In China, you only give these at funerals, she had said, laughing. They are never for the living. Back home in the states, there were no such sayings. There was no such tradition in Texas. He carefully opened the pack of cigarettes and lit a few while puffing them with his own lips, then placed them along with the rest of the pack on the mantelpiece. I’ve brought you your favorite Hongtashan cigarettes, Ba, he said. We are getting married today, so fangxin—“don’t worry”—I will take good care of your daughter. Thank you for raising such a lovely woman. The young woman sniffed and looked up at the sky before wiping her eyes. Please fangxin, Baba, we are all getting along fine. Everyone at home is very well. We will come back home often to see you. The young man stood up and put his arm around his bride’s waist. He looked down on the small, circular picture embossed on the vertical tablet. Looking back at him was a slightly older man with large oval eyes and a beaming smile. He looked so full of energy in the picture. Had he been standing there with them, he could’ve been mistaken for the young man’s brother. She laid her head on his shoulder and wiped her eyes again. Do you think he can hear us? She asked. Such a thing was tradition also, but everywhere—something in common with even Texas. Speaking to the dead, belief in the soul, the spirit, the next plane of existence. And prayer, prayer as well. Perhaps death was not the end. Yes, he said.
Published on Dec 18, 2013