Tuesday, April 14, 2009

forty years

The stories fade so fast, don’t they?

Over a lifetime, they’re forgotten. In three generations, they’re gone.

I vividly recall in my mother’s version of the story, she escaped to Hong Kong. The verb was always the key part.

My father, in his secondhand version of the same story, said that she smuggled out to Hong Kong, on the bottom of a boat.

I thought she got to the U.S. by plane. My sister, then an attorney fresh out of law school, in her write-up of the account said she sailed.

“Plane,” my mother scoffed when I asked her. But to Hong Kong was by boat, and to the port where they departed from Guangdong was by bicycle, a porter-boy transporting her mother and younger brother on the rear rack and my mother, then 8, on the frame in front of the seat. Four people and all their possessions in the world, on one bicycle. 1959.

1999. I ride a magenta bicycle, gloriously free from the weight of passengers. I remember, I arrived by plane. It was only five years ago, and it’s my own memory. If I forget I still have the e-mail from the e-ticket I booked to remind me, somewhere in my account. The early days were recorded on a Livejournal account and in numerous e-mails to friends and family. Later I kept a Word-document diary. I’ve always been one to write things down.

When I tell my first roommate, Ruiqi Aixinjueluo, royal descendent of Manchurian child emperor Puyi, the story of the journey, she frowns. Why do you say “escaped?” she wants to know. That’s what it was, I say.

It must be strange to hear. When Ruiqi studied in the U.K., she came back. And here I am.
That's my draft for the Joy Luck Hub/Snub contest Hyphen has posted to their blog. If anybody's reading this, let me know what you think. I think the end gets rough, so I'll probably play around with it a bit before posting it to them.

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