The Leavers by Lisa Ko

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Author:Lisa Ko
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Published: 2017-04-09T16:00:00+00:00


Ten

Central Park was covered in a thick matting of leaves, and the smoky smell of October made me think of running through the temple courtyard with Fang and Liling. You were running around the village like that now. I flipped through an English-language newspaper a woman in an orange apron had given me in the subway. Couldn’t read the articles, but I could make up stories. I didn’t often feel self-conscious about being out by myself, but today I wanted you to be there with me, needed someone to play witness to my life.

Five years had passed since I sent you to Yi Ba and the pain of missing you had faded, become amorphous; it was like missing a person I no longer knew. After you left, Didi returned to her bed, and when another roommate moved out I was promoted to my own, the sleeping bag on the floor going to the next new woman that arrived. Now I had a top bunk. Most of the women I’d lived with when I first came had left for other apartments, even other cities. Didi spent a couple nights a week at her boyfriend Quan’s apartment, but she and I remained on Rutgers Street, instructed the new arrivals on how to buy subway cards, where to get the best produce, which stores were rip-offs. I recognized the fear in these newcomers’ faces, watched them absorb my recommendations with grave intention. They said I was brave; they were awestruck when I told them how long I’d been in the city. “You’ll get used to it,” I said. “It gets easier.”

A few roommates had saved enough to buy into marriages of convenience. Didi and I went to City Hall for our friend Cindy’s wedding to a gray-haired white man. “I can introduce you to the woman I worked with,” Cindy said. “Professional Chinese lady.”

“I don’t want to sleep with a hairy American,” I said, then wanted to take it back, because that’s what Cindy had to do.

“You can get a Chinese man who has citizenship. And you don’t have to stay married,” Cindy said, “only long enough for it to work. You don’t even have to sleep with him if you don’t want to. It’s stupid to marry a guy without papers. It’s a wasted opportunity. The way you’re going, it’s going to take a long, long time to get your green card.”

“If ever,” Didi added.

Since you’d left, I’d been working twelve-hour shifts. Sewed more hems than anyone else. On the wall next to my bunk, I taped a piece of paper with two columns, one with the amount I owed, the other with what I’d paid off, the numbers so small I could only see them when I was lying down, and slowly, the number in the first column decreased and the number in the second column increased. But with the months I hadn’t worked after you were born and the money I sent to Yi Ba, it was taking longer than I expected.



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