Jenny Lin

Read in landscape mode!

8 Wishes for Aging, or Every Now and Then

On a menthol cigarette pack back
A woman, twenty-something, looks in a mirror
Her reflection – wrinkled, gray, yellow-green
“This is the only warning that works on us Hong Kong girls,” Kit laughs
Cool smoke hits her throat, crushes our lungs

Inside a Watsons, inside a subway station, pumping techno, in Shanghai
A saleslady chases me with bottles of creams
“These ones whiten, these ones make those lines disappear”
My skin tones, earth browns from my dad, spots from LA sun
Lines from smiling, from singing to Wong Faye singing to Cranberries' Dreams
in Cantonese in a little gray car under an open sky roof

Celebrate my first period at Silicon Valley mall with Mama Jean
We grin in photo booth, curtain drawn from blue to red
Mom tells me about safe sex and Planned Parenthood and
How important is a woman’s right to choose

How could we be here now
We fume

With boyfriend in darkened room
Parents out of town
Too much tequila on teenagers' lips
Let Me Ride, Dr. Dre raps

We drive used Mazdas with daisy stickers to Planned Parenthood
Get HIV tests and pamphlets and circular pink packets with pills we pop through foil
Give rides to crying friends
Who exit, exhausted, relieved
Listen to Digable Planets and Ladybug’s questions on ways to suburban homes

After Dancer in the Dark in a theater on Thayer
Edgar Allan Poe and Sarah Helen Whitman’s love letters
After pot farmers with absinthe in Catalonia
Jasmine’s all girl punk shows in abandoned Chinese factories
Writing a vampire novel and hip-hop dancing in clubs where kids wear sunglasses, platform sneakers, and kiss in bright red gloss
After Jasmine tells me she can’t eat ice cream because her period came
Our bloody valentines

After driving from Westwood to San Bernardino to teach Chicano/a art
Back to Echo Park bungalow on adjunct salary
IOU signed by Arnold Schwarzenegger
Dusty archives and French translation exams

After brother’s gay wedding
Guy Fawkes fireworks
White House illuminated by rainbow LEDs

After our banquet with balloons, tablecloths, champagne toasts
Restaurant employees named Stone, TJ, and Benjamin
Dad hitting gong between courses
Walking aisle to Caetano Veloso and Wong Kar-wai soundtrack
Purple dress with wraparound train and psychedelic-print qipao

After keys to an office on leafy quad, library cards, lecture hall stages
Conferences that cost too much

When I want to be, when I get to be, when I choose to be
Pregnant
When I was

Grandma Nini counsels, “Make sure baby eats each breast same, so one won’t become bigger”
One always a little bigger

Grandpa Yeye says, “Better start skinny and grow plump”
Pudgy smooth face under thick gray hair
Corporate hair, we joke

Nini’s hair, like Dad’s, extra fine
Someone says hers fell out with cheap Ranch 99 dye
Later regrows, thick and white

Mine falls in clumps after baby
After breastfeeding as equally, as long as I can
Kusama landscape my head

Acupuncturist feels my veins
“Hollow,” She says, “Change your diet. Eat more read meat. Eat slower, eat warm foods. Kai shui. Food as medicine.”

Ovulation pains called Mittelschmerz
First came after a women’s circle in Piazza Maggiore under a blood red moon
I thought she put a spell on me
Shooting pains that make you crumple
Mom teaches heating pads, ginger tea, and orgasms alleviate

Acupuncture for these too, I learn
Blood was stagnant, pores were clogged
Pressure points open passages
Herbs heal
Qi goes free

Nini’s qipao dresses turn hand-me-downs
Our proportions nearly same-same
“Thank Nini for our boobs,” Cousin J says
“Xie xie, Nini!”

We drive to Nini’s memory care home
Sleepy Orange County cul-de-sac
She was hardly here anymore
We play her favorite tune:
Tianmimi by Teresa Teng
Asia’s eternal queen of pop
Taiwanese singer of sweets dies alone in Bangkok hotel suite

17 years earlier on Nini’s 80th birthday
We stay up all night playing mahjong
“Ha! What can’t you see patterns? How’d you get into Berkeley?” Nini taunts
Grandpa hates mahjong
Nini disappeared in qipaos, playing mahjong
“Peng!” She cries again and again

Sneak Nini back into condo
Sliding door left slightly ajar
Soon Grandpa will rise and sit on toilet with newspaper
Yibian shang cesuo, yibian kan baozhi
Nini laughs, deep, naughty, full of joy
“Haha da xiao!”

“Are you happy?” She always asked

Mei tells me about her grandma
She lives in Manhattan’s Chinatown
Walks 8 blocks to play mahjong everyday
At 93
She tells time and fortunes with tea leaves, gossip, and faux ivory tiles

Mei’s grandma had 9 sisters
And 1 brother – the family prize
But Mei is an only child, born into a country that also controls women’s bodies
In opposing directions

8 Wishes for Aging:

Yi – to open passages through pressure points

Er – to enjoy food, food as medicine

San – to walk 8 blocks everyday

Si – to play mahjong with friends

Wu – to reject cheap hair dyes and skin whitening creams

Liu – to tell young people about safe sex and joyful sex and Planned Parenthood and how important is a woman’s right to choose

QiQi – joyful sex!

Ba – to sneak out of the house, hip-hop dance, make out

Every now and then

About the Author

Jenny Lin is an art historian and writer currently based in Los Angeles, California. Find her on Instagram @ladylinyo.