Field Notes from Day 7,969, a Ghost Story
I remember waking up in azure. Far above the old garden in the city I was born in then left. The garden is full of daffodils and roses and other flowers I can’t name.
Sometimes violence crashes and leaves nothing but the ghost of unfurled golden petals.
2 layovers and 2 different planes and we are 3 immigrants sitting in a row of 3, taking up 2 because I was small and fast asleep inside the crib. My mother’s body makes.
My mother says people kept vacating. The seat next to the airplane aisle. First, a man got up to use the restroom and never returned. Second, a brunette in pink velour switched seats. Our history kept whittling down. To an empty chair. My mother says this is a ghost story.
Someone I was told loves me is gone. All the flowers are turning into white. Lilies.
I didn’t cry during the funeral. Everyone was crying. Maybe I just didn’t. Hear myself cry.
My mother keeps telling me that I keep too much in. How all that weight can sink. A woman. She knows. She doesn’t know. That this. Is what I remember. When I was 3 my world fell apart twice and the simultaneous separation of my family and the death of my father left a hole the size of a pebble in my throat. Grief keeps leaking out.
The flowers have grown around stone, seeking the most nourishing soils to take root underfoot. I remember wresting. Unresting one from its place. I could hear a California airport inside its verdant bud. I. didn’t know anything that small could hold so many ghosts.
It’s August 1 and my mother holds me for a long time at the same airport where we arrived 21 years back. For 2 years I will be living in the city we left. That is not the city we left. I want to pretend that loss is as simple as a roundtrip. Flight.
I tell her she won’t lose me like she did. Ba. She pulls me into her like breath, a surfacing from. Some place. Not here.
The ghost inserts itself. Into my mother. You didn’t lose Ba she says. He lost you.
Uyen Dang is a first-generation Vietnamese American writer who occasionally does anthropology. She is currently living in Saigon, Vietnam, where she was born, at work on an archive of the intangible. Her writing is forthcoming in Fugue, Necessary Fiction, and Passages North. Find her on Twitter @_uyendang.