The East China Inn Restaurant in North Aurora, IL, was decorated in various combinations of red and black or green and black. I remember a lot of fabric–cloth napkins and tablecloths and towering sheer curtains. It was the only experience, other than Chinese finger traps occasionally won at the local arcade, that I had with Asian culture as a four year old. My mom and I ate Chinese food there frequently enough for me to remember the wishing well near the front of the restaurant, but not enough to understand what “Chinese” meant.
The well was only about two feet tall, but seemed to be bottomless–I never saw my coin hit the water, but there must have been something wet down there because I always heard a splash. I ate my shrimp fried rice with a fork and, most nights, pondered haphazardly what wish I might make. On this particular trip, I don’t remember when my wish came to me, or if I knew at the time how taboo this wish was.
When my mother paid the bill the owner handed her a large orange rubber coin. I saw this exchange and ran over, grabbed the coin from her hand, and made my way to the far end of the well–as far from my mom as she would allow me to go. This wish was the biggest yet, and different from all previous ones, so it was gravely important that it be made properly. I thought, there must be some secret way to address the wishing gods, and so I became very serious. No wish protocol could be muddled up. I kept the wish in my head, mulled it over, wording and rewording it until I distilled it down to its finest point–I only had time and bravery to utter the essence. I was nervous and my sweaty palm was starting to smell like the coin, so quickly I hovered my face over the well’s opening and whispered, “I wish I was a boy.”
I threw in the coin, and waited for the magic.
Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli