Seven Stories of my Life
Mountains and Sparrows
It used to be that the sparrows would wake up at dawn and soar around the slumbering mountains. In the winter, the trees on the slopes grew blue with bitterness. The sun peeked over the horizon to cast a rosy tint over the frost. Down in the valley, I plunged my hands into the snow to make an ice castle. The sparrows cried out before my mother called me home. Their shrieks echoed through the wandering clouds.
"No garage, no car access, in the middle of nowhere—honestly, how many mistakes can you make? The cost of demolishing may be even greater than the property value," she said. The sound of her leather shoes tapping against the rock burned through my skull. What I was afraid of: what my life would be like without listening to the sparrows every day, without the mountains outside our house, without the castles and clouds.
I was almost an adult a few years after we moved into the city. On days when I dreamt about the sparrows even while I was awake, I sat in the shadow of the alleyway behind the brick-walled apartments. Piece-by-piece, I ripped apart the rain-soaked newspaper in my hand. I stuffed the bits in my ears, slipped them in my mouth, and covered my face with the front page. The world was normal as long as I couldn't hear anything.
The first breath of independence, bartending to broken radio songs, a mind brimming with static, an attempt to speak with a window, slush filled with dissolving gravel, an argument over the existence of heaven, fleeting aspirations, the need to fly, a final wish for silence.
The first wrinkle on my forehead came when I was out of breath from my first decade of adulthood and decided to settle in my apartment. There, water drizzled through the cracks in the walls. My husband, unlike the first one, approved of the flowers that I had set up around the space to catch the moisture. As I observed the poppy in the corner, I wondered if there was a possibility that fractures would become so large that the rain could drown us. For some reason, even though we lived on the bottom floor, our carpet was the driest. I could only guess that the raindrops were afraid of the dark too, and by the time they had trickled to the ground, they froze. I sometimes woke up in the middle of night, trying to remember a dream that I never had.
Every now and then, on my way to work, I spotted a woman standing on the bridge and looking up at the sky. She told me several stories about her life, none of which were true. In the few minutes after she finished her tale about being a fighter jet pilot, I patted her shoulder in understanding. At some point, all people were moved to remember their lives differently. Somewhere along our timelines, we realized that we could do more by looking back than pushing forward.
As I lay on my bed, holding my now-grown son's hand, I told him three things: One, always listen to the call of the sparrows. Two, dream while he still had the chance to. Three, we were born with holes in our hearts, and we spent our whole lives trying to fill them. All of these, I believed, he could hear above the creaking of my bones, above the whirl of the unrelenting wind.
Jieyan Wang is a fiction writer from northern Idaho. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Bitter Oleander, The Blue Nib, Brilliant Flash Fiction and elsewhere. She is also a reader for Polyphony Literature.