There is a full moon tonight. When we were children, we would light lanterns.
There is a legend that goes with this tradition, though depending on who you ask, it changes. There are some that say the lady in the moon was selfish, that she drank the potion of immortality and was banished. There are others that say she loved her husband and drank the poison to spare him, and as a reward for her love, she did not die but was sent to the moon instead.
Those are just two – there are many variations.
(I forget which one I heard first; I like the one where she is in love the most)
The lanterns are lit – if I remember correctly – so that she may find her way home.
There is no place in all of the city I feel more at home than in Chinatown.
There is no place in all of the city I feel more out of place than in Chinatown.
If you do not understand, it is odd to hear.
(Some of you do understand; some of you will know)
Let me try to explain.
You walk through the street and the voices you hear are familiar, but they are always just out of reach, always talking too fast for you to understand.
You walk through the stores and the items are familiar, but when you smile, someone asks your companion why you are here. You only understand their response, only the words 她的 妈妈.
On one hand, this is what you know – these are the voices you grew up with, these are the foods you eat, the smells you know, the colors, the tastes, the sounds.
On the other hand – without your mother to guide you, you will always be lost.
My mother calls me. She’s sorry, she says, that she didn’t remind us what day it was before this morning.
I’m at a restaurant, I tell her. Celebrating.
It had slipped her mind, she says. Since we are not in the house anymore.
(We used to light lanterns; I can’t remember the last time we did)
中秋节快乐, she says.
Say it again, slowly, I tell her.
She does. Once. Twice. I repeat it, trying to get each syllable right on my tongue.
I can’t remember what it sounds like now.
I go to the grocery store on a mission. I want to find lanterns. I want to find mooncakes. If I have time, I want to find dumpling skins and bottles of yogurt drink and tins of chocolate powder.
I stare too long at the mooncakes, trying to figure out which kind is the one I like. I stare too long at the noodles and the rice, trying to figure out where the dumpling skins are hidden. I stare too long at the labels, trying to figure out which ones will evoke a deep childhood memory.
A woman asks me if I need help finding something, as if I don’t know what I’m looking for.
(I do need help; I won’t admit it)
There is a full moon tonight. There were no lanterns in the store, but I bought a tin of mooncakes. I spent too much money on them, probably. But I cut one with the plastic knife, into half, into quarters, and pluck a slice between two fingers and take slow bites. It is always dense, always sticks in your mouth, always sweet.
(I do not light a lantern; I am still finding my way home)