KATIE HURWITZ - EPOCH OF BELIEF
Katie Hurwitz is currently a high school senior in New England. She plans to go to a liberal arts college to study elementary education, creative writing, and cello performance. She is currently the president of her high school's Creative Writing Club and Online Managing Editor and Arts & Entertainment Editor for her school's newspaper, The Rebellion.
Epoch of Belief
When I saw the innocent visages of the infants, life flashed before my eyes. The mother of the newborns, lying exasperated in bed, told me without any hesitation to do the unbearable. Stifling in the thin air, I tentatively picked up the girl to be carried outside. Her black fuzz of hair seemed so soft, her toes so small, and her eyes barely open. The baby’s skin was white as the downy clouds leading to Heaven above, with a complexion of an angel’s pureness. I delivered these two babies: the girl and her brother. Why should only the boy live, so that the horrible assignment to kill the girl was passed on to me, the nurse? It was my job to bring life, not take it away. I could not take the pressure any longer. If I killed the baby, then a part of myself would have the same fate of death. Thus, I did what was necessary. Outside the hospital, this frigid December day accommodated a blanket of snow. The untouched ground was the platform for my evidential footsteps. But even so, my feet, not feeling like my own, led me past the bubbling river. This peaceful body of water would be where the girl was to be left to die without any nourishment. She needed to escape to somewhere far away from here: a place without any rules regarding how many children should be in a family. Ultimately, we are all made in God’s image. Would God create a child just to have it die within a few minutes of birth? This child will never be deprived from seeing the world and all the beauty it holds. But first, I needed to leave: to flee China and go to America where dreams can become reality. America was the ultimate location to raise my new daughter, Min. I performed the sign of the cross, with my cold fingers marking by beloved trinity, asking God to watch over us for safety on a difficult expedition. My reluctancy to separate the twins held me back from walking on any farther. But within the commotion of the moment, the unfortunate solution of fleeing was the only way to keep her alive. Kissing Min’s small head, I ended my prayer and began our journey.
Sneaking out of China was one of the most difficult moments of my life. Looking down at the baby wrapped in my arms reminded me of the goodness the world still holds. In which case, I did everything possible to come to America without suspicion. We rode together on a train to the airport. The warm air inside the train made me feel safe as we escaped the cold outside. In retrospect, the coal heated up the train to make it push forward; just as my fervor for Min is the force getting us to America. Looking out of the window, everything was a blur, as if every event in my life passed right before my eyes but I could no longer decipher them any longer. It did not matter anymore what went on in my past: its ambiguity was a sign that my future would be clear in America. Sitting on the black cushioned seat hugging Min for my life, we were going too fast to turn back. Looking out of the window would not help me, as all I had to do was close my eyes and believe that everything would work out.
I had seven stops to go before getting to the terminal. At the third stop, I continued to close my eyes, almost to the point of sleep. When opening my eyes, I was shocked to see that I was not alone with Min. A man sat next to me solemnly. I was not aware of him being there or even how long he was there. This man could have been there for several minutes, yet he had not said a word, perhaps recognizing my disquieting mood. As our journey went on, I turned to the man with the white scarf and found out his name was Mr. Zhou. He shook my hand firmly, which counted to me as a sign he could be trusted. He seemed like a man of business. We carried out a conversation until the seventh stop, in which I learned that he was fleeing China, too, for reasons unknown to me. At risky times like these, we needed to be clever and quick in order to achieve our ultimate goal of liberation. Mr. Zhou and I decided to team up since we strived for the same result: the opportunity for freedom in America. Our plan would earn me a spot in America as long as we worked together with deception.
In order to board the plane, I had to state my name. I declared that my last name was Zhou and that this stranger was my husband. Therefore, Min would be our child. I regretted lying, but for a minute, the picture of a steady family in my mind warmed my heart despite it all being an illusion. A few hours ago, I was simply a submissive nurse following orders to live. But just a short amount of time later, here I was, breaking my moral standards of telling the truth in order to live. I was lonely before, but now I had a family, no matter how contrived it was. Our shared desperation to get to America made it look like we connected as an actually family; therefore, the lie was believed. We were off to America, where I kept my last name as Zhou despite never seeing the man after our arrival. We parted ways grateful for the power that stemmed from a seemingly innocuous human connection. Knowing the English language from studying as a child and getting a green card right away, I forced myself to feel like I had never been in China in the first place. In spite of my beliefs, this simply was a lie.
