The letter came on a fine Saturday morning, while I was having a meager breakfast as usual–a bowl of plain porridge with perfectly nothing else. Joe casually dropped the letter in front of my porridge, I wanted to thank him, but I supposed it wasn’t too fair to return his favor with sputters of porridge. I kept my mouthful of porridge in place and smiled at him instead, but I must have looked like a silly pufferfish.
The letter was a thick one, and I couldn’t help myself but pinch at it. At first, I assumed it would be one of those random college advertisements again, which I had received a substantial amount lately. But when I turned it over to the front, the foreign letters (foreign to the English speakers but most dear to me) made my heart skip a beat. There were three stamps on the corner, two green and one yellow, echoing the springtime in the present. I carefully tore open the seal, and there were a good six or seven pages in it as I roughly counted.
It began like this, “My Dearest Sister.” Immediately, these simple words filled my heart with joy. I only have one sister in my understanding, and she is also the dearest to me just like those foreign characters on the page. My eyes hastily jumped between the lines of words before I could barely finish reading a complete sentence–until they would finally rest themselves on the second line and begin to devour each one of the words with the utmost eagerness.
“I’m sorry. I know I promised you that I would write sooner, but you know, always the change of plans. This is the first letter I’m writing to you from here to there, by hand. Baba says it’s unnecessary that we should do this, well, as you can see I didn’t listen. I paid for the postage with the coins I saved in the piggy bank, and it’s not even that expensive.
I know you love me the most so I will start with myself. Since you left and since the school resumed, life is the same old life for me. Home, school, home, school. Study, homework, more study, more homework. No boys have expressed any interest in me, really; please stop asking me about it. They are all too dumb and ugly like you won’t believe. I don’t think I’ll be dating or marrying anytime soon so you will still be my favorite person for a long time, rest assured that.
Now onto baba and mama. Baba still yells and frowns and scowls at all of us. He scolds me for not sleeping at a healthy time, not getting up at a healthy time, and not eating at a healthy time. I dared not to ask him what in the world is a healthy time lest he will pull out that long and stick, and whip me until I have confessed all of the sins I’ve owned for the past 13 years of my life. Thanks. Mama is on her computer all day working on her ‘business.’ Just last night, she forced me to use one of her products on my face, which is supposed to clear out pimples and acne. This morning she came to collect the result but found only a couple of newly-grown ones on my forehead.
There is nothing to talk about didi (our younger brother). I still don’t understand how he was born in the first place.
The following is a new short story I wrote recently. It took me two hours just to transcribe all of it from my own notebook…please appreciate it and read carefully, then write me what you think.”
The rest of the six pages, as I skimmed through them, was the entirety of this masterpiece written by her. A paltry disappointment plugged up at my throat; I expected her to write me more about herself and the family, even if there was nothing new. After staring blankly at the page for a minute, I flipped to the last page of this long letter.
“The bed feels very spacious without you, so does the closet. Actually, the dinner table and sofa and the computer desk, too. You, now don’t have anyone there for you to holler around anymore, how does it feel?”
It ended like that without a signature, except for a doodle of her and me with an affected heart in between us. I noticed the heart was smeared, and as I put it by the ray of sunlight next to my porridge to take a closer look at it, my finger penetrated right through the paper. It was a hidden tear stain.
Photo Credit: Gocha Szostak