上十一年级的女儿， 英文是她最喜欢的科目。 写作， 演讲，都是她的爱好。几周前，女儿回家告诉我，由于先一天女儿在家照看生病的弟弟而未能上学，她的英文老师没通知到她，让她参加全美中学生的写作比赛。 这样，临到比赛那天，老师才告诉她去参加。女儿说，还好，反正都是现场发挥，谁也没法先做准备。
Shards of glass
Shards of thick glass lay sleeping by my hands. Light filtered through the plastic blinds from the window- all equal in size, color, shape- a neat pattern that cast its melancholy shadow across the arched planes of my face. The intensity of such light causes my body to fold away; almost as if I were unable to stand the warmth and freedom nature was endowed, while I was locked up in a faraway corner where no one bothered to look. Something burns behind my eyes like hot acid. For some unfathomable reason, I think of Gorbachev, the hero that resigned out of his own will to allow his country to prosper, with or without his policies. Can this pain be what he felt when his people spurned him? Can there really be such a parallel between a Russian communist leader and a weak-willed Chinese woman?
He left again. The roaring of his black Toyota sounded through the weary night air like the moaning of a distant wolf. It echoes in the walls of my heart as I watched with unseeing eyes and heard with deaf ears. The curves of my hands are hard; rough, jagged edges when before, they were as delicate as the arch of a flower stalk. My chin was lifted high, neck unyielding, arms rigid at my sides. Fire rages in the pit of my stomach, burning in slow, sensual circles like the caress of tender words of a siren that will lead you to your ultimate doom. I am being lured, teetering precariously on the edge, wanting to leap and fall into the endless eternity.
But a voice lilts through my despair. I turn. My eleven-year-old daughter stood before me like a lovely ghost; her bright, doe-eyes glistening through the darkness around her. “Where’s dad?”
I don’t answer her. What could I say? I am a woman, a Chinese woman at that. I have no say when my husband leaves for a younger, more modern woman. I have no say when my in-laws blame me for allowing his interest to wander, for not fulfilling my role as a dedicated wife. I have no say when he up and leaves every Friday to see my replacement- ironically, another Chinese woman. But this one is vivacious. This one knows how to dress well, smile brightly, shower him in compliments, be as soft as willow leaves teasing the placid surface of a lake.
Water. What every Chinese woman wants to be. To slip through the confines of her family, friends, society, husband, children and even herself. To not be Chinese. To be anything but the dust veiling the forgotten name of a great leader, who served and served their entire life only to be pushed aside because no one agreed with their ideas. To be heard. To be free.
Pieces of glass.
“Come here.” My voice was strained, binding like the ropes around my chest. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. My daughter obeyed, coming up to me on her lily feet, pressing her young body against my warmth. I envelop her, feeling her fears flow through the hotness of her skin. They sink into my pores, coursing through my veins and finally lying to rest in my heart. The moonlight streamed through the blinds of the window and cast its fractured gaze upon us. The teddy bear clutched in her hand smiled at me with its beady eyes.
“Mama…” Hair like silk falls over my eyes as she comes out of my arms to look up at me and I look down at her, our foreheads nearly touching. In this position, we’ve created a bridge, from daughter to mother, from soul to soul- without the impediments of the world. As she spoke, her eyes were shimmering with some clear liquid and they started to cascade down her round cheeks, some unknown sorrow gripping at her spirit.
“Mama, I know why dad leaves so often. I know why now. It’s me. I know it is. Otherwise, why did he not look at me crying when we found out about the other woman? He wouldn’t look at me, mama. Why wouldn’t he look at me? I’m hurt, mama. I love you, mama.”
I’m trapped. I spin around on my heels, seeing the same, monotone pattern of soaring bars lined up around me. All white, rectangular, and bigger than any skyscraper I have never seen. I run.
Glass, everywhere. Red on my hands, stinking with the stench of metal. Suddenly, the pieces rise like puppets in a marionette show and click themselves back together. Screaming, my body moved and punched the newly revived sheet of glass. I cry.
You live only to serve your husband and his family. You are a woman. You have no say.
A set of dolls lined up like army men. Every face the same. Every hand delicate. Every body graceful. Every one, Chinese. Among them, I peer through the store display glass and see my own reflection. My face is shattered. I shriek.
Smoke, swirling like a tornado all around me, entering my eyes, mouth, ears, nose, skin. It slowly dissipates and I am on my knees on hard pavement. The roaring of a car fades in the distance.
You are ugly. Why do you dress that way? Why do you put your hair that way? You are letting yourself get old. And stop asking me to stay. I’m not going to be around a woman how doesn’t even have the common sense to dress well.
Glittering. My feet step onto crisp grass. The sweet scent of jasmine flowers tickles my nose and a breeze blows my silk hair up into wisps of smoke. As I watch, the rest of the garden scatters like dust in the wake of a passing car. A passing Toyota perhaps. It all disappears and I am alone. Again.
I’m hurt, mama.
White, rectangular skyscrapers. Little light filtering through.
I love you, mama.
The skyscrapers shrink to become regular window blinds. Shards of glass lay by my hands. Slowly, I rise from my hands and knees. In the reflection of a piece of glass, I touch my face. It is fractured, giving me the image of a broken porcelain doll. Instead of shrieking this time, I know what I had to do. My daughter’s face permeates the haze.
With hot liquid pouring down my doll-cheeks, I pick up the piece of glass. My hands push aside the blinds of the window and I fitted the piece into a corner of the frame. I strode back, picking up more pieces and fitting more. With each tear falling from my eyes, I felt my soul escaping, my skin softening, and my heart healing.
“You’re pathetic.” His voice was cold. His eyes bore into my body like a searing knife. “Always begging me to stay. Cho n u ren! Ugly woman! Leave me be.
There are only a couple pieces left.
“Stop asking me why. I told you why! I don’t love you anymore. So be a good obedient wife and let me go.”
My hands quiver but I will them still as I slid another into the right slot.
“My mother will side with me of course. I am the male.”
My heart is bursting in exhilaration. Only one more piece to go.
The window is complete.
“Leave.” He blinks in surprise. “What?” he asked, unbelieving. I was barely believing it myself. I lifted my head to match his stare. But when I spoke again, my voice was unfaltering.
“I’ve refused you a divorce for so long. But that was because of our child. My child. I was blind to my own self, blind to the needs of my daughter, blind to my own soul breaking like glass. I thought I was still subject to you, our families and our society. I thought I had to be a good wife and mother by not letting you go. But now I know. You are not worthy of me and my daughter.”
Glittering. Dew on grass, shinning like studded diamonds. Like tears. But this time, they don’t disappear.
“Leave us. Go with that woman. I’m no longer your wife.”
Dolls. Unique faces. Some hands rough, some hands delicate. Some Indian, some black, some Asian, some white. I am among them.
I had forgotten the most important lesson from my hero, Gorbachev. Though he was kicked out of his position in shame, in fact, he was not ashamed at all. He had maintained his beliefs, his morals, his values, and his heart. If his people wouldn’t agree, then he doesn’t need to keep serving them. He made that decision because he was his own person. He wasn’t a Communist Russian leader. He was himself.
He’s gone. The familiar Toyota smoke trailed behind him, but this time, it didn’t touch me. I had already taken my daughter’s hand, her other holding her smiling teddy bear, and we were running in the opposite direction. With each step, we were healing.