…………………….. ….. Xuzhou, Jiangsu, China
New trousers. I wear them when I walk to
the noodle diner. Old wine in new skins
but they don’t rip until I sit down. Right
up the seam that divides the lobes of my
buttocks. I have them mended–for free, from
Mrs. Wang, the tailor. Her English is poor.
So is my Mandarin, so we understand
each other, through the few words we know and
some we don’t but learn as we go and those
universal hand-gestures. I bow for
her, but with my butt (my second face) toward
her. She laughs. And then she says, You have torn
your trousers. Laughs again. I laugh. Yes, yes,
I say. They’re broken. Please repair them–words
that are actually appropriate
to mechanical things gone awry, not
to tears in fabric. She’ll get the message,
however–she already has. Leave them,
she says. First go home. Take off. Don’t forget
to put on new one before you return.
Bring them back. I will fix. Fix free. No bill.
Son, always look the other fellow in
the eye. Women, too. Shake his hand. Firmly.
Offer yours. Not a lady. If she hands
you her hand, take it. Gently. Let her shake
if she wants to. Then follow along. I
get lost on the way home, overheated
by the time I’m there. He learned to drink beer
hot in India. Napped in the ammo
dump because it was air-conditioned.
I look quickly in the mirror and see
us together. Mother, too. His eyes, jowls,
her nose, lips. They gave me to me and
soon I’m handing Mrs. Wang my ripped trousers.
You are very little for a man, she says.
Yes, I say. I liked childhood so much I
never grew out of it. You’re special, she
says. Women won’t love you but tailors will.
You can know all that from a rip, I ask.
No, she says. Your father and mother speak
to me from your face. They say when you look
in the mirror you have briefly come home.
They say, Be careful of our little boy
–don’t cheat him, they beg. She laughs. But I did.
Gale Acuff‘s works have been published in Ascent, Ohio Journal, Desca nt, Poem, Adirondack Review, Coe Review, Worcester Review, Mary land Poetry Review, Arkansas Review, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, South Dakota Review, Sequential Art Narrative in Education, and many other journals. He is the author of Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2008).