In 1996, I wiggled out of your hands in heavy traffic. You hadn’t forgotten me then, though you will soon.
I said something I shouldn’t have in front of dinner guests once. Blood pooled into your cheeks and I hid in the garden with the cactuses when you rose from your seat.
I emerged an hour later with needles stuck in my arms, a four-year-old porcupine your anger couldn’t touch.
It turned out you didn’t like porcupines.
I wonder why no one ever framed the paintings in your room.
You were the youngest of many daughters. After he learned of your gender, your father abandoned you on the operating table. You will never see him again.
“It was common at the time,” someone tells me.
Your father was a commoner. I wish you didn’t take it personally.
The last time I saw you was on a train to Beijing. I sat in my mother’s lap and waved when the steam started to roll.
“Goodbye,” I said.
“Goodbye,” my mother said.
“Goodbye,” my grandfather said.
You didn’t say anything. I could see every wrinkle on your oval face pulled forward in tiny mounds, as though you were shooting lasers into my skull, or trying not to cry.
It was my first time seeing a dead person up close. Your face was cold and hard, but your hair was soft.
“Resilience above all else.”
My mother shivers in your bed, and I wonder if you did, too.
“Make sure you Photoshop out the stars on her shoulders,” my uncle says.
We’re sitting in the living room and going through the photos to be projected at your funeral. The one we’re looking at shows you in a military uniform, all grim-like.
“Are they not pretty enough?” I joke.
My uncle chuckles, and waves away my question with his jewelled hand.
We only remember what we want to remember.
I wonder when you became a porcupine.