I can see an airplane from where I am. The tails of cloud widening out behind it. It looks like the flames of the birthday cake candle I saw on the TV in Miss Fu’s office and I can’t help but squint and pinch it with my outstretched fingers. Is it small or big? I have never seen one up close. They are always just dots against the wide, flat sky. And how do they stay up there? God must live in whatever country they come from.
I’ve heard of God and am sure he could make metal fly. At least that’s what Mei Mei says and she knows God. She met him in an ambulance in Beijing when she had her heart surgery. She says he visits our orphanage at night sometimes so I often stay up past lights-out to hear him. Lying on my bed with my eyes closed so Ayi won’t see, I wait. Does he sound like wind? I have heard that he speaks Mandarin and Cantonese and can sing like a bird—at least that’s what Mei Mei says.
I wonder if he knows my mother and father. I have never met them, and Ayi says she is my mother for now, but I know I have parents that love me and will come find me. I must, because Kang Ming’s parents found him. So did Chu Guan’s and Xiao Bo’s. I wonder if I ask God, if he will tell me what they look like. I think my father is tall and thin and solemn, and mother must have beautiful hair like mine. Ayi braids my hair in intricate patterns and I like to think my mom will do the same.
What if God spoke to me and I didn’t understand? Was the sound of the clouds hitting together, him? Or the rain tapping against the roof above me? There have been three rainstorms this month so I hope I haven’t missed it. I tried to listen for a pattern but there was none. I have ruled out the voice booming across the square because it belongs to Mr. Ping and he is very mean. God does not treat people like that.
Because I think God made me and my parents and Ayi. He made us to look like him. To look beautiful. Mei Mei says it says so in the Bible. That’s the book that God wrote that Mei Mei hides under her blankets from Ayi, the one that is black and ripped and smells like old sandals. I want to read it but it’s in a language I have never seen where the letters are all separate and look like little buildings. But Mei Mei tells me that God is our Father. I am not sure what she means by this, but I believe Mei Mei because I always wanted a sister and it makes me happy to know that someone will protect me when the older boys fight and throw rocks and curse at each other. I wish I could meet God though. I wish that if I waved my arm big enough the airplane would see me and come down and take me to meet God. Or at least maybe they could bring me a Bible that is written in Mandarin so I could read it and see if Mei Mei is telling the truth because sometimes she lies about knowing famous people. But the plane is so small now and I can hear the Ayi yelling for mealtime. Her voice is echoing against the yard wall so it sounds like two voices. For a second I thought I heard a pattern, I thought I heard God but Ayi is shouting and I can’t hear past her telling me to stop walking with my eyes closed and come eat. It is mealtime now, but someday I will meet God and my parents. I know that they are there and I will not stop listening.
My name is Ben. I am a photographer/writer from Phoenixville, PA. My wife, Abbey, and I have been involved with Kelly, Mark and the Sparrow Fund for 3 years and count them among our closest friends. I write to unearth myself, my past, the collective history of my family, from the compression of memory over time. I write for the moment when a bit of dispatched truth pushes out from the din of the everyday and whispers: I made you. Remember me.