Reflections Under a Silver Moon

The full moon shimmers, a reflection upon still waters.

As I sit on the pier, picking the pine seeds out of my red bean mooncake, I swing my legs idly and my feet enter the cool ocean. The sea is comforting, but it is no substitute for you, although I never expected it to be. That is too much to ask of anything, especially on this night.

I slip the small ivory seeds in my mouth one by one and chew, savoring the delicate, lingering taste. You were right when you said the seeds from the pine trees by my home would taste the best. I mean this literally in a way you didn't, because I know you were thinking about my lips when you said it. I could see it; your eyes were drawn to them as inevitably as I was drawn to you. I don't blame you—I would have done the same, if I hadn't had other things to worry about. I suppose that was better, though, because if my attention hadn't been elsewhere, I think you would have tried to find out how I really taste, and that might've led to other things that we couldn't afford to risk then.

The autumn sky is a glassy black, and nearly starless. I wonder if it is any darker than the night they came, red and inexorable. Maybe my memories are colored by sadness. Most of the time they don't come, but it's been a year since they took you, and my memories are particularly close to the surface. Tonight I let them come, because my heart needs to remember you, even if I have to remember sorrow again. The wetness that sometimes overflows is not a large price to pay.

You are alive, thank goodness. They did not take that from you, and I am grateful. I had to bargain with a passing official for news of you, and he took more than I wanted—though fortunately, I was too strong for much more than a few kisses. He had to satisfy himself with other women less stubborn than I.

Tonight is the Mooncake Festival. Do you remember how you used to call me your little Mooncake, back when you were still only the son of the village schoolteacher? You said I was small enough to eat, and I ran to your father, wailing. You had to make amends with a real mooncake that you had made the day before. It was my first, and still the most delicious I have ever had. And the day after, you showed me how to make them in your father's small, cramped oven, how to select the most perfectly shaped pine seeds and grind the ripest red beans into paste, and how to blend them underneath the golden-brown dough that we later molded into the characters for luck and happiness.

The red beans I used this morning are my favorite: not too rich, and not too sweet. They are the true color of red, not the blood-red scarlet of the officer that came to arrest any intellectuals. They said you parasites were being taken to work in a farm, far away, to earn your bread the honest way. I went to your house to warn you, but your father said that you were in the field. He stayed to face the Communist soldiers, saying he was too old to run, but to push you to escape without him. Your father taught me his last lesson in this—a brave death is an honorable one.

You were an honorable son, though, and I could not persuade you to leave. We only had a few precious moments, and you held me close to you and told me you loved me. And I said I would wait for you to come back, and then I brought my lips to yours. You was surprised, but not unpleasantly, I think.

And then you left me, to struggle against the madness that had engulfed our lives. You could not do any less, and so I understand—your life was no longer your own to do what you wished with it.

A clear moon rises unburdened over darkened seas. The blackness of the sky allows its beauty to stand out, and the moon glows in the night, almost as a beacon to light the way home. If you are out there somewhere, I hope you are coming home, and I hope the moon guides you to me. I hope you see it, and think of me.

Tonight, we are distanced as lovers were never meant to be. You and I are far apart. But although we are separated by distance, space, and time, we are under the same midnight sky, looking at the same silver moon, and we are together.

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9.23.04.