I have memorized the words in your last letter. Chinese men do not say these things to women. I humble myself to say to you that I care not that my culture would frown on my baring of my being and to a woman! You are more than woman to me, Emma. You are - I lack the right word - you are Emma! And you are friend and sweet like honey in my evening tea. You are quiet and silent peace and you listen with your soul as it sits close to mine. You bring out the very best of what there is inside me. I confess my father would arch a brow that I befriended an American woman. I am certain my mother would pray harder for me but I do believe my ancestors and their ancestors before them and those before them would welcome you into the inner circle of family. I say no more of that and let you dwell upon my words.
I dream now - you in my embrace - my arms hungry to hold such a good friend closer to my heart. Your soft mouth on my cheek - I feel it still. Thank you for that touch. And thank you for letting me touch you. Your hair is like silk and my fingers and my palms could not get enough of the feel of such a beautiful adornment. You smell good like ginger when it is fresh and a clean smell of sunshine and fresh rain. But when you took my hand and raised it to your lips and kissed it - and said thank you for being my friend - Emma! You bless me with your kindness and I am humble as I say my thanks to you. Your time with me was brief but heartfelt and I am grateful for what we shared.
The sun rose today and cast warmth into the middle of a light rain. The air is cool and clean - I drank my morning tea while I stood outside and got wet with it. It felt good on my warm skin - I wish you were here to stand with me in the rain. It stormed later - heavy rain and I decided to go to afternoon mass with my neighbor who is Catholic. It is a beautiful ceremony, this prayer gathering to the Catholic Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Very harmonious - cleansing heart and mind and I lit a candle to the Virgin Mary and listened to those who would hail her. But for you sweet Emma, I lit a candle to Saint Madeleine - for when I stood before her, she and only she listened to me with her soul sitting close to mine. I may have to call you Madeleine instead of Emma - or call her Emma.
I served 6 years in the Chinese army. Did I tell you that before? When I was discharged I hired a bulldozer machine and driver to dig up ponds on my family's estate. I threw freshly hatched eggs into the ponds and all manner of fish grew strong. The Koi survived - ate the other fish and I was puffed with pride that my ponds were beautiful. My father tells me they grow in number and size and remain a thing of beauty. I think of our friendship in this way. You and I threw the roe of friendship at each other and it grows and grows and is a thing of beauty.
I miss your sweetness.
After much argument from me I gave in and went to a Chinese fortune teller with my neighbor. A lady and a man went in before me and when they showed their face again both were very sad. I thought oh no. Now I will pay to have sad news told to me. Would it not be best not to know these things? I was surprised at what the wise man said. He said I had a car accident months before that changed my life. Oh Emma! That was you!
He said that two ladies like me. One is blonde and one is dark haired. Emma you have dark hair! I do not know a lady who is blonde except for the lady yellow cat - Tabitha - that lives downstairs and mews around my legs when she sees me. Strange. I have never been fond of cats until I met this one.
He said that I would live a long time, marry and be happy and have 3 children. He said that I would live to an old age. I think that must be the standard line all wise fortune tellers say. But I was thrown off my balance when he said my heart would always belong to a woman I know now. Is that you Emma?
My heart went to Pittsburgh when I heard that news.
I just got off the phone talking to you. As soon as I heard your voice, I was filled with joy and my heart came back to visit me. You have something very forceful and attractive in your voice. When I first met you, I noticed it and was very much impressed. Tonight your voice awakened my memory and my mood was soon lightened. I miss you.
When I lived in China, I used to climb mountains. I always hoped the physical endurance would nurture spiritual perseverance and when I find myself lost without your presence of friendship, I hear your voice inside myself and it sustains me. Studying to be a scientist some times wears my soul down to the very ground and I hold on with tips of my fingers to remain strong enough not to fall prey to details that would consume me. I think of you often and I am lifted once again.
Emma, you are ever present in my mind. Do you think of me? I sleep tonight with your voice in my ear and my heart rooted inside my body. I hope it does not travel to Pittsburgh very soon. It is probably very cold there. As ever,
I am overwhelmed with the research for my dissertation and to make my heart visit, I read again all your letters. Yes, all of them. Yes I keep them. Your words are compelling. I am not sure what that means except that your honesty contributes much to the mystery of heart and mind. Have I told you - maybe too many times - how glad you make my heart that we have met and continue our friendship through words on parchment? Thank you for that.
Now I confess to you that yesterday I could not spend one more minute on my research and in place of finishing that project I chose to spend time with my health - my mental health. And I did that. I spent more than 6 hours! And in that 6 hours I thought of you - trying to catch my memory of you when we first met and sweet Emma, I tried to capture the essence of you on canvas. It was a splendid try I say with such humbleness that even the Gods of a Chinese man would approve. I wanted to put your face where I could see it but most of all I wanted to be able to see the sweet woman you are when I need to see you. My thought was to paint you and the beauty inside you and then I would look long and hard and turn the palette around so I would not be tempted to stare when I should be working.
My heart sat on my shoulder Emma. It stared too and I was filled with gladness. I confess one more time. I got up in the middle of the night to look at your likeness again.
Have pity on this mere man, Emma. Send me a picture and tell me when I will see you again. I long to see you and if I do see you, my heart will stay with me a long time.
At morning prayers and with traditional tea, I informed my Gods that I would also bow my head to your God to watch over you for me. I hope your God will accept a prayer from this humble Chinese man.
I think of you and am filled with joy,
I have been studying very hard except for two hours which I spent eating dinner and shopping. I bought a skip rope for my morning exercise. I like it very much and may spend too much time exercising. I like it as much as I enjoy my weekly fencing practice which I confess I spend two hours a week doing. It is definitely my lifelong sport. And now that my breath is back to normal without fear of leaving my body, I will tell you this.
You made Christmas mine as well as yours. I went to the Catholic Church to hear the salutations to the baby Christ. I had not done that before and I thank you for suggesting that I see what the fuss was all about. I was brought to tears by the song O Holy Night and again I thank you for telling me that Christmas is more than trees and stockings and wrapping paper. I shall add this holiday of Christ and Christians to my personal calendar. I told my Gods about it and they nodded with approval for it is a blessing to acknowledge and accept that while we may not all worship the same Gods, we believe in a Power greater than we are. That is a good thing and a humbling thing for this Chinese man to remember.
But Emma! It was your phone call that made the holiday one that gave me joy. Your voice was so joyous, so filled with spirit and happiness. I forgot for the minutes we talked that it was through the cold copper wires and was a great distance. Never mind the distance. I heard you say you missed me and that puffed my chest to almost breaking point. My eardrums registered your voice but it was my body that shook from your words. I miss you sweet Emma.
I have been reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy for the last few days. His name has been very familiar to me. I first read this book in Chinese when I was still a boy in school with my blue uniform and pencil box. I did not remember the story and decided to read a little every day so that I can appreciate the fine writing skill that was Tolstoy. I do appreciate the story so much more now that I have some life experience. While I read there is the thought in the back of my head that taps me to listen to it. That thought is that I hope to see a book that will be a wonderful literary contribution that has your name on it. I know it will happen and again I will say that I knew you when you ate hamburgers with pickles and drank two whole glasses of the root of beer.
That was a changing moment in my life Emma.