I HAVE COME HOME
By Antonio Wong
“It is time to wake up. Today is the biggest day and you do not want to miss it,” my grandfather said. As I slowly move away from my bed, I see the sun peering across my room and casting its long yellow bright light in the red concrete wall. To me, the overlapping colors looks like a bright orange dinner plate, yet with ominous cracks. Why today? Why does of all day has to come? I can hear my grandparents scurrying around the house and covering the hallways with the smell of incense, yet I stood frozen in my room, hoping that today can pass by quickly.
“What are you standing around there for?” my grandfather asked, “We need to make for time and get there early.”
He was fully dressed in his white button-down shirt and gray pant as he usually does. He used to be an energetic kind fellow and had bright joyful brown eyes, before old age had caught up to him. Now all I saw were wrinkly lines running through his forehead and white spots of hair appearing on both side of his head and those two dull black beady eyes filled with disdain.
I look around my room one more time, trying to capture multiple pictures of my room before I leave. In one corner, the large wooden closet stood still on its four hind legs and always served as my safe spot when playing hide-and-seek. Inside were scribbles of drawing whenever I waited out for my captors. On another corner sat the basket of robotic warriors and Power Ranger figurines which I hope that someday would save me from my “monsters.” However, this was a dilemma which neither safe zone nor imaginary superheroes can help me escape from. As soon as I got to the front door, a dark blue luggage bag stood there with its long plastic arm sticking up and waiting to whisk me away to unknown places. I said begrudgingly to myself, “You can do this. Today is the day that you will be leaving China for America.”
I had always thought that I would stay in Guangzhou, China for the rest of my life. My grandparents and I lived in a five-story gray apartment in the middle of the ever-growing city. At the time, I was seven years old, and have finished preschool and preparing to enter 1st grade in the coming month. During school break, I would always go to my uncle’s girlfriend’s house and play Super Nintendo with her brother. Every Chinese New Year, I would get dozens of red envelopes, almost the size of my palm, with 10s, 20s, and occasionally 100s yuan, waiting to be uncovered. I though this perpetual cycle would never break until the day of the departure.
As my luggage was loaded into the car, I see students, clad in their colored school pants and jackets with a red scarf wrapped around their neck, cheerfully walking away from school with others and discussing their greatest moment of their day. Out of that stampeding crowd, I spot a familiar face; my best friend and classmate, H, who I was supposed to begin the new school year with. I tried to catch up to him, yet my grandfather tightly held on to me. My mind started flooding with emotions and thought, like the turbulent flow of traffic running through the streets with horns blaring and drivers shouting to others to get out of their way.
As I took in more of the scenery around me, I felt the urge to rush back into the house and locked myself in my closet, waiting for my superheroes to protect me from my pending doom. “Time to get into the car,” my grandfather exclaimed. His gentle, yet hoarse voice snapped me back from my illusionary moment of escape, cutting off any sliver of hopes of staying.
As I sat in the car, past conversations with H reiterated in my head. I could still hear it as if it was just yesterday.
He asked, “Why are you going to America?”
“I am going to America because I am going to live with my parents.”
“Aren’t they (my grandparents) your parents? Why are they not here in Guangzhou?”
His last two questions have baffled me which I had never thought about. I had neither met my parents, nor even remember any feature of them. I had never heard from my grandfather speak about my parents in America, nor did any of my relatives had spoken about them once. Were they ashamed of them? Did my parents do something wrong? Why did they leave me with my grandparent? There were so many question that came to mind on that day.
I asked my grandfather, “How does my parents look like?”
He paused for a moment before responding, “I do not know. You will have to see them for yourself when you get there.”
“Why did my parents went to America without me?
“I said I do not know. Can you please not ask too many questions? I am driving.” He said with a hint of anger in his breath.
Even when I stopped asking him question about my parents, I can see him holding tightly onto the steering wheel and felt that the car was accelerated even more. Even so, his actions were foreign to me as I have never seen him like this before.
During a time when I was practicing my Chinese calligraphy, I would always lose my patience. My lines were not straight, some looks crooked or jagged. Instead of putting effort, I turned to television. My grandfather saw this and took the remote from my hand.
“Why are you not finishing up your calligraphy?”
“It is too hard. My hands would always shake and when I stopped my shaking hand with the other, both of my hands suddenly draw the line away from the character.”
“You need to keep practicing. No television until you were done. How about I hold on to your hand while you were writing?”
He stood behind me with his right hand holding on to my right. I grabbed on to the brush and he started leading my hand with his own. As we wrote the characters five times, suddenly my grandpa told me to not stop writing and released his hand from mine. I began to write the characters five more time without him, each time the characters become more smoothly straightened than before. My grandfather may be a stern man, but he would never tell me to stop doing the right things.
