Chinese Food and Donuts

Kim Magowan

Right by the BART station in the Mission, there used to be a Chinese Food and Donuts place that stayed open all night. It didn’t have a name beyond that: “Chinese Food and Donuts.” Like the cat named Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, you said. Many nights, stumbling home from some bar or party, a little buggy from coke maybe, we’d stop there and sit at a sticky table.

It was not, you liked to note, an elegant establishment. “Yet it has a certain je ne sais quoi.” At 2 or 3 AM, the only other customers were smelly drunks, which you distinguished from ourselves: we were fragrant drunks, you claimed, especially me with my spicy Shalimar perfume.

You’d order chicken chow mein, barely warm. I’d order puffy, greasy pot stickers, always an odd number—one or three—I was superstitious about that, God knows why. In hindsight, there were certainly more pressing things to be particular about than pot stickers. And always, always we had dessert, and debated whose donut was more perfect, my apple fritter or your red jelly. I’d point out that “red” wasn’t a flavor.

“Chinese food and donuts, such an odd combination,” I said once, but you protested: no, it was perfect, like us, it was counter-intuitive but nonetheless made sense. We agreed that in that analogy, you were the Chinese food, and I was the donuts.

This was fifteen years ago, before kids, before you fucked up and then really fucked up, before you became the kind of deadbeat dad you had sworn you’d never be: when we considered ourselves a winning combination, eating Chinese food and donuts, a little drunk or stoned, planning our future at those sticky tables.

Kim Magowan lives in San Francisco and teaches in the Department of Literatures and Languages at Mills College. She is the author of the short story collection How Far I’ve Come (2022), published by Gold Wake Press; the novel The Light Source (2019), published by 7.13 Books; and the short story collection Undoing (2018), which won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award. Her fiction has been published in Craft Literary, The Gettysburg Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, and many other journals. Her stories have been selected for Best Small Fictions and Wigleaf’s Top 50. She is the Editor-in-Chief and Fiction Editor of Pithead and @kimmagowan.

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