When I was much younger, your big, strong arms would lift me high into the air, and you would smile whenever I laughed and begged for more.
"That's my little star," you'd say, beaming with pride, "reaching up for the heavens that dropped you from the sky."
You taught me all about that world, up there; as a little girl, you told me all sorts of stories about the kingdom of heaven.
You told me that mother was, in fact; an angel, and whenever you did, she'd always blush and smile and fuss over you, over me; and I, starstruck, believed every word.
It's not your fault, daddy.
After my first performance on trapeze, you told everyone, beaming with pride, that the star you'd plucked from the sky would someday work her way back to the heavens.
I think you chose the wrong fairy-tale.
When I was younger, and first with Ban, I thought often of what you always said about Mother -- the angel on earth with you, and I always thought that I could, somehow, be the same.
I don't think in fairytales anymore, daddy -- I close my eyes, and think instead of the faces of my own perfect family: of my beautiful daughter, the star I plucked from the sky; of the man I'm going to marry -- who is just a man, much like I am just a woman.
I look in the mirror at night and know that, just as you did, that someday I will die.
And since I'm not, as you often said, an immortal star in the heavens (though it wouldn't matter, if I was), I can only hope, can only pray, to be with him.
It's a little late to be asking for permission now, father' and though you might think me a whore,
I have a circus I've built with my own hands and watered with my tears,
a love that has survived the worst of betrayals and the hardest of heartbreaks,
and a daughter more beautiful than anything I've ever seen.
Still, I feel as though I fail you.
Please. I hope you can find it in you to be proud of me, all the same.
I love you, daddy. But I'm letting this ghost go.
- Qiang Xin-Yan.
"Do you have any pickles, uncle?" Asked a girl, sliding into a doctor's car, one fine morning, lithe and limber and happy -- beaming from ear to ear with a smile that everyone knew the ringleader had put there.
"Pickles?" Replied the doctor, with wrinkles creasing the lines of his eyes as he stood, checking his balance with the cane he always carried for one reason or another. "I never knew you to really eat pickles, Xin-Yan."
"I just thought I wanted some...but it's alright, if you don't. I can probably get some in the dining car."
"Or ice cream." Laughed the good doctor, smiling at the daughter of his brother, a child whom he felt had been left to his care, regardless of how determined she was to strike out her successes and failures on her own. "You know," he said gently, looking up, and down, at the frame nobody had quite figured out how she kept. "I'm still not sure where you put it."
"In my bones," Ciro said solemnly, "where they're hollow."
"That can't be true, Xin-Yan. How else could you fly?"
"Well then," said the daughter, exploring the doctor's fridge, "I guess it must be a mystery."
She didn't find pickles, but decided that black olives would make a suitable replacement, popping one into her mouth.
"Yes," the doctor said, quietly, watching the young woman who looked so much like his sister-in-law, in one moment, and then just as his brother, the next. "...it must be."
Of all things, I know that you, a woman who loved husband more than daughter and son, could understand a woman who choses a lover over saving face.
Don't worry, I understand that choice you made, now.
In all of Father's stories, you were an angel he'd serenaded from heaven; without him to hold you to earth, there was nothing to make you stay.
In this, I know that I have become just like you, no matter how hard I tried. We are both made of nothing but the air.
At night, I look in the mirror, and see a hundred ways in which I'm not as pretty as I used to be, and a thousand more in which I'll never be as beautiful as you.
You'd be pleased to know, I think, that my Jian-yi is fairer than us both.
I love you, Mother, but I'm letting this ghost go.
- Qiang Xin-Yan.
"Ciro," he asked at one point, "We can send for him. Do you want me to send for him?"
"No," she said, because she didn't want him to see her like this.
My dear little brother, the only spark of fire to perhaps ever grace our family's name, I beg of you, who were so quick to anger, to defend, to strike-out; please, stay your hand.
Of all the ancestors I'm sure I anger, you must be the strongest to haunt me, but understand, little brother, I would endure a thousand lifetimes of evil to set to rights just this one.
Please, forgive me. I'm sorry.
When we were younger, when we'd argue, you'd smile, and brush my cheek, and tell me that all you wanted was my happiness -- but I gave that happiness away to another, on the day I handed him my heart.
I beg of you, angry ghost.
Show me mercy.
I love you, my dearest, but I'm letting this ghost go.
- Qiang Xin-Yan.
"I still don't know where you put it," said the doctor, when he was an old, old man.
"Well then," said the ringleader, exploring her uncle's fridge, "I guess it must be a mystery."
There were no black olives, but she found pickles, a suitable replacement, and popped one into her mouth.
"I'm calling a specialist, from Macau."
"You'll tell him, this time?"
"....Of course I'll tell him."
"You'll tell him everything?"
"Yes, uncle," whispered the bird, who knew, by now, exactly where all that food was going. "I'll tell him everything."