As we moved further away from my former home in the city, the car began to shake back and forth. Outside, the road had become a wide lane of rocky terrain. On both side of the road, rice and green vegetation pads would stretch as far as there is no end. The buildings would be as low as one or two-story high. Most of the people who would wander the field would be elderlies and children, while the adults were nowhere to be seen. It is as if almost adults were taken somewhere far away and the elderlies and children had to fend for themselves to keep their living.
Once we got to the airport, I thought that this was the place where the adults went away and leave their family and children behind. We waited by the entrance, thinking that my grandfather had changed his mind and decided to take me home. However, a young woman, who might be in her late 20’s, came up to my grandfather. They talked for a moment and it seemed as if my grandfather handed the woman a thick white envelope.
My grandfather ushered me to him, “Make sure you follow this woman no matter what. Do not take your eyes off her for one second.”
When I saw the departure gate, it looked like an arched upper half of the mouth, waiting for me to be swallow inside. As I get closer to the gates, my feet had gotten weaker and my lower abdomen began hurting as if dozens of needles had stabbed me from the inside. I began to tuck away from my grandfather’s hand, getting as far away from the gate, but my grandfather would not let go. I gave one final forceful pull and ran toward the entrance. As my grandfather caught up to me, he gave me a scornful look, his eyebrow pointing down towards the ground.
He harshly asked, “What are you doing? The airplane is going to leave soon.”
Words were barely coming out of my mouth as tears continuously flowing out of my eyes and flooding into my mouth. I wanted to say something but it was just too difficult.
With my head facing towards the ground, I asked, “Will I ever come back home?”
My grandfather responded, “You are going home. Your parents are your home. However, you will not be coming back to Guangzhou for a long time. You need to finish your study in America and once you are older, you can come visit at any time.”
His reassurances did little to comfort my confusions and fears. As I stood there for what seemed hours, I had regained my composure and began to follow the woman through the gates, I took one last look at my grandfather before he disappears behind the wall. As the airplane took off, I look out the window to see the large green pastures stretching out toward the mountain and random tiny gray spots, which looked like stacks of hardened clay.
As the airplane began to descend into the Guangzhou Airport, I peered out the window and saw that the tiny gray spots have grown to overtake the green pasture field by nearly a half. The former dull grey buildings have been replaced by glass high-rises and taller conjoining apartments. The airports had turned from a rectangular shaped into a glass dome that has arms wrapping around the newly developed asphalt roads and highway. It has been eighteen years since the day I had departed from Guangzhou. Many progress has been made to turn Guangzhou from a small town into a metropolitan city. Most of the green vegetation fields has been turned into public parks, and roadways.
My mind began to flutter back and forth, thinking of ways to say to my grandfather as I get closer to seeing him. As I walked out of the arrival gate, my uncle and his girlfriend-turned-wife waved to me to go toward the very end of the line.
I asked them, “Hi Uncle and Auntie, it has been so long. How have you been? And where is grandpa? I though he is coming to meet me at the gate.
My uncle responded, “He is not feeling very well these past few days. His leg was getting weak and he cannot stand or walk for long distance, but you will definitely see him in the new house.”
I did not know if this might his excuse as a repercussion of my parent’s relationship with my grandfather or symptoms of old age. Even till today, the enmity between my grandfather and my father were still there, but they had started talking with each other for a while and try to not to bring up the past for the sake of mending their relationship.
As my uncle and aunt-in-law drove me around Guangzhou, I can still see my former apartment and school. They have become quite dilapidated and inhabitable. Windows were either cracked or shattered. The buildings were closed off due to runoff and invasive plant growth. Not only that, as I get closer, the smell of feces and wastes becomes pungent and repulsive. As soon as the car pulls into a gated region where it enclosed several eight-story bright yellow apartments and grass-enclosed square, the sun’s ray can be seen reflecting off the side of the building like it is welcoming any visitor, both foreign and domestic.
While I take the elevator toward the top floor, I am overwhelmed by a surge of uneasiness, waiting to see him. My uncle assures me to not be nervous, yet I am sweating profusely in the cold air. The elevator finally made it to our stop. I was the first to step out and waited for my uncle to lead the way. As he knocked on the door, I can hear faint sounds of grunts and cheers, each fighting for dominance. As the door opened, my grandmother was the first who rushed quickly to greet me and check out my well-being before anyone else can get their turn. As I hastily evade my grandmother’s sticky hands, I see my grandfather standing under the bright blue light. For that moment, my grandfather seemed to remain the same as when we parted ways. I cannot seem to remember what to say, but the first phrase that I said to him on that day was “I have come home.”
About the Author:
Antonio Wong graduated from SUNY Stony Brook University with a B.E. in Biomedical Engineering. As unusual as it is, he considers himself as an outlier in the writing community. He currently resides in New York and studying in medical school. When he is not studying, he likes to volunteer in hospital and participates in outreach programs. He hopes to soon write literary piece pertaining to his interpersonal experience in the medical field.