Monthly Archives: October 2006

A Place To Stay

Thumbnail: Scratch sand 1

Thumbnail: Scratch sand 2

Gua sha, or sand scratch­ing, he calls it.

I’m already sob­bing. The cul­mi­na­tion of anoth­er week of stress and lack of sleep. One dis­ap­point­ment after anoth­er.

With the bowl of a porce­lain Chinese soup spoon, he scrapes the mus­cles along the back of my neck.

This caus­es rup­ture of the small sub-der­mal cap­il­lar­ies (petechia) and may result in sub-cuta­neous bruis­ing (ecchy­mo­sis).

According to Chinese med­ical prac­ti­tion­ers, the inter­nal tox­ins in the blood are released and cir­cu­la­tion is improved.

Before con­tin­u­ing down my shoul­ders, he rubs on some Vic’s VapoRub. It lubri­cates the process, cools the skin to ease the burn­ing dis­com­fort, a mix of east­ern and west­ern tech­niques. The patch he rubs turns a mud­dy mix of red and gar­net, and from this he tells me that I’m work­ing too hard. I have to look after myself bet­ter. Relax every day. Take an hour to exer­cise or walk. The first step to a healthy mind is a healthy body. The colour indi­cates that I have a lot of tox­ins built up in my body.

The dark­er it is, the more it’s sup­posed to hurt, but I feel noth­ing.

I take a sip from the mug that he hands me, full of pale yel­low liq­uid. It burns going down. Flavourless, but maybe that’s just the con­ges­tion.

It’s spicy”, I mum­ble, no longer speak­ing Chinese. It’s too much on my mind. I need to express myself with­out lim­i­ta­tions.

It’s just gin­ger-water. If you can’t take it, you can add some sug­ar.”

I don’t reply. The unas­sum­ing con­som­mé rais­es the inter­nal tem­per­a­ture, killing the sick air. To quell the spasms in my chest, I take slow­er, deep­er breaths. It does­n’t work.

I admire you, uncle. One day I hope to be a father like you.”

He breathes a short but heavy sigh. I can tell that these words pain him more than any­thing else I’ve said. He tells me, in Chinese, “Uncle does­n’t make a lot of mon­ey. I make sure I spend a lot of time at home”.

I like you, uncle. I hope that no mat­ter what hap­pens, we can still be friends.”

No mat­ter what hap­pens, you’ll always have a place to stay with us in Hong Kong.”

Family Tied

Over ten years ago, I lived at my aun­t’s house for about four months in the sum­mer. Much of my mater­nal fam­i­ly was vis­it­ing from Hong Kong, so every­one stayed there as a cen­tral loca­tion.

One day my par­ents had a blow-out. It was triv­ial, as always. As a result, from my mom’s side of the sto­ry, he went out with anoth­er woman that night. From his side, my mom tried to kill him with a steak knife. It cut his fin­ger to the bone when he was defend­ing him­self. The next day, with swollen eyes and a weak voice, my mom showed me the yel­low bruis­es down her arm. They had to be pho­tographed by the police as evi­dence before they healed. Two sub­poe­na’s lat­er and they were bet­ter than new, for the next few months at least until the next fight.

This is the last mem­o­ry I have of my aun­t’s house. I haven’t been back since. Not until this week­end.

Now every­one from my mater­nal side is here, all my mom’s sib­lings and their respec­tive fam­i­lies. It start­ed out as an act of com­mis­er­a­tion, to help her out dur­ing the divorce. Aunt, uncle, and son, aunt, uncle, and son, aunt and uncle. And then there’s me, with my mom. Without father. The only bro­ken fam­i­ly.

At first I think it’s just a coin­ci­dence. My aunt and uncle have the same vac­u­um clean­er that we had, the same piano, the same brown cowhide cor­ner sofa. And then it clicks. Since the divorce, my mom sold the house after buy­ing out my father of the con­tents. Everything is stored here until she moves into her new house, from the base­ment to the fam­i­ly room, from the kitchen to the bath­room.

My child­hood is strewn across every floor. The fam­i­ly pho­tos. My old fin­ger-paint­ed, art­work from ele­men­tary school. My dad did­n’t want any of it.

I need to get out of here.

I need to get the fuck out of here.