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2 minute read.
An angel, Grandmother would say, saved her life during a four-story suicide jump the year China went Red. Me on her lap, she told how she toed the ledge, stared out at the network of alleyways smothered in smoke and screams and men tearing through men and manmade. How she leaned forward and the landscape fell up, toward and past her. How Kuan Shih Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, appeared and placed a palm beneath her. Whispered, “The Earth shall keep spinning. Spin with it,” and eased her to the ground. “I broke a leg and both arms,” she said, raising two gnarled fingers, “but it was magical.”
I’d cry when she told me about Grandfather, whom she hadn’t seen since the day he was taken away. He’d been a politician in the Nationalist Government, and so imprisoned for life. “They took my possessions,” she said, “then my husband. Forced me to bow and confess against him to avoid his immediate execution.” She’d stare ahead. “Last time I heard his voice, he was screaming mine and your mother’s names as they drug him away.” She’d blink several times and I could see the image dissipating, melting into the now. “We were helpless in a country that needed help,” she said. “Unable to save those who needed saving.”
Years later, we returned to the location of her old house, but it was gone, replaced by an office building. Grandmother only smiled and said, “Prettier than it used to be.”
She died shortly after. As she was lowered into the ground, I asked Mother if she believed a Deva really saved her.
“I don’t not believe it,” Mother said.
I was married later that year, and each time I looked at my husband, I’d think of Grandmother’s story. How hard it must’ve been to have everything one second and be bowing as it is dragged away the next. How easy it’d be to jump. How hard to climb down.
So I mentally recorded my husband’s voice, his smells. Behind my eyes, I imprinted his shape and face. Then, on June 4th, 1989, he was killed in Tiananmen Square, when a tank rolled between us and has never moved since.
A week later, I stood on my own four-story ledge with a bottle of prescription pills. Toed the edge and looked out at my mental vision of the world, a network of alleyways that all led to the same dead end. At everyone helpless in a country that needed help. I missed my husband. Wanted to see Grandmother arm-in-arm with Grandfather, the memories of forced bows and screams erased forever. So I jumped by swallowing every pill. Felt the landscape fall up, toward and past me, until my angel, my Goddess of Mercy, my grandmother appeared, and placed a withered palm beneath me. Whispered: “The world shall keep spinning. Spin with it,” and eased me to the ground, where I vomited and it was magical.