Upon arriving in America, my fear of the Chinese government learning about my crime held back the development of a perfect relationship between myself and Min. It was my dream to be a united team with Min and share all the same qualities, as if we were one person. However, her innocence was unfeigned, whereas mine had evanesced over time. As the days went by, I remained cautious and quiet, resorting to my pastime making rosaries. Each bead represented a different prayer, all connected by a golden thread like we all as human beings are connected to God. The paramount piece was the cross itself. Something so small as a cross on a rosary can be the mighty reason why everyone is still alive today. I have such great respect for a martyr such as Jesus Christ, selflessly giving up his life because of his unconditional love for mankind.
As for Min, childhood vibrancy filled her with an abiding joy and goodness. Her eyes remained quite small throughout youth, limiting her view of the world so that she saw only beauty. Min learned how to walk at seven months old. Skipping the typical baby’s style of crawling before walking, I assisted Min with standing up until she was capable of walking on her own. Each footstep reverberated through our small house. Her steps were slightly precarious at first, and indicating the sense of fear that she would fall. This made my body tremble, as my daughter was walking without guidance and nothing could be done to prevent her from falling. In a way, I empathized with Min at that moment. I, too, had that fear instilled within myself. Despite the glorious moments that come up in life, this terror resonated in my soul ever since the day when I decided to flee China. Unlike my experience with fear, Min’s determination to walk eliminated the imbalance in the steps, and made way for steadiness as she walked throughout our house. Her face lit up as she looked at me with the knowledge that she could independently complete a task. Min walked in my direction with rising arms motioning for me to lift her up. Smiling wide with dimples raising up to her small eyes, she let out a laugh of relief. Even with Min in my arms, the magic of that moment was a mere distraction for the incessant fear and guilt engraved in the pavement of my soul.
Our assimilation into America seemed seamless for my daughter, due to her peers anglicizing Min to Minnie. She had no past in China that she could remember, so coming to America started off as a clean slate for her. She could live free from any worries from her real life. However, for me, my only way to conform to American ideals was due to the fact that Christianity was the dominant force in my life, just as it was for most of the western world. This had made me an outcast in my homeland of China, and ironically let me fit into such a foreign country. Back in China, practicing religion was said to be free for everyone, but in my experience, that was the furthest from the truth. The state only recognized the major religions. I did not want to deal with potentially being interrogated for being a Christian. Religion for me was private, only in my thoughts: only practiced through prayer. I did not own rosary beads or a Bible, or attend mass like they did in America. Being Christian was introduced to me purely by stories. During my life in China, God and I were the only ones who knew of my Catholicism. Now that we came to America, I could embrace my religion. The commencement of this being known to public was on the day of Min’s christening. The priest dipped her into the bowl of Holy water, instilling her with purity that I prayed would stay with her forever.
We were running a marathon together, with each step as a day, each block as a week, and each mile as a year. Years felt like days as they went by, as Min grew from a small bundle in my arms into a joyous child. Time was fleeting, and we could do nothing but try to make it last. Min was devoted to studies in school, as her love for learning was immense as the galaxies spreading far beyond the Earth. Once done with the school day, she would come home to lying on the ground, simply viewing the sky. Looking out of the bay window while working on my rosaries, the sight of the child enthralled by nature made my heart feel full. The sun would make her seem radiant, giving warmth like a flaming fireplace on a cold day. She would sniff the air and exhale with the satisfaction of whisking in the sweet smell of the white wisteria tree canopying above her. Each breath she took in infused her lungs with the fresh air. Even while closing eyes, Min still experienced tenderness for the land surrounding her small body, when listening to the chirps of the leucistic chickadees. Each bird would sing their own part in nature’s choir, which amused Min as their audience. Min expressed the extent to which she loves nature by exclaiming how she makes pictures in her mind out of the sky above. Lying on the blanket of crisp green grass, she viewed the sky as a portrait painted by God. She distinguished the clouds as different semblances about her life, or at least the life she thought she lived. The possibilities were endless for this innocent child, gazing at the light blue sky as if the day never ended and time was no force by which to feel threat.
