"I thought kids came from one of two places: China or a woman’s vagina, and that I had come from the first. "
I lived and taught in Beijing for some time before my Master's. On one of our excursions, we walked up the Great Wall, slept on a watchtower, and at sunrise, hiked until noon along one of the lesser reconstructed parts of the wall.
This story was born out of two images,
the first, was sunrise on the watchtower overlooking the hills,
and the second, of bedbugs; I'd read an article on bedbug reproduction, on how the males stab the females and copulate with their wounds. It's called traumatic insemination.
Read the full story in The Hart House Review, 25th Anniversary Issue (If you missed your chance to buy a copy, copies are available to read at Toronto Public Reference LIbrary or U of T Libraries.)
Or scroll down to read an excerpt.
Excerpt of halfmoon
When we visited China, my parents and I traveled mostly by high-speed trains, and by nighttime, to save money on hotels. We slept in bunks on top of each other, and not always all together if we had bought our tickets too late. From Shanghai to Beijing was where I picked up bedbugs and developed a urinary tract infection. I told this to Benjamin on the balcony of his twenty-seventh floor apartment when the weather was still cool but beginning to warm.
It was from being afraid to squat that I developed the infection. My parents said it was my fault. I held in my pee for too long.
In Beijing, we took a taxi cab to a shiny ex-pat clinic. When the doctor finally arrived, she pulled the lips to my vagina open to take my temperature and my lips made a wet popping sound and I was so ashamed.
“Which part of the country did you get her from?” The doctor, who was white and spoke English with an accent, asked my mother.
I thought kids came from one of two places: China or a woman’s vagina, and I had come from the first.
“Which part of the country?” The doctor had had to repeat it.
“She’s pretty,” the doctor said. “Though I am concerned about some redness here. Here. Do you see it?”