Monday, April 23, 2012

The Way She Lived

While I was wandering around the back alleys of Beijing one summer, I received a phone call from an unknown number.

"Is this Sisi?"

"Um. Yes. Who is this?"

"My name is Liu Ye. We're cousins. I actually study in Beijing right now. You want to have lunch tomorrow?"

". . . Are you sure you have the right number?"

And that was how, within five minutes, I gained an entire branch of family members. Liu Ye's grandpa is my waipo's younger brother. Like her, he eagerly signed up for the Communist Red Army in '49, marched to the Western frontiers and conquered/ liberated the minority groups there. During the Hundred Flowers Campaign in '56, when Mao encouraged everybody to voice their true feelings about the revolution and then oppressed those who did, he was a little too honest and was forbidden to return to the Mainland. And so, he stayed, fell in love, and grew old.

The next day, Liu Ye knocked on my door. Three gentle, patient, taps. She complimented all the dishes that my waipo set on the table, even making sure to pick out the best piece of chicken and put it in my bowl. She nodded a lot, smiling behind her bowl of rice, but she came alive when she started telling me about her college journalism club. And Xinjiang. And dreams of going to BYU. And having relatives in the city. Her mouth was always curved up, poised for any reason to laugh, and when she did, she sounded like bells and Minnie Mouse.

Before the summer heat gave way to the autumn chills, my family flew over to Xinjiang and went on road trips with Liu Ye and her family. Over the desert sand and on ill-paved roads, Liu Ye and I rode in the back of the car, sharing music, secrets, and thoughts on our purpose in life.

We became family on that trip.

Liu Ye, in the pink blouse and yellow crocs.


I wish I could write more about her adventures while interning at Disneyland, Florida, this summer. Or about the trips she took to Provo to visit my family and check out the BYU campus.

Instead, I'm struggling to write about her in a way that you, or some of my siblings who haven't met her, will know her. I want you to understand her. I want you to love her. Because, in a selfish way, you can then tell me why I feel this lost the last couple of days. I alternated between being obsessive about the drunk driver who killed her and filling my mind with meaningless fashion blogs/ news/ emails/ chores so I could salvage some sort of frivolous normalcy.

Gosh. Sorry. I can't flesh her out right now. I watched a clip of our road trip, with the camera panning to Liu Ye briefly, just to hear her laugh over and over again. And still, the best thing I could come up with is bells and Minnie Mouse.

Despite my inadequate descriptions, trust me, you would have liked her.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Being a Lesbian and a Mormon

It's hard, but it's possible.

I lived in the same hall as Bridey in my freshman year. Her room was several doors down from mine. She hung back most of the time. One night, in celebration of our Christmas countdown and several girls' first kisses, my roommates and I pounded on every door in that hall, pulled out mattresses into the hallway, pulled on our jammies, cranked up the music, and just danced. We dragged Bridey out too. She just watched. Later, exhausted but excited with the 3 a.m. glow, all of us sat cross-legged on the mattresses, and talked. I tossed my head and laughed at some story my roommate told me, and happened to see Bridey out of the corner of my eye. She sat, silent, but her eyes lit up. I think that was the first time I saw her happy and content.

I didn't realize, until last night when I stumbled upon an article about a gay students panel at BYU, what Bridey was struggling with at the time.

I won't comment on what I feel about lesbianism and Mormonism because it's not my place to casually blog about an issue that is very personal to each individual. But I hope that you will take a moment to allow Bridey to share her thoughts. She has showed how she is trying her best to reconcile her faith and her personal challenges because she believes in a God that loves each and every one of His daughters equally.

Bridey has been silent, but she is silent no more.

* China's censorship firewall has been stricter the last couple of days, so if you can't see the video on top, then click here for Bridey's point of view.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Airport Scenes

I saw them while casually people watching on the second floor balcony.

He's in a pressed grey suit, a little heavy for the early spring heat, Steve Jobs glasses, and well-waxed leather shoes. She's seran wrapped in a spaghetti top and faded denims. His salt and pepper strands were combed to mean business; her dark roots were peeking through the faux blond.

They clung onto each other, leaving his overpriced carry on to stand alone in the midst of a crowded airport. She grabbed him tightly, burying her head in his neck. All of a sudden, she looked up, and watched me watching her. She stepped away, twisted her back to him, and stood apart. He gave her a respectful moment and then went to her again.

She turned around, but this time I glanced away quickly. The amount of mascara that ran down her cheeks testified to a girl waking up extra early to create the perfect look for her man.

They whispered frantically. She kept patting her stomach. He stole glances at his watch behind her back.


Simba ate his first worm and made a face as Timon and Pumba sang Hakuna Matata.

He laughed so hard that he choked on and spilled his apple juice. He scrambled around for a clean napkin, but not before pausing the inflight entertainment screen. He brushed off the cookie crumbs on his chin and scratched his balding head before pressing play again.

Beside him, his five year old son slept.


He hung behind the crowds, reading business class notes on the ipad, while keeping a careful eye on the arrival gate. He chose to wear his new tailored shirt and tan slacks that day, probably because she had mentioned that the pants look nice, and even bought an iron for the occasion. She came out later than the others, strolling by without seeing him. He hurried over to her and offered to push her lugguage trolley.

She was startled and then smiled because of him and the pants.

It's been a week and he was picking me up.