On the schooldays, Min would catch up with her friends, greeted by “Hi, Minnie!” skipping down the bumpy sidewalk with no fear in her steps. She amiably rushed off to school to surround herself in a learning environment. One thing I realized about my daughter throughout the years is that she loved stories. She loved telling stories, hearing stories, and especially partaking in the making of the story that unfolds day after day. Each day she would return with a new story, and many of which amused me. Min is not one to tell tales of the make-believe, so she incorporates realistic magic into her experiences to make them seem fantastical. A few particular stories have similar themes: Min takes the bad and makes it good. One time, a friend of hers in school had trouble putting together words. Like a teacher herself and out of the goodness of her heart, Min aided her friend with struggles in school. With only a few study sessions together, she advanced her to one grade level above their current grade. Another time, the children were playing hopscotch on the playground, and one friend fell and scraped his knee. Min went into her own white bag and pulled out some of the hong hua, or safflower plant, that I had once given to her. She passed a piece to him, telling him it would heal his wound. Even if the plant did nothing for his injury, his state of mind was made positive by Min, making him feel like he was healed instantly. While hearing these stories, it dawned on me how much my seven-year-old knew about the world, despite her naivety and how little I knew, despite my longer experience with life.
Snow descending from the gray sky one night during our suppertime made our entire house seem cold. Our yak meat dumplings seemed unappealing due to our shivering bodies and chilled spines. The thin air surrounding us made our breath visible despite of the growing darkness of nighttime. The silence enabled us to hear each sound nature forced into our ears. All of a sudden, Min looked at me with widening eyes and asked, “Mama, who is my father?” With her hands crossed across the table, she waited for an answer to satisfy her curiosity. This was a moment of time that stopped. My head felt light like I was floating in air, not being the deponent to the lawyer, Min. I was sworn under an oath to tell her the truth, due to my promise to God to always live under honesty. However, I struggled to come up with an answer to satisfy both my guilt and Min’s eagerness for more knowledge. Looking down to my hands folded on my lap under the table, they looked bigger than they should be, and colder than their typical warmth. It was almost so I blacked out, as the inevitable time passed by while Min sat patiently waiting for an answer from her contrite mother. I felt words coming out of my mouth, and decided to improvise everything. I could not look Min in the eyes, so I looked down at my abnormally weak, large hands and stuttered, “Your father—” I could not go on. All I knew about her real life was from delivering her brother from her real mother, and then her. I did not remember her father, and what I knew about her mother was limited. We left China before finding out her brother’s name. Suddenly, I could not think about her father, whom I had no knowledge to share, and thought about Min’s brother. He would be seven-years-old by this time, and living a completely different life than my daughter. These thoughts swirled around my head, making it impossible to give Min insight regarding her real life. I needed her to hold onto this illusion for longer before she opened her eyes to reality.
Min interrupted my impenetrable thoughts. “Mama,” she started. “It’s okay. I was just wondering.” Shock overthrew me at that time, as typically she was relentless until new knowledge flew into her brain. “I don’t need my father. All I need is you,” she insisted. Her words filled me with relief and reminded me of my love for her. It was almost as if she could read into my mind and know what I was thinking. Even though Min knew nothing of the reality I took her away from, her empathy for me capped any unanswered questions. My thoughts were still concealed from her innocent mind, yet she could still sense the deep feeling I had. Min came across the table and sat on my lap. She was growing, so I almost could not see over her head. I placed my nose against the back of her smooth, black hair which smelt like sunshine. It absorbed my tears falling from my eyes like snowflakes. She was warm pressed up against me, with her tiny hands folded into mine. As long as she was there on my lap, time would remain still. The threatening sounds of nature became a background noise, which I ignored to cherish this exchange with my daughter. Disrupting the magic of the moment, Min threw another question in my direction. “Why are you no longer a nurse?” she asked. I was more prepared to answer this question and responded, “There are certain responsibilities you have to fulfill as a nurse that I have not done in years.” As though not listening to a word I just said, Min excitedly jumped off my lap and exclaimed, “Mama! There’s a job that would be perfect for you!” This statement from her would change my life forever. As a nurse in China, I could not bear with killing children by being obedient to the government. Now that we were living in America, I could live out my dream of helping people overcome sickness, which was my sole reason for wanting to be a nurse in the beginning. Min continued talking about the job she wanted me to take. She pleaded for me to become her elementary school nurse. “Well,” she cried. “Are you going to take the job?” Joy spread directly from her body to mine, and a sudden impulse compelled me to automatically say yes. I felt like one of the children at Min’s school from her stories, almost being recalled to life. Once miserable with guilt and pain weighing on me like I was holding the world up with my shoulders, Min’s ecstasy and caring demeanor made me feel as light as a feather. I was no longer worried about my past, as that was behind me. The future ahead will make me once again a nurse, but have benefits that I could never get in China. As of right then and there, I decided to live life within the moment: to cherish the special times with Min and believe truly that everything would work for the better. My daughter’s redeeming spirit has touched everything in her path, as though she made the sky bluer, the cold warmer, and depressed souls uplifted. Seven years ago I had saved her life, but now she had saved mine.
