"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.