See how truthful my face still looks. Why didn’t I give this look to you? Why do you always tell your friends that I arrived in the United States on a slow boat from China? That is not true. I was not that poor. I took a plane. Why do you always tell people that I met your father in the Cathay House, that I broke open a fortune cookie and it said I would marry a dark, handsome stranger, and that when I looked up, there he was, the waiter, your father. Why do you make this joke? This is not sincere.
After the first day, I suffered ten red fingers. This was not a job for a stupid person. You had to learn fast or your fingers would turn into fried sausages. So the next day only my eyes burned, from never taking them off the pancakes. And the day after that, my arms ached from holding them out ready to catch the pancakes at just the right moment. But by the end of my first week, it became mindless work and I could relax enough to notice who else was working on each side of me. . . . So that is how I met An-mei Hsu.
“But it’s cruel to have them believe she is coming on the plane,” I said. “When they see it’s just me, they’ll hate me. . . . They’ll think I’m responsible, that she died because I didn’t appreciate her.” And Auntie Lindo looked satisfied and sad at the same time, as if this were true and I had finally realized it. She sat down for an hour, and when she stood up she handed me a two-page letter. She had tears in her eyes. . . . “Thank you,” I whispered.
It was an old peasant woman who found them. . . . They were pious people, Muslims, who believed the twin babies were a sign of double luck, and they were sure of this when, later in the evening, they discovered how valuable the babies were. . . . Of course, when she found the place at 9 Weichang Lu, in the old French Concession, it was something completely different . . . and none of the workers knew what had become of the family whose house had burned down on that spot.
Maybe it was your mother’s dead spirit who guided her Shanghai schoolmate to find her daughters. Because after your mother died, the schoolmate saw your sisters, by chance, while shopping for shoes at the Number One Department Store on Nanjing Dong Road. She said it was like a dream, seeing these two women who looked so much alike, moving down the stairs together. There was something about their facial expressions that reminded the schoolmate of your mother.