The night before starting my new job, I saw the myriad rosary beads lolling across my wooden work table. Certainly each bead was symbolic; however, my act of making them was just to distract myself from guilt and fear. Despite saving Min from death back in China, memories of overpowering shame caused my relapses after that one special moment. Since Min purged me from these shameful feelings, I did not need busywork any longer. The rosary beads had a place in my heart, but too many of them all at once lost their meanings. From then on, I made little rosary beads as long as my heart remained beatific.
On the school days, we would join hand in hand as if age never separated us. We were one unit running in the same direction as our footsteps hit the pavement with determination and mellowness. A warm breeze cut past our faces and swayed our hair back, encouraging us to keep on running. As long as we lived in this bubble of the American dream, we believed that goodness transcends any evils. All we needed was to follow our dreams and stay thankful for the numerous opportunities which presented themselves. Taking the first step across the elementary school’s threshold, I began to feel satisfied with my life. America’s offerings of new chances created a fulfilled life for me, in which I could be saved and save others through my practice of nursing. Still, however, Min and I felt out of place in such a culturally monolithic town. There was only one other member in our community like us from China. She would sit in the corner of the school near the front office throughout the entire school day. I did not know her place in authority: whether she was a teacher or some form of faculty member. Still, I knew that she would sit there as if she had control over all time. With a dark, bleak expression lying over her face, her eyes carried one focus point while her fingers would fiddle with needlework. It was not how meticulous she was that made her unique, but how she would craft her tapestry as if there was a meaning behind it while not even looking down. Almost as if she knew exactly what she was doing so it was not necessary to check, this lady sat on the bench revealing her old age. She was not old with wisdom and the elderly glow. Instead, her age represented all the years she had in back of her that she possessed and the advantage she had over other lives with less experience. She sat there stationary with her hands being the only part of her body moving. But, still, I could see the threat in her eyes. I could see her savagery from inside juxtaposing with such discipline on the outside. My initial prejudices against this lady caused guilt, since we share common ancestry. I second guessed my instinct, deciding that she was not cruel on the inside, but her methods made up who she was externally as well as internally. She was a realist; seeing everywhere and everything for the same fate. Unlike her, I knew of America’s differences from China, and knew America would lead me and Min to a better fate. This senior and I might have been the only Chinese in town, but we could have not been more different. She was so ingrained in her ways that she did not need to look at her hands: she knew exactly what she was doing.
As for my new job, I focused on healing. Staying in my office, I was a resource for the kids who needed me. While waiting for potential students to arrive, the sounds from outside entered into my room. I heard the sound of teachers molding students’ minds with the greatest gift of all, which is knowledge. There were sounds of friends telling jokes to fill each other's bellies with laughter that would last the rest of the day. Smelling various foods asserted that the children would be running off to lunch. I would picture what went on in the cafeteria even though I was not present. I could see in my head a little boy with a peanut butter sandwich and a little girl with a jelly sandwich taking their two lunches to share and create something even better than what was originally there. The orchestra class a few rooms back from mine let out sounds known as music travelling into my room. I imagined Min with her violin placed on her shoulder with her small fingers attempting to curl around her instrument. In her right hand, the bow would be the breath of life which she gave to the instrument. It was pieces such as Bach’s that were not just sounds. They were music. Every child would take their instrument, be it a violin, a cello, or a flute, and every note would be placed together in harmony. I listened in my office and just could feel the love for life brought about simply by sounds. Joy, happiness, and major themes in these compositions prompt more than just jubilance. These pieces made me feel an enduring sense of contentment. I knew that Min and I lived a fulfilled life. Throughout each piece, no matter the dissonance, the notes always were resolved. They made the piece build up and become stronger, so that the minor sections made the major sections seem all the more sweeter. Every note happened for a reason. In my office, I would hear and see the entire school community flourish even though nobody could always see me. I was there if they needed me to overcome sickness or wounds. Everyone knew where I was, but for the time being I remained in my office unseen but serene.
