Yanbing Wu

A spider moved into my room recently. She stuck to the wall like a black sesame seed and kept moving back and forth.

Should I send her out the window? She is so small, what if I kill her. Or should I kill her? So I thought of my grandmother, who is a devout Buddhist. Every time she came back from the temple, she would say: Ah ya, today I told them…….(something happened in her life). For many years, god has been her faithful friend so she tells them everything she is happy or unhappy about, some of her wishes and small secrets... I don’t believe her friend as much as she does, but when I kill a mosquito or a small bug I say inside: “ 南无阿弥陀佛”,1 I hope these little insects will be reborn as bigger mammals in their next life or won’t resent me.

In those days I lived alone on the third floor of my family’s house. I was opening my  door by entering the living room connected to a large balcony. On the left of the living room was a guest room and further on was the bathroom, and next to that was my room. I remember the first night when we moved to this house. I dreamt that I was floating on a single bed and the ghosts who kept coming drowned me all at once. Ghosts hanging everywhere, ghosts clamped in the gaps of the doors, ghosts lying in the corners of the ceiling, ghosts wandering all over the house. My room, my parents room, the whole house, could be haunted after midnight. As if they had lived here in the first place and we were the intruders. So after that, I divided the rooms in the house: my room, the haunted room, and the others. In the living room on the third floor, there was Guanyin,2 looking out of the window. I was told that she was placed this way because in Feng shui3 terms it would attract good luck and qi4 from outside to the house. The bad things would be scared to come. But every time I had to pass her, I was afraid.

My grandmother and I didn’t live in the same city. After my grandfather died of lung cancer, she married again and moved where her new husband lived. Whenever she came to visit us she stayed with me on the third floor. Once I told her that I am afraid of  Guanyin. She was surprised and she said “You are silly, why should you be afraid of  Guanyin? She will protect you.” So I decided to trust my grandmother. After a short time I started living in harmony with Guanyin in the haunted house.

My grandmother had a repeating dream. She is at the entrance of a mountain, and all over  it, there are people who had died. They are looking at her, and she stumbled. It is probably because she is too afraid that one day she would die too. I said to her: “You will live a long life, Guanyin will protect you.”

Once she sprained her ankle. I don’t remember if it was her left or right ankle. I just remember that it became as big as two of her feet. She heard that using child’s pee on the injured foot would heal it quickly, so she told my brother (who was still a child at the time) to pee in his toilet. Then she took the little bucket with his pee inside the third floor (my room) and put it on her ankle for the rest of the night during the sleep(we were sleeping together). In the end, the ankle didn’t get better. It eventually took a long time to recover. Another time she was talking about my grandfather and suspected that he might had something with the neighbor’s wife (I guess she meant a love affair), “But he’s been dead for so long now that I can’t prove it” she said.

I had never met my grandfather. He died in the hospital a month from the moment when I was born. I could only half believe what she said. As she spoke, the spittle sprayed from her mouth onto my arms. I didn’t wipe it because I didn’t want to interrupt her. I just let it dry, where it grow into a gaudy, one-day life flower, just like her story.

That day I found two geckos in front of the window in the living room on the third floor. One was large and one small. The larger one was too big and too long from what I expected from a gecko, she was more like a lizard. Why did I walk up to the window and lightly pull the curtain at that moment? Perhaps it was the instinct against strange creatures appearing in a familiar space. I immediately grabbed the insecticide and sprayed on them. The larger one quickly scrambled towards the window and fled to the balcony. I chased it out, only to see her tail quickly disappearing into the drain pipe. I didn’t know whether to be sad or excited. When I returned to the room, I found the smaller one stuck weakly on the floor, unable to move. Should I spray her more? I already made a choice from the first moment when I picked up the insecticide. So I continued to spray on her little body. I saw it slowly becoming transparent. From the greenish-grey body, I could see her blue veins, perhaps the heart or other organs, as clear as a swimming pool with the bottom that can be seen, cold and dead, with the smell of insecticide floating in the air.

Guanyin watched out the window. She would never forgive me. I found an excuse and a reason to be afraid of her and  I would never tell my grandmother.

A gecko lies between Guanyin and me, like a shutter separating the bathroom from the corridor, separating me from my childhood: a childhood that is always on the other side, steaming with water. Sometimes grandmother appears, the body soaked by time and cut into parallel strips of white flesh by the window leaves. I have to walk away quickly, mournfully, imagining how the mist glows in a kind of bewildering light, how it swallows the fading, dissolving grandmother.

I imagined a thousand words to describe this death scene, but in the end, it all melt away into a puddle of murky water. I try to construct that moment as honestly as I could. Everything was so weightless, as light as that day. After all these years, it is still there. If you put away all responsibility, turn a blind eye to the others, and embrace the brightness, the silent self, you can briefly hold it. I guess I am a person who wants to be understood, but I am afraid of being rejected by other people, so I become a person who has made the situation more guilty because I feel guilty. In the end I just let everything go in a worse direction.

When all these images are swept away, there is only the silent lake bed, the sloping long corridor, where unanswered questions lie stranded, like an empty bed.

1  南无阿弥陀佛:Namo Amitabha  is a practice method of reciting Buddha in the Pure Land Sect of Chinese Buddhism, in order to achieve the purpose of reincarnation in the Western Paradise by chanting the six characters "Namo Amitabha" .

2  Guanyin (simplified Chinese: 观音) is a Bodhisattva associated with compassion. She is the East Asian representation of Avalokiteśvara and has been adopted by other Eastern religions, including Chinese folk religion. She was first given the appellation of "Goddess of Mercy" or "Mercy Goddess" by Jesuit missionaries in China. Guanyin is short for Guanshiyin, which means "[The One Who] Perceives the Sounds of the World." Some Buddhists believe that when one of their adherents departs from this world, they are placed by Guanyin in the heart of a lotus, and then sent to the western pure land of Sukhāvatī. Guanyin is often referred to as the "most widely beloved Buddhist Divinity"with miraculous powers to assist all those who pray to her.

3 Feng shui, sometimes called Chinese geomancy, is an ancient Chinese traditional practice which claims to use energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment. The term feng shui means, literally, "wind-water" (i.e. fluid).

4 From ancient times, landscapes and bodies of water were thought to direct the flow of the universal Qi – "cosmic current" or energy – through places and structures. More broadly, feng shui includes astronomical, astrological, architectural, cosmological, geographical and topographical dimensions.