Dear Mama, did you know that Cassiopeia hangs from the sky, half-falling? I’m standing here, in the middle of the field, spreading my arms open and hoping to catch her if she slips. Track lanes and playground parks lay dead beneath my knees, scraped with dirt and mouths wide open. A late October evening; am I still hungry for the world? Did Achilles wish for Phthia before he struck the earth? The balconies are unsteady tonight. Pray, pray that I am brave.
Dear Mama, I bought some muscat gummies today—they tasted better when I was seven. The aisles of the grocery store are marked with the time I have left: 5, 4, 3, 2, the first aisle, honey, that’s where you’ll find your calling. Keep running; mind the torn fabric of your shoes from when you tried to run too fast last time. The checkout clerk no longer rings up my Pocky sticks as I’m shoving them in my mouth, impulse control at zero before I learned that we give before we take, and sometimes we only give and give.
On the highway, I’m counting exits like I’m watching my parallel lives. What would happen if I took this exit, now? Would I round into a gasoline station, check the map in the backseat, watch the gallons grow without fear of the price on top? What about Exit 31 instead? Would I watch my mother switch to the rightmost lane for fear of driving with a wall on her left, and still think that she is a good driver? Mama, slow down, press the brake, let me tell you--
I’ve been dancing with death since I was 5, and lately I’ve been tripping on my toes more. Will you put me back in ballet and let me start over again? Let me stand on a balcony in Beijing and feel the world in the palm of my hands so that I forget to look down and remember. Teach me to take before I give and think of Saturdays as ice cream parlors instead of closing in on weekends like the war is already here. I’m rearranging the sky: Cassiopeia is righted in her throne now, they’re rewriting her story into Chinese, her daughter is a little louder this time, they’re putting her anger in the history books. Take me back to the grocery store; I promise, the muscat gummies taste sweeter again. They’re letting the stars down in aisle one, they’re saying Andromeda will touch Cassiopeia this time—they’re making me a galaxy, Mama, drive in the left lane and come and see. This time, I’ll pay for the round trip back. I’ll even have muscat gummies in the backseat.
Grace Erya Lin (they/she) is a Chinese-American writer from California. Her work, which often explores the metaphysical and the nostalgic, has appeared in Backslash Lit and been awarded by their local masonic lodge. When not pushing pixels as a design and cognitive science student, they can be found romanticizing cafés and practicing ballet, or on Twitter @graceswritings.