A few weeks after starting my job at the elementary school, Min and I walked on home, hand in hand to our after school routine. My daughter would first run up to check the mailbox. After that, we would enter into the house to share a snack of lychee jelly and I would brew tea into floral-printed teacups passed down from my ancestors. From then on, she would go outside and marvel at the world’s beauty. However, one day, after the first step, our routine was interrupted. Min opened the mailbox to find a letter and asked me immediately “Mama. Who is Wen?” It did not seem to bother her for me to answer, as she ripped the envelope open before I had a chance to understand the situation. I had never heard of a “Wen” before, and was surprised due to this sudden change of events. There was only one other Chinese in town, which was the needlework lady. Other than her, I have not been in contact with any Chinese in seven years. I looked at the envelope with a return address from my home town. Min read the letter aloud as I anxiously clenched my hands together:
My name is Wen. I am learning English. Would you like to be my penpal? Mama
remembers you but does not believe you are alive. Please write back!
Min’s smile flew off her face into the vast unknown, as she endeavoured to understand the words she just read off of the sheet of paper. Her eyes were the widest I have seen them. She now knew there was a world beyond our quaint town. I could see the worry shrouding her goodness. The paleness in her complexion turned red with alarm. The letter was placed in her quivering hands with fright. Min has always loved stories. Now, she was in the making of a story to which not even I would know the ending.
Min folded up the letter and demanded an answer. “Who is he?” she cried. “How does he know you? Why do you not think I’m alive?” I took a deep breath and decided to tell the truth. I knew Min’s purity would not last forever, as nothing gold can stay. As long as I was at peace with myself, Min deserved to know the truth. “They wanted to kill you,” I started. “I took you away so you could live. Minnie, I’m not your real mother.” I could sense anger trailing away from her, and woe taking over. Tears began to fall out of her eyes like the snow plummeting from the sky the day I had saved her. She ran up to me with footsteps heavy on the cement and threw her arms around my body. “Mama,” she whimpered. The years of unanswered questions and lies upon lies all hit her within one letter, yet she could still recognize me as a motherly figure. All she had to do was stay still in my arms and not let go. Time would not pass and we would be in one spot forever. I did not want her to let go of the bubble we lived in, but still, I ended the hug and put my hands on her shoulders. I looked straight into her eyes, forcing her eyes to open and look clearly at me. I was not her real mother, and she knew that. However, the experiences we had with each other and our unconditional love seemed to make the truth disappear. “I have a brother?” she forced out of her small lips. I stroked her long, free black hair and nodded. It was my job as a nurse to heal my patients; therefore, I did all that I could to comfort Min’s disease of uncertainty. It was not my act that recalled her to life from the brief relapse of sudden knowledge, but her inner purity that can never be corrupted. We went on with our lives, but now she lived a double life that I tried to hold back for years. Min had a family which comprised of a non-blood member continuously present, and a twin who she never met or heard of for seven years.
Min decided to send a letter back to her long lost brother. Curiosity trumped fear for this child. When she was in school, I sat in my office and read her letter over to myself three times.
What is China like? I only know America. I wonder if we see the same sunrise in the mornings. We might both look at the moonshine at night. I am so far away from you but we are pen pals for a reason! I’d love to write you. After all you are my brother.
I took the paper and held it close to my heart. I never expected the clash of two worlds. Two countries so different in customs collided with the love of brother and sister. The children never even met, yet their connection conveyed their absence. One blank sheet of paper would be the portal to emotions neither Min nor I had felt in our lifetimes. She wrote with the same golden pen enfolded in her small hands each time. Her pen would touch the white of the paper. Ink gradually spread faster in letters, words, then sentences, to be sent across the wide ocean to an unknown world. I folded the paper into thirds. The envelope sealed her words in so that the next person in the world to hear them play over within their mind would be Wen. As I left my office, a quick glance at the lonely bench beside the office instilled me with a caprice. The only other Chinese in town dourly rested on the bench with her eyes piercing into my vitality. Her greying hair was pulled back tightly into a bun, largely concealing any temerarious qualities. With quick, painstaking fingers, the woman pulled out her scissors and cut the thread in her hand s. The one of the two identical pieces of thread fell out of her hands onto the floor, no longer needed for her creation. It was as if she was not trying to undermine me, which was hard to tell because of her staring eyes, but that she was continuing out the frankness of her piece. A message was delivered to me from the chilling snip of the scissors traveling to my ears with the truth that I could see within the woman’s eyes.
