Persimmon Lane

Today I am awarded with a bug bite to my left thigh as I wait to say goodbye to Lothar. It is three hours back to Atlantic Heights, but a piano repairman calls him back and he takes the chance to ask how much a key action repair would cost. Lothar is looking for a baby grand Yamaha, preferably in walnut to match the trim in his home. I cannot stand the suspense of being in earshot of someone else’s phone call. A few feet up the driveway, I spot the telltale sprawl of a wild strawberry plant in the overgrowth.

On Saturday, V and I poke at plants in the gardens of the Met Cloisters. We are supposed to be spending time with the art, but we have just come from the East Asian wing of the Fifth Avenue Met, where we fixated on provenance labels and wondered how many of its treasures were plundered. Somehow we cannot bring ourselves to care much about the western tradition today. I find a strawberry next to a fountain, and pluck it. There is something that feels illegal about finding a thing to eat in a museum. V grimaces as I taste it. It is hardly the size of a pea, and ripe to melting. It disappears off my palate moments after registering as transcendent. I have been drowning today. I have been slipping into waves of grief and half hearing what V says and I would feel bad if I could rip myself back into the normal stream of time for long enough to say sorry. The damn strawberry does it.

“Was it any good?” V asks. I reply honestly, “strawberries make me nauseous”.

Lothar tells me the quote from the repairman for the key action fix isn’t promising. I don’t want him to go just yet, so I tell him about the strawberry plant. He follows me over and I pick a particularly big, seedy one. He mimes picking and laughs. It delights him that I still forage for useless flora like I did as a little girl. While installing the AC unit in my room, he showed me a LinkedIn photo of a man he caught up with this morning. “Do you remember him from Persimmon Lane?”. The face doesn’t register. I wonder why all Lothar can remember from that place is my joy. Is it the same joy I have now? I don’t recognize the continuity.

On Persimmon Lane I fill a gallon plastic jug with ladybugs, hoping they will breed. One day, we get locked out and Tao, who has become born-again to get on the good side of the local Chinese Christian cadre at AT&T, tells me to pray. In front of the lobster tank at the grocery store, I hug Ms. Wiley fiercely and she has no idea why, aside from the regular fondness you have for your second grade teacher. Mom throws me down the stairs, the only stairs I’ve ever had in the only two-story we’ve ever rented, the ones I beg not to move away from even after what happens. Mom slams her sister against the front door for daring to say I’m not being raised right and the coworker she invited over for dinner nervously tries to distract me with Bionicle dinosaurs in the next room and knows that he is failing. There is so much more but my traitorous memory has long forgotten the specifics. I want witnesses, but none are perfect. I suppose if Lothar wants to remember indoor beach volleyball and paper airplane competitions, that is his prerogative.

But I can’t stand what it says. “It wasn’t all hell, was it?” There were enough pockets to hide in to survive. I grow fairly tall for a Chinese girl and do well in school. I am nearly thirty and none of my hair is grey. I jump at loud noises and shut down when my roommate lets out an exasperated sigh. I am vicious and so incredibly angry at the people who want to help. I find the strawberry patch and pick one, all the same. 

I am not deciding. I am just telling you

how hard we all try.

-Jessica Yuan

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