Category Archives: Michelle Ong

The Graduate’s Lament by Michelle Ong

You know, I couldn’t wait to grow up. I left my hometown right after
graduation and moved to the city. It took a while to find an apartment
and a job. I had no work history, credit, or references. I had to
settle for the service industry. I juggled a couple of shifts at
different joints, but still barely made enough to cover everything. I
thought when I got here it would be all about staying out, hitting
clubs, meeting girls. Now it’s just about getting enough sleep so I
don’t get fired, saving up enough to turn the electricity back on, and
paying my landlord before she evicts me.

My parents and the teachers used to say I didn’t understand the real
world. I used to tell them they didn’t understand me. I knew what I
was doing. Everything would be easy. All you gotta do is find a job,
right? Now I can’t even imagine how my parents can afford the house,
the nice furniture, the cars, everything. They say I’m always welcome
back. I can’t wait to go home.

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Allergic Reactions by Michelle Ong

My heart palpitates when you’re near. My limbs weaken, my chest
constricts, and my lungs collapse. I grit my teeth to avoid scratching
the small bumps covering my arms and hands. When I try to answer your
questions, my tongue swells and my anxiety worsens.

When you’re gone, I feel stronger. I breathe easier. I rub my hands.
Your partner brings me a cup of coffee. He’s gentle. We discuss the
weather that night. The mud on my boots. How I must’ve slipped and
fallen in the rain and brushed up against the poison ivy. They found
my earring near the tree. No, it’s not mine. I’m not wearing any

When you return, my eyes begin to sting. You throw photographs on the
table. I can’t look at them through all the tears. You goad me. I feel
cramps in my abdomen. I feel sick. I ask to use the bathroom, but you
refuse me. I ask for an attorney. I’m left alone with the photographs.
I push them away, but I can’t help looking.

She was my neighbor. She was very pretty. She asked me to go into the
woods with her. She wanted to play a game. I closed my eyes while she
climbed a tree, but she slipped and fell. She broke her leg. I didn’t
know what to do. I couldn’t carry her back. She was in so much pain. I
helped her fall asleep.

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How’s that Diet Coming Along? by Michelle Ong

His toe began throbbing and he flung the bed sheets off of him. The
mattress creaked as he sat up in bed. His head pounded and he felt
faint when he tried to stand. He lay back on the bed and watched the
blades of the fan whir above him. The episode finally passed and he
fell asleep.

The next day, he had dinner at a steakhouse. He cut his tenderloin
into cubes until a thin layer of blood coated the plate. His heart
beat quickened as he took the first bite. He chewed quickly and
swallowed and cleared his palate with a swig of beer. He leaned back
on his chair, content and satiated.

He stayed up late that night, guzzling one beer after another, and
awoke to sunshine. He smiled. No pain. The doctors were all wrong. He
wouldn’t have to change his diet. He celebrated by lighting the grill.

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A Good Man by Michelle Ong

“I can’t believe they’re getting married.”

“Shush, the ceremony’s started. You’re just jealous she found someone
before us.”

“I don’t have to rush into anything. Oh my god, do you see her back?”


The couple exchanged vows. The groom bent his head. His long hair hid
his crinkling eyes and flushed cheeks. The bride wiped a tear dangling
from his chin. His hands grabbed hers and held them. A tattoo of a
compass covered the back of his left hand. He raised his head. Another
tattoo of a pirate flag peeked from his collar. They kissed. A few
sobs escaped the crowd.

“He’s a good man for marrying her.”

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