I thought I saw my mother today. My real mother. I saw her in the park. An old woman walking at sunset. The low slope of her shoulders, her side to side shuffling walk. She even held a bag at her side which swung the same they used to when we were walking back from the market. I sped up to overtake her and turned my bike around to look. The face staring back at me was so suddenly wrong it gave me a sharp jolt, and I almost fell off.
The woman opened her mouth, and I hoped for a mad moment that she’d say my name despite her incorrect countenance, but she only dismissed me and brushed past.
I watched her leave, and began sifting through the faces again. I lost track of time and the number of faces I sifted through. I kept riding until the snow began to fall. I watched it settle on my bare fingers and waited for it to melt, but it didn’t. Then I felt the cold stretching down into my bones; so I turned my bike around and came home.
When I opened the door to my building, the security guard nodded awake, and went back to watching his program. It was one of the singing programs, and a girl was singing Silent Night. Hearing the song made my stomach hurt. I know it’s cliché to be affected by a song like Silent Night because all the people in stories are moved by a song like that when they are cold and lonely and alone, but the reason things like that happen in books is that they happen in real life.
I went up to my flat, stripped naked and just looked at myself in the mirror. I looked sort of small and dark and insignificant. I wonder if she would recognize me if we happened to pass each other. I wonder if she had to break herself of the habit of looking for my face in the crowds. I tried to break myself of that habit because it did not make any logical sense to be looking for her in American shopping malls when I knew very well she was all the way back in China. I thought I’d forgotten, nevertheless, I’m here.
I turned on the faucet and let it fill up the sink for few minutes before soaking my still-frozen hands in near-scalding water. The tingle that went through me was sister to what I felt when I heard that girl sing Silent Night.