A couch once united us. Now our family tableau has faded.

“Don’t neglect to mention qiezi,” Mother — the use of Chinese for “cheese” — reminded me as she located the digital digicam in front of my sister, Father, Grandpa, and me, all huddling on our maroon-colored flower-print sofa.

Hints of the hotpot and Baijiu (tough liquor) that we had wolfed for dinner nevertheless stuffed the air. A hearthplace flickered withinside the distance, illuminating our capabilities with a gentle hue of orange.

“The ideal lighting!” Mother stated. Under our weight, the sofa sagged a chunk withinside the center, however, I felt its bed helping us, bringing us collectively.

“Does my face appearance round?” my sister requested as she grew to become in the direction of Grandpa, cupping her cheeks in her palms. “I even have such a lot of acne currently I don’t need to take the picture graph.”

“Your appearance is ideal regardless of what,” Grandpa stated, planting a kiss on her brow and pointing to his wrinkles. “The marks on our faces are maps of our records and our hearts. Learn the way to treasure that.” My sister giggled, comfortable with her furrowed forehead, and nuzzled into Grandpa’s woolen coat.

-An own circle of relatives picture graph each Chinese New Year’s eve:

Waiting for Mother to regulate the digital digicam self-timer, I stared down on the sofa, touching its scratched timber adornments, its ruffled weavings, its sedation dulled in locations from being sat on with the aid of using many. “Pretty, huh?” Father stated. “Grandpa made the sofa body himself. Money from his carpentry held our circle of relatives collectively.” I nodded and memorized the marks as though they shaped the map of our circle of relatives.

“Everything’s all set!” Mother yelled, interrupting my thoughts. Tucking strands of hair in the back of her ears, she joined us on the sofa. While we waited for the digital digicam to click, we leaned into the coziness of the cushions among connected fingers and organized our widest smiles.

We used to take our circle of relatives’ picture graphs in this identical location each Chinese New Year’s eve after a conventional dinner, every picture graph preserved in a college ee-e book. Flipping thru its pages, I frequently noted how our appearances developed from portrait to portrait: the creases beneath neath Mother and Father’s eyes deepening, Grandpa’s hair disappearing and my sister and I developing taller and more potent like not nothing should prevent us. “At least the shafa (sofa) we take a seat down on won’t age or extrude over these types of years!” my sister could joke.


October 2009

I snuggled on the sofa as blue mild from the TV gambling Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away flickered on my mother and father’s faces. I plugged my ears and concealed myself in my sister’s lap whilst Chihiro’s mother and father changed into pigs, whilst she faced Yubaba, and whilst No-Face has become a monster pushed with the aid of using greed.

I laughed with my father whilst the Susuwatari danced around and shared amazement with my mom whilst Haku stated goodbye. I keep in mind in the end falling asleep after the movie, properly there withinside the residing room.

My mother and father blanketed me in blankets, tucked me in, and whispered to me that Haku and Chihiro could meet again and that I could locate fantastical adventures in the years to come, too.

Eyes closed, protecting my sister’s hand and playing with my Mother’s embrace, I sunk into the sofa’s elegantly textured surface. Father later informed me that I slept with an untroubled grin on my cheeks.

June 2011

Grandpa dumped a bath of bamboo leaves on the sofa. “We’re making zongzi (rice dumplings)!” he announced.

-Mistakes make matters fun,’ he chuckled:

My sister and I rushed into the residing room, leaving behind our studies. We blamed our failed checks and unfinished faculty tasks at the Duanwu festival, which set us to consider dragon boat racing, swimming, and making zongzi instead. After all, how should we face up whilst the candy aroma of raw, fermented sticky rice infused the residing room?

Grandpa’s rough, regular palms held our gentle, stressed ones, assisting us to fold the bamboo leaves right into a triangular cup. He cradled a handful of sticky rice, sifting it among his palms and into the bamboo cup. Wrapping the leaves till the rice changed into not visible, he certain the whole thing collectively with a string and a twist of his wrist. One uncooked zongzi changed into an organized one.

We watched, mimicked, then repeated. The pile of bamboo leaves shrank; the wrapped zongzi grew right into a huge mound. In delight, I giggled, swirled, and kicked out a leg in a weird, complicated dance pass I conjured at the spot. There changed into a conflict of metallic on a stone floor. I had knocked over the bowl of raw rice, spilling fermented water and uncooked substances over the whole sofa.

I stood with my eyelids drooping, tears twinkling, waiting for Grandpa’s reprimands.

But what I heard changed into laughter. “Mistakes make matters fun,” he chuckled. “And they assist you to grasp the artwork of responsibility.” I slowly lifted my eyes, returning his smile. The sofa smelled like zongzi for days, however, I didn’t thoughts at all.

