Ma summons me to dinner, because she doesn't want to eat alone. I can relate, the pressing presence of a sweaty hot crowd in the city in which we grew up does not exactly screams love and comfort, yet there are times when we miss our open door neighborhood, of hearing each others' shouts across the courtyard during dinner hours, of nothing but the approaching footsteps announcing an impromptu visitor, daily.
We make a pretty spread onto Ma's table, grilled steak, pan fried fish, a leafy bowl of salad, bell pepper stir fry and white rice. Drink options contain soy milk, water, wine, and coffee. Ma's finally making a transition into liking western meals, while you do still see and taste marks of tradition in the round shape of rice bowls, the slim points of chopsticks, and the smell of soy perfuming the air.
A magpie visits her garden while we sit at the table, singing as we watch her through the large kitchen window. Twilight spilled from the magpie to our shoulders, silvery gray with a touch of gold, like fingers laced between morning and evening, between night and day, sunlight and darkness.
She dances from the arch of the garden gate to the tree standing to its left, or the roof tiles to its right, her tails bobbing all the time, drumming to the beat of her song. I look her up online, based on a picture and a vague notion of her name, and found the Chinese name for her species -- 喜鹊。
Or Bird of Happiness. She symbolizes good fortune, love and marriage. On July 7, legend has it that thousands of them will gather across the Milky Way to form a bridge so the two lovers separated by this impossible silver river of rage from the Queen Mother of All Stars (who turned them both into stars located on opposite sides of the Milky Way when she discovered their forbidden love) could meet on the bridge once a year.
But our girl is alone tonight. Something agitates her dance steps, her silky song notes. She hops and dashes, soars and dives, now and then, here and there, searching and resting, constant then no more. We speculate on her motive.
She is building a house, says Ma.
She is looking for a girlfriend, and it's a HE, says the boy.
She is enjoying the night.
Light recedes as we lose ourselves in this mystery, on a first evening of the summer, two years after Father's passing. Heat hasn't stolen into the night cools, and moon rose to a sliver of crescent at the edge of the sky. Ma clears the table while I wash dishes, thinking how things haven't been easy and how nice it is to sit in the evening light watching a magpie dance, together. Conversation can be difficult but the light all around us is pure and simple. The roads to mothers' rage and disappointments seem long and arduous, chasm like and defies crossing but for the God who sends his magpies for the rescue.
Outside the sky sheds its high blue sharpness of the day and turns velvety and soft. The romance between those laced fingers earlier fades with the twilight, as evening pushes forward to take over the land, the tree, the sky, the magpie and our windows. We turn on the light, though we cannot see out into the world, watching our shadows thrown against the glass, moving like puppets across a dim and empty stage.