed out of the house (is there any other way for a violent person to exit?). I forget what the argument was about, and I doubt my mother remembers—that’s one of her many great traits, that she doesn’t hold grudges, unlike me. “What’s the point?” she’s told me. “It only makes me unhappy.”

So back to the story—there we were, and I think either I was crying or she was and we were both afraid, but we had been through this many times. “Go wash your face,” she said, and I did. It’s one of those magical things mothers know that will never fail, like a hug or kiss, to make it better.

When I came out of the bathroom and returned to the living room, I saw that she had also washed her face. We still looked like we had been crying, but our eyes weren’t as puffy, and I certainly felt calmer despite my shuddering breaths.

“Let’s get something to eat,” she said. I had been sick with fear and hadn’t had an appetite until she made the suggestion, and suddenly I was ravenous. Terror takes a lot out of you.

We put on our shoes and got into the car without saying a word, and we went to a drive-through nearby.

“What do you want to eat?” she asked.

And you know, this is one of the most important questions a parent can ask a child. Not because of the answer, or even the question itself, but because it’s the first question: how can I take care of you?

My mother once told me, after my grandmother died, that she had a dream. She dreamed that her mother was in the kitchen and had asked this same question: “What do you want to eat?”

It’s a primordial question, something that my mother will never again hear in her life from this woman who fed, taught, criticized, supported, and loved her. We both miss her. My grandmother used to ask me the same question.

We drove up to the speaker, and my mother placed the order.

“Mama, don’t forget to tell them it’s to-go.”

She nodded and leaned closer to the black box. “To-go,” she said, to finish the order.

After we paid at the first window, and as we drove up to the second window to pick up our dinner, I started giggling.

“What’s so funny?”

I had trouble answering. “We told them it was ‘to-go.’”

She waited for me to explain.

“We’re in a car. At a drive-through. Of course it’s to-go.”

My mother could barely lift her arms to get the food, let alone say thank you.

We parked and finished laughing. We cried different tears this time. And then we ate.

I don’t remember how everything worked out in the hours and days that followed, but they did. I suppose I’m more like my mom than I thought.

And see? I told you—it isn’t all bad, those tears on that punch card. I hope to have mine filled before I leave this big round world. It’ll be how I knew I truly lived.

~Atom Yang


Title: Red Envelope
Author: Atom Yang
Publisher: MLR Press
Publication Date: 12/04/2015
Cover Artist: Kris Jacen
Genre: Contemporary, Drama, Fiction, Gay, Gay Fiction, Gay Romance, Humor/Comedy, New Adult, Other Holiday, Romance, Winter Holiday


The Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday in the Chinese calendar, a time for family reunions, and for saying goodbye to the past and hello to the future. Clint, however, doesn’t want to bid farewell to what happened after last year’s celebration, when he and his Cousin Maggie’s handsome Caucasian friend, Weaver, shared an unexpected but long-desired passionate encounter. East is East and West is West, and Weaver seems to want to keep it that way, but maybe Clint can bridge that great divide this coming New Year, and show Weaver what it means to be loved and accepted.


Red Envelope on Goodreads
MLR Press
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

About Atom Yang

AtomYangPicApril292016Atom was born to Chinese immigrant parents who thought it’d be a hoot to raise him as an immigrant, too–so he grew up estranged in a familiar land, which gives him an interesting perspective. He’s named after a Japanese manga (comic book) character, in case you were wondering.

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