I've been traveling to Chi-du a lot lately. Still, there are still tons of places and people I want to visit here. It's not only about Granny but also about my childhood. Today is the first day of winter break. I've made up my mind to go with the flow and experience my hometown to the fullest.
Like my previous solo visit, it's drizzling and gray today. I borrow a chair from the convenience store in the train station and sit in front of the exit sketching the four-story apartments for two and half hours.
As I age, I've accumulated more traveling experiences. Thus, when I am sketching place A, the memory of place B often flashes through my mind, or the moment just reminds me of a trip to place C. I can't think of a more blissful thing than going back to where I grew up and seeing it as if I'd never been there. Meanwhile, it makes me recall the foreign countries I once stayed in. I spend time drawing quietly and feeling what the locals are like, which is something I couldn't imagine I would do when I was little.
Then I stroll in Granny's favorite market, which many relatives mentioned when we talked about her. Granny taught Tiger, my cousin, how to choose oranges and white gourds. Meili always accompanied Granny on her visits to the market. Because a lot of vendors knew Granny, Meili couldn't bear going there after Granny passed away. I don't have any of these memories, so I can only rely on my imagination, wondering who might be Granny's friends.
I go back to the main street for a bowl of bean curd. I then strike a conversation with the lady. Back in December, Mom said I could buy some for Granny because she liked it when Mom fed her the dessert on the day before I went back. However, it was closed on the day I returned to Chi-du. Dad and I felt so lost. So I ask her if the shop is closed on Sunday. She says that day was one of the few exceptions. I didn't mention Granny's death to many people, but strangely, I tell the lady about Granny. She feels very sorry about closing the shop that day. It occurs to me that everything that happened in Chi-du can have something to do with Granny.
The lady asks me if I still have any relatives in Chi-du. Instinctively I say no, but it is right after I say it that I realize I do. The takeout bean curd is for my eldest aunt.
I pass by the empty apartment of Granny, and I do not go in.
Instead, I go straight to my auntie's place. She is a child within, and I am always at ease in children's presence. I ask her if she misses Granny. She answers, "I do. I cried hard last Saturday in the funeral." We speak of the beautiful day. She can't help making the remark, "It was really Granny's day, wasn't it." We burned an extremely luxurious paper house for Granny along with all sorts of electric appliances. "Granny must be having a wonderful time now without any physical pain. Best of all, she can play card games to her heart's content." "With whom?" Auntie asks. "With her friends." I answer. "How can she meet her friends up there?" "As long as she wants to, she will."
After saying goodbye to Auntie, I move on to the small patch of land where Granny used to grow veggies. I run into my fourth uncle, who's busy painting his car in the garage. He points out the specific patch for me. It's amazing that Granny could still do farm work in her eighties together with Meili. I don't share any memory of that with her either. All I can do is sketch in the rain. A neighbor who's tending his crops walks by. I tell him about Granny, whom he used to know too. "I haven't seen her in the past few years." "Because her health deteriorated." I can find Granny everywhere I visit today, which has a great healing effect on me.
After I leave the world, will there be anyone who's interested in my life map?