Friday, October 09, 2009

The Bonesetter's Daughter

From Singles 2009

"...Speaking of it, there was an older girl at this party puking her guts out in the bathroom. A tenth-grader. She thought she was preggers from this boy who's in juvenile hall."

"Does she love him?"

"She called him a creep."

"Then she doesn't have to worry," Ruth said knowingly.

"What are you talking about?"

"It's the chemistry that gets you pregnant. Love is one of the ingredients," Ruth declared as scientifically as possible.

Wend stopped walking. Her mouth hung open. Then she whispered: "Don't you know anything?" And she explained what Ruth's mother, the lady in the movie, and the teacher had not talked about: that the ingredient came from the boy's penis. And, to ensure everything was perfectly clear to Ruth, Wendy spelled it out: "The boy pees inside the girl."

"That's not true!" Ruth hated Wendy for telling her this, for laughing hysterically. She was relieved when they reached the block where she and Wendy went in opposite directions.

The last two blocks home, the truth of Wendy's words bounced in Ruth's head like pinballs. It made terrible sense, the part about the pee. That was why boys and girls had separate bathrooms. That's why boys were supposed to lift the seat but they didn't just to be bad. And that was why her mother told her never to sit on the toilet seat in someone else's bathroom. What her mother had said about germs was really a warning about sperms. Why couldn't her mother learn to speak English right?

And then panic grabbed her. For now she remembered that three nights before she had sat on pee from the man she loved.

This was a re-read though I listened to an audio book this time. Amy Tan tells wonderful mother-daughter stories and this one features two - Grandmother, mother, daughter - though they are never together for Ruth's grandmother, Precious Auntie, died when LuLing was a young adolescent. Despite my choice of quotation (I laughed out loud), both Lu Ling and Precious Auntie have more interesting stories of far greater horrors. "The Bonesetter's Daughter" reminds us that when we learn the truth of another, we move quickly to forgiveness. When we put aside the pain, we are left with love.

They write stories of what things are but should not have been. They write about what could have been, what might still be. They write of a past that can be changed. After all, Bao Bomu says, what is the past but what we choose to remember?

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