December was approaching, and so was the most substantial of the letters written between the twins. Min traveled to the mailbox with a scarf around her lips to save her from the coldness blowing into her face. She continued walking, determined to discover the content in which the letter held. Her mitten wrapped hands embraced the cold to reach for the mail. I did not have a chance to read the exact words, but the minute Min asked me a question, I knew exactly what was going on. “Can we visit Wen? He and I want to meet,” she vocalized. For once, shock did not overwhelm me at such a substantial question. I knew she would ask this, as if I could see into her thoughts as she sought mine. The decision I was about to make could either be the best thing for us or the worst. Seeing the other face of the Earth could bring Min into a global ken, yet it could spoil the special view, which she already held of the world. At times like these, I could not think only of myself. After all, Min and I were finally becoming one unit, and I must think with empathy. Once again leaving my daughter with anticipation for an answer like a puppy waiting for a dish of food, I closed my eyes and let my heart answer this question. Ever since coming to America, the only problems I had were solely due to my brain being the main force of decisions. Not until I realized how deep my love is for Min did we progress to familial perfection. I loved her. Thus, my heart would need to be the force to drive the answer, making such a big question a certitude. This risk was certainly dangerous, yet I owed it to Min. God answered my prayer for certainty and safety. The moment I opened my eyes to declare that we would be going off to China, Min was no longer in my range of vision.
“Min!” I bellowed, running throughout the house with footsteps louder than the blizzard outside our house. “Where are you?” I demanded. “The answer is yes. We will visit your brother.” I hoped that this good news would return her to me. She suddenly left without a trace, like a released balloon arising in the air until no longer visible to the human eye. The only sounds to my ears were the reality swirling around, such as the dropping snowflakes, the howling wind, and my pounding heart. All I had to do was throw all these sounds out of my mind, and listen for what was important. Standing still to not disrupt the inevitable, the sound of snipping scissors suddenly became clear. I charged into the direction of the bathroom to see Min cutting off her beautiful hair. “Why are you doing this?” I interrogated, shocked. Min’s midnight black hair felt the tension of the scissors and fell onto the white tiled floor underneath her feet. All she began to have left were jaggedy strands with no balance as it once had. She seemed confident and told me, “I don’t know what happened for you before. But if we go to see Wen, then I don’t want you to get in trouble. Was it something I did? I don’t remember anything from before. I’m sorry, Mama.” She took off another chunk of her hair. “Wen told me something about China not liking girls. If we go there, I will be a boy. That will solve all our problems,” she determined. I cringed at the next snip when her hair fell from where it has always been. Yet, I smiled at her innocence. We had a dangerous journey ahead of us. Min always held a sense of problem-solving within, no matter how absurd it might have seemed to an adult mind. I can learn as much from Min as she could from me. She still had the factor that I lost years ago, that she could teach me to regain. I nodded and hugged her thin, childish body as tight as my arms could grasp. “Oh, Minnie,” I wept. “It’s going to be okay. Just promise me that we will stay together.” It was official: we were returning to the lost country.
When we came to America for a better future, it was the hardest voyage to pull off in my life. However, going to China was surprisingly easier, despite having the dangerous aspect. During the plane ride, Min watched as we rose up in the sky so that the only land she knew became smaller in her sight. It was definitely terrifying for her to be carried away without stopping, yet when she saw the surrounding clouds, spirits were lifted. She was one with the clouds; being white and pure, moving with the wind. After watching the clouds for so many years, she finally became at the same level as them.
Arriving at the terminal, we caught sight of a sign printed in black ink reading: “Min Zhang.” Min had never been called by her real name before, but now that we were in her homeland, she might as well face the truth of her name. A little boy held the sign in his worn out hands. He was shorter than Min, yet had the same hairstyle as her. His eyes were wider than hers, but they had the same curious gleam. Dirt covered his skin, even though I could see the pure white color that Min had, as well. Wen was standing right in front of our eyes. He was the baby that I first delivered, but was forced to hand off to his mother. I had not see him for seven whole years, in which a world of events could of happened. Next to him stood a lanky man twice his height, towering over him. He wore a black pea coat, heavy winter boots, and a white scarf. I had seen that still stature and solemn face before. Wen stood with Mr. Zhou: the man who made it possible for Min and I to safely come to America. I assumed that this business man was a messenger between my two worlds, and must have been the reason how Wen found out about us. At this moment, I was the only one to notice those two, until Min and Wen caught sight of each other’s eyes in synchronized coordination. Wen dropped his sign and Min threw down her white bag. They galloped around the black waiting chairs until they were side-by-side. Wen’s melancholy faced lighted up the minute he saw Min. Like magnets that always come together despite being separated, the twins looked as though they were never apart.
