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It was 5:00 in the morning. It was still dark when Grandfather came to get me. I was awake already and when he saw me he just motioned with his hands for me to follow him. If he was pleased to see that I was eagerly awaiting him he did not say so. As usual Grandfather was waiting for me to talk to him first. I thought this was my chance to show my manhood to him. I kept silent, too.
On the long walk to the market we did not talk about anything. Grandfather walked ahead of me and did not turn around once to see if I was still behind him. Maybe he could hear my footsteps and so was not concerned about me. If Grandfather felt I was now a man, why did we not walk shoulder to shoulder and talk? He always spoke with other men from the village when he walked to work. They always walked shoulder to shoulder. I tried to walk up near Grandfather, but everytime I walked quickly, so did he. He was telling me this way to stay behind him. He did not bother to explain why.
Grandfather was thin. He had been a strong man. I remember how he would hold me and play with me when I was younger. It was so long ago. I had a family then. I had a father. Now we lived with Grandfather again. Was he angry to have to support us? Did he now hate our need? He never complained.
He never chased my mother away. In his eyes I always saw some sadness when he looked at her. It was not tears, for a man does not cry. It was a softness, a sharing of her pain. Her husband had left her all alone.
What had these years done to Grandfather? He was less tall than I remembered. He had become old and gray haired. His skin was tougher. His laughter was less frequent. It had been replaced with silence... as if Grandfather was preparing for an after life of only a cold grave. I wanted to know so much about how he felt about us and about me. It might be a long time before there was another chance to ask him. I had to try to break down the wall between us, but I did not know how. I kept my distance behind him always thinking of how to reach out to him. I would wait for my chance.
In the marketplace he would have to give me instructions. I would have to ask questions. He would be bound to teach me something, and in that exchange I had the hope to reach his heart and tell him the truth. I wanted to let him know I respected him. I wanted to thank him for taking care of us. I wanted to thank him with all my heart that in all our time together, words of praise were few, but so were words of criticism. I had wanted to tell him I had learned something valuable from him and that I would be sure that his name, which was my name, would always be a good name to all who heard it:
"Young Wei? Oh, you mean Old Wei's grandson? Yes, a fine family. He certainly has made his grandfather proud. He is spoken about everywhere in the country now. The poor man can't find anywhere to be at peace without hearing the name of his grandson spoken. It is a problem we all wish we could have!"
Ha! That would serve Chen right. That pest had been properly punished. He would drink liquid for a month because he could not chew his food. Hah! It is a mistake to pick on me or my family. That was for sure.
We were almost at the marketplace now. I was wondering when Grandfather would speak. He did. He said: "Wait here. I will come back." I was surprised. Why did we walk all this distance together if I was not to go to the market with him? Was I not to carry his bags? Or help him to select the fruit and vegetables we were to buy?
"Grandfather? Why do I wait? Don't you want me to help you?"
"No. Wait. When I return we will go on."
What did that mean? I was too afraid to ask another question and anger him.
I watched his back disappear into the dust of
the road. He was going to the market
and leaving me alone.
(to be continue...)
@The Light Millennium magazine was created and designed
by Bircan Unver. Third issue. Summer 2000, New York