The humid air wakes up before me,
clings to me as the suitcase scrapes my ankle.
Paper-thin skin peels, but the coolness of
the dust-dressed tiles under my feet is numbing.
Lao ye’s cataracted eyes blink like two orbs of obsidian
wrapped in fragile, white tissue paper.
His collared shirt orbits around withered shoulders,
one hard fall, my mother said,
and his bones would go flying everywhere.
He unpins his lips to speak, deliberately,
like the blade of a knife skating across a fish’s belly.
But already it feels like we are underwater,
swimming in sweat and dust and light,
and his Mandarin lilt is a mere piece of seaweed
curling around my English name.
I want to say something, to give him something
more than the ocean, a pocket of dry land.
But all I do is open and close my mouth stupidly like a fish,
hoping that when I leave the humid air will be enough
to swallow my empty silhouette and the open wound of his lips.
Joyce He is a high school student who likes to believe she likes writing but honestly hates it sometimes. She also runs a blog at https://joocejournal.com (mild cringe alert) where more of her thoughts and art can be found.