Walking down the torn up streets, this village seemed to retrogress from when I lived there seven years before. Min and Wen rushed ahead of me, jumping in each other’s footsteps in the snow. That left me to walk in back of them alongside Mr. Zhou. His soft voice warmed up the vast cold brushing against my face with every step. I felt at peace in such a dangerous situation with this stolid man on my right side. However, when we arrived at the Zhang’s house, my heart sunk.
The woman who I vaguely remember suffering on the day of the twins’ birth was once again right in front of my eyes. Just like she looked before, the woman was shaking and hunched over, with hair frizzing as if she had not had the time to brush it in days. Her silence was the loudest thing in their family’s small living room. Mr. Zhou cordially walked without fear past the threshold and placed my suitcase directly on the floor near the entrance to a bedroom. Unlike this man who knew exactly where he was going, I stood there dumbfounded. As if we were already part of the family, little Wen made himself at home and expected Min and I to automatically fit into his lifestyle. This was the first time that I saw Min scared to continue. Everything was dark in their house, and an unpleasant, musty odor contrasted with the sweet aroma of nature that she loved to smell every day. However, the moment she saw Mrs. Zhang, I saw tears streaming down her rosy cheeks. “Min,” I started to clarify. “This is your mother”. I translated in Cantonese to the middle-aged woman that the little girl hiding behind the lurking shadows was the daughter she bore who was supposed to be dead. Min must have been a ghost in the eyes of her mother. It was impossible to tell who was more shocked as they stared out in each other’s direction, speechless.
Min took a tiny step in the direction of reality. “Mama,” she squealed, not speaking to me this time. I felt my heart drop: my head felt heavy and the darkness from the room travelled into and resided in my new emptiness. Not needing translation, the irresolute woman scuffed across the dirt-covered floors and slowly ended up next to her daughter. While she gingerly pet Min’s hideous hair, I caught sight of Mr. Zhou walking into the next room and starting a conversation with a distant, gruff voice. This voice was harsh and low, reminding me of a bison charging at its prey. Not having spoken Cantonese in years, their muffled words seemed gibberish and had no meaning to me. Thus, I decided to focus on the connection between mother and daughter that nothing can beat. “Mama,” Min repeated, more confidently. “Who is my father?” This question she had asked me before, and was determined to get an answer. The lady looked widely into her eyes and said nothing until Wen jumped off the couch and pointed to the other room where the bison voice loitered. Words sprang slowly out of Mrs. Zhang’s mouth, and I listened closely to translate. “He is right over there, daughter,” I repeat in English. “He works for government.” She sadly laughed. I understood what she said but would not tell Min that her words translated to “He loves his work more than us.” Like a puzzle, all the pieces of Min’s life were fitting together. Every part that was missing all came together at once and made for a complete, question-free life. But, not everything was that simple. Her life, was a puzzle that could never look normal because of the lines and separations between each piece that could never make it look exactly like the picture on the box. I know God has a plan for her, and maybe this moment at its most awkward could be crucial for what happens in the rest of her life.
He walked in. Everyone in the town could hear his footsteps from the feet loosely wrapped in socks with a hole through the toes. Like Goliath, he towered over everyone in the room. Everything became dark like the sun suddenly left the sky. The breath coming out of his scowling mouth grew heavy and threw out unnecessary grunts. Mrs. Zhang shrank down and closed her eyes, backing behind me. Her husband centered himself in the room with his bushy black eyebrows covering up eyes. Everything was cold. Everyone shivered. Our flaming fire of hope burned out by his cold, windy air surrounding him with rays of fetors. Booming out of his voice, sounds became clear in my mind meaning “This girl with the short hair is not supposed to be living.” His eyebrow-covered eyes glared at me like a wolf prancing in the dark. Without hesitation, his big, sturdy hands picked up a pistol from the wooden shelf behind his head.
The moment when the gun was shot was one of those few times in my life when the concept of time was nonexistent. Everything that happened I could recall, like where we all were standing. The farthest from Mr. Zhang was his wife at this violent moment. Next was me, as I said before that I knew absolutely nothing about him. Mr. Zhou was still in the other room, most likely still in the same position, as this all happened quickly. Min and Wen were at the same distance from him. At this moment, everyone paused. It was a photograph that was taken and stored in everyone’s mind, never to be deleted from our own darkroom. All our faces were horrified, especially Min’s, whose eyes were bigger than the moon. The only one estranged from us was the man, who looked like he felt what he was doing was justified. With a flaming bullet racing through the thin air, the pause on time stopped. We were all awakened by the sound and deceptive light it created.
The Chinese child with the short black hair fell to the ground once impaled with such a small bullet. “Min!” the child screamed upon dropping onto the floor, which was quickly overtaken by a sea of red. The father blew his menacing breath onto his gun, threw it back on the shelf, and walked heavily back into his dark room, where Mr. Zhou came running out. Everyone but the mother rushed to the innocent child lying unconscious on the floor. Right before my eyes was Wen, shot by his own father. Min could hardly speak, as tears were dripping out of her mighty eyes. Each drop fell to the ground on top of the blood. “That—” she forced out between gasps “was supposed to be me.” She was right. Her father intended to shoot someone who was supposed to be dead, but instead shot his son who was intended to be alive. His son, who was supposed to be his successor and who lived with him every day of his life was shot. He was shot, pale, and cold when I placed my shaking hands on his forehead. I have such respect for a martyr who would give up their life out of pure, unconditional love. Min was supposed to be shot. But, her father’s eyes were so blinded by pride and government's rules that he thought should be carried through. He could not even distinguish his own son and own flesh.
Mr. Zhou placed his hand respectfully on my shoulder out of condolence. It should have been the other way around, as I had only just met the boy. However, he showed a shared feeling of remorse that he got to show first. Min buried her eyes into my left arm, being too scared to see her brother’s demise. Everything was all happening so quickly that the only thing I could remember was emotion. “Dear God,” I said out loud for the first time in China. Everyone looked up. “Please,” I stuttered. “Keep this boy alive. Keep our beliefs alive. Keep love. Keep beauty. Keep innocence alive. Be with us. Don't leave. Stay here and wait with us until we know everything is okay. Everything is okay, as long as we all hope. Hope and believe.” Min took her head off of my arm and participated in an almost mute voice. “Pray for my father. Help him see what I see. Pray for my mother.” I did not know which mother she was talking about, but believed and hoped it to be me. We all gathered and waited for a sign from God. We hoped with all our hearts that a miracle would come. Our togetherness started a flame, which turned into a new fire of hope, heating us up from the bitter cold.
Myriad thoughts rushed through my mind while sitting by Wen’s side so that time was no longer a concept. I have had God by my side throughout my life. Every day in my past life was a tragedy having to kill babies just because the government said so. People became so riled up and through mob mentality started the One Child rule without even thinking about what consequences it could have. These are lives. No matter the circumstances, life is a gift from God and needs to be cherished. Every life needs to walk the journey through the hills and clear paths with determination to end up in their destination. God will be with us on the entire journey: he has the route planned out for us. Every life needs to see the clouds on a warm spring day. They need to hold hands with their best friend skipping down the street to school. They need to feel safe sitting in the warmth of their mother’s lap. Every life deserves to love. We all as humans have so many emotions, longings, and goals, but the greatest is love. Love is the binding force that brings us all together as one. I lived in two completely separate worlds, but saw similarities in both through humanity’s connections among feelings and love. We must remain independent and stick to our own morals, which is one aspect that Min’s father did not carry out. Life is God’s way that none of us understand, yet we all have a right to it because in the long run, no matter how many tragedies, big or small, everything circles back. All we need is belief. An attitude that everything will turn out okay is what helped me throughout my life so far. I took this frame of mind and transferred it to Min, who led a chain reaction to spread purpose. In the dark room, everything became lighter. Min stood up on her two feet and walked bravely in the direction of the black room, spreading rays of luminous sunshine. All we need to do is hope: pray that Wen could have a life such as the one I provided to Min; believe that no matter how corrupt one becomes, that the light will shine them a path out of the darkness; dream that love never fades away like a flickering flame; and God will be eternal. I placed my hand on Wen’s heart. His one thud that I felt shook my entire world. I saw the visage of the child, and life flashed before my eyes. He tried to take a breath; everything following would be up to our belief.