Throwing the I Ching with my Father
Already the afternoon is fading, last night of my visit. I bring the tea into the dining room. My father lights the red candles. All week I've overheard my parents in quiet conversation about retirement, where they'll move, what they'll do. Now my father sits across from me, the room all windows, everything dangling from a precipice. It's Sunday. It's March. In two months, I'll leave school forever with no plan. My father throws the coins first. Outside, my mother is walking under grey sky around this lake I grew up on. I watch my father draw his hexagram in thick lines from the bottom-up like a house, and I think of his father, 1930s champion cyclist, various early jobs—horse cart milkman, revolving door repairman—just a kid then, and after the war a housepainter the rest of his life. At my age he was still racing. I picture the bicycles moving so fast around the wooden track the wheels blur into nothing, as if the men are flying. When my parents' lives were as open-ended as mine, fresh art degrees and no place to go, it didn't occur to them that they'd sign on for thirty years teaching public school. They were poor then and held it for a while, my father painting houses with his father, my mother working at B Dalton for two dollars an hour. It's my turn and I have no questions for the I Ching, like my father I ask nothing, reach towards what's small inside me as I hold the three coins, shake them, let them clink against the table. I do this six times, the world slowing like a carousel, my father drawing the lines as they appear: broken, changing. If my father stopped taking photographs, would I know him? I don't understand what gives us meaning—is it this? The two of us unfolding ourselves right here at the dining room table, time vast and pliable for a moment. I get hexagram fifty-nine, dispersion, wind over water, and I look out at the lake, nearly dark, but could I write this water the way my mother paints, finding the light? I mark an X in my mind where she must be now, and what if we disperse, yes, but along a circle, all our separate lines, old yang, young yin, pieces of some larger turning: color wheels, electric circuits, zodiacs, my grandfather's bicycle going around and around.
(she/her) has writing published or forthcoming in Catapult, X-R-A-Y, Longleaf Review, Jellyfish Review, Milk Candy Review
and elsewhere. She earned her MFA from the University of Virginia and lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In addition to her website (linked), you can follow her on Twitter @quinnforlini