-March 2014:

Incense and prayer beads in hand, we knelt in the front of the sofa, our tears soaking its floral coat. We mourned the black and white picture graph of Grandpa, his tooth glistening, his face beaming, his eyes telling us “the whole thing goes to be okay.” We wanted him a secure adventure in the direction of a brand new incarnation, venerated his beyond accomplishments, and burned paper cash for his subsequent lifetime.

“I don’t care approximately any of this,” I desired to yell. “I simply need him again.” I pinched the sofa’s bed in the back of me, silencing myself, reminding myself to be pious and obedient and a terrific girl.

-The sofa held me, absorbing grief:

But after the ritual, I forgot what “desirable girl” meant. I collapsed onto the sofa, smothering cries and gasps of air with a satin cushion. I fiddled with the scratches Grandpa had made at the sofa’s cherrywood legs whilst his lungs failed and he fainted. I buried my nostril in pillows and fabrics, looking for lines of his smell. I curled my frame in Grandpa’s preferred spot on the sofa, looking for his presence.

For 3 days, the sofa held me, absorbing grief and anger, and regret. “I won’t extrude or get sick! I will usually be right here for you,” it appeared to mention. “Everything goes to be okay.” And I believed.


-I had believed wrong:

Without consulting me, my mother and father determined to pass, and our sofa changed into now no longer coming with us to our new home. “It triggers painful recollections,” changed into all Mother stated as she rubbed her temples and puffed eyes.

“No, it contains lovely memories,” I screamed. “And they’re fading away! They are fading away! And you don’t care. You didn’t take responsibility. You knew Grandpa had cancer, however, you simply permit him to die. And you intend on sending Jiejie (sister) and me away. To America. I’ll omit you. I’ll omit Jiejie. And I omit him already. And, and, I simply desire to head again to the one’s years whilst…”

-Grandpa changed long gone from my sight:

It changed into too overdue once I found out what I had yelled at my mom. Before I should ask for forgiveness, I choked on my tears, and my imagination and prescience faded.


Gathering my matters, I observed my circle of relatives’ college ee-e book gathering dirt withinside the nook of the residing room. After the web page entitled “2015,” the entries stopped. I eliminated the last images and held them to my chest. I then ripped the college ee-e book aside, looking at its stitching pop, its pages rupture, and threw it withinside the trash.

The day after my sister left us for a strange city throughout the Pacific, 3 guys from the shifting business enterprise got here to our condo, took aside the timber body of the sofa, tore off the elaborate covers, and solidified the stained cushions to the side. They carried the damaged bones of what changed into the left of its carcass right into a smog-colored truck. The trunk slammed shut, and the sofa changed long gone from my sight.

The lid of the casket changed lowered, and Grandpa changed long gone from my sight.

The protection gates closed, and my sister changed into long gone from my sight.

-Will they ever come home?

Three years later, I grew to become around with my suitcases and my guitar bag in hand, the blinding airport lighting in my face. I looked for acquainted silhouettes, however, Mother and Father had been lengthy long gone from my sight.

Fear gripped my throat. With the map of our circle of relatives erased, can I locate my manner home?


-May 2021:

I could have navigated to the antique condo door, banged on it, and jumped up and right down to get my mother and father’s attention. My mom could have opened the door and held me near her bosom, squeezed my face, and nibbled my nostril. My father could have lifted me excessively up withinside the air and twirled me around as I changed into over again his little girl. His again could provide in, and he could need to take a seat down, however, he wouldn’t complain. I could have rushed in the direction of the sofa, blanketed myself with its pillows, and inhaled its heady fragrance. The heady fragrance of love, of consolation, of a tight-knit own circle of relatives.

But the sofa, its body separated from its coat, is rotting in a few strangers’ backyards. The reminiscence of home, as soon as active tableau, is washed away with the aid of using 500 lengthy days of whole solitude. Or is that wide variety even bigger? I do now no longer understand anymore.

What I do understand is that on a sizzling summertime season nighttime in May, I will come upon a strange condo building. I will dial my father or mom’s wide variety for the primary time in months. They will hold up, textual content to me later apologizing for being busy, ship me the room-wide variety I even have forgotten and inform me to attain the important thing beneath neath the doormat.

I will flip a cold, alien key. I will input an ordinary area marked as my address. I will take a seat down stiffly and on my own on a brand new sofa, depositing the dust off my lengthy adventure on its fresh, cream-colored leather. I will weep and anticipate Grandpa to run from in the back of a nook to consolation me, for my sister to sing me the lullabies my mother and father used to sing, and for Mother and Father to ultimately come home.

But will they ever come home?

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