“Modesto” by Micah Lau


Top ten nationwide in car theft, the city made news last week for a man who beat his girlfriend’s dog to death. With a child’s plastic bucket, Min says as we lie apart in her bed in the dark. I try not to imagine. 

Min wants to see the almond blossoms while I’m here. For a few days in mid-March, Min says, all the orchards in Modesto erupt with tiny, white flowers, their petals covering everything in sight, like a snowed-on forest across rolling land. As if we were in springtime Japan, Min said on the phone, before I bought my bus ticket. Japan will happen someday, someday, I told her, peeling my hangnail back until it bled. 

We grow older; we own nothing. Who will move to whom? When will life begin? 

Modesto has a Paul’s Liquors and a Jack’s Liquors and a Henry’s Liquors and an Alex and Sons’ Liquors. Modesto has California’s oldest walnut tree. 

We drive in harsh morning glare, disappointed. Last night’s wind stripped the trees to nothing, a gray paste of petals on the asphalt. But at one traffic light, Min points out her window. Far off into the orchard, blossoms are still hanging on. I swing the car right, to a gravel path cutting through the farm, past KEEP OUT NO TRESPASSERS, down rows of flowering boughs. Pristine, untouched by wind, the inner orchard blooms around us, a tunnel of white with sun excited in its petals. But why stop here? Min’s eyes ask mine, when those almond trees ahead of us are even fuller with life, more densely flowered – when we could drive deeper and deeper, if only to emerge among bare branches on the other side. 

Micah Lau is a PhD student in English and Creative Writing at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. His writing was shortlisted for The Masters Review 2021 Novel Excerpt Contest and has appeared in VISIONS, an AAPI literary magazine published by Brown University and RISD.