100 days is the length of the Official Mourning Period for Thai people. If you’re a proper Thai, you wear only black or white for those 100 days. At the end of the mourning period, you make merit at temple to honor your loved one.
I insisted on getting doughnuts for my dad. I wanted to go to a Cambodian-owned, smaller doughnut shop near the hospital where he spent too much of his final year. I remembered a small shop with a tiny, difficult lot somewhere on that vast stretch of Amar Rd. Whenever we took a trip to the pharmacy to pick up giant bottles of Lipitor and refrigerated vials of Procrit to increase his hemoglobin production, he’d always ask to stop there, always for an apple fritter, a plain buttermilk bar, and a coffee with cream and two Splendas. Half the time I would take him, and half the time I would refuse. But if I couldn’t let him eat doughnuts in life, I’d make sure he could have them in the afterlife.
My mom and I couldn’t agree on which shop. She insisted that he made her stop at The Donut Hole, a landmark doughnut drive-through tunnel flanked by two giant doughnuts being dunked into the hot pavement. After driving around for 15 minutes and not being able to find my shop, we wound up at the Donut Hole because we were running the risk of not getting to the temple on time for the monks’ meal.
The doughnuts line the windows on the driver’s side—glistening bear claws the size and color of baseball mitts topped with glaze or mottled with crumb, a long row of frosted cake doughnuts with many different glaze colors and sprinkles, golden twists and long maple bars and piles of golf-ball sized doughnut holes. As you wait for the person in front of you to get their order, you have time to decide, then change your mind, then change it back.
It seems obvious now that my lifelong obsession with doughnuts started at the Winchell’s near our house on Colima Road, where I used to pick out a pink glazed yeast doughnut with sprinkles before he dropped me off at the Montessori preschool across the street. It was the three of us in the morning, my Pau and my brother and I, long after my Mae had driven to west L.A. for work. It was our secret, because if my Mae had known we got to eat doughnuts a few times a week, she’d have put the kibosh on it right away.
Now I try to think of doughnuts as yeasty time bombs of atherosclerosis, powdered sugar as potent as cocaine, each bite a doomsday prepper sealing itself in by padding my arteries with a hard paste of hydrogenated shortening. I try to think of them as the enemy so I don’t eat any more than I absolutely must. I ate two of the apple fritters after the ceremony, each one about a pound and the size of my face. And I felt terrible about it.
It’s been a hundred days. I got a $63 parking ticket, my first. I turned 37. The life span of a housefly is 15 to 30 days, and I killed two today. I bought six pairs of shoes and returned four. I’ve paid four rent checks. I saw a therapist once. Every day I think about things I have done, things I could have done, things I did not do, things I should do now.
It is a long time to be recycling your black clothing, but not long enough for the lacy edges of the scab to complete their infinitesimal creep towards the middle.