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House Specials

Daniel Romo

The place my former student owns just earned a Michelin

star is a phrase I never imagined would come up in

conversation. Why would I ever picture a nondescript

man ordering a sampling of her menu to dissect what

separates them from the steakhouse across town? Still,

I’d wondered how he’d rate me if he blended in the back

of my English class during third period in a hoodie and

jeans and abruptly left just as I explained the importance

of logical fallacies. Because who judges us and the extent

to which we’ll go to please people varies from clique to

clique and we often grade our best and worst moments

on a curve with an unattainable rubric set for ourselves.

In a therapy session to learn how to better connect with

my wife, I felt the harshness of my words—left both the

food critic and myself poised to hijack the vernacular of

my students in confessing, Damn, that’s mid—conveying

our deflated feelings regarding my direct methods of

communication. I explain to my in-laws over a plate

of safe and neat Pad Thai that I prefer eating at a place

that isn’t so sterilized, where the silverware is spotted

and decade-old wads of gum are balled up under each

table because there is nothing more authentic than

recognizing the need for improvement while presenting

yourself as you are—the orange letters in Mongkut’s Thai

House emblazoned on top of the building, the T dangling

to the right like a crooked apology.

Daniel Romo is the author of Bum Knees and Grieving Sunsets (FlowerSong Press 2023), Moonlighting as an Avalanche (Tebot Bach 2021), Apologies in Reverse (FutureCycle Press 2019), and other books. He received an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte, and he lives, teaches, and rides bikes in Long Beach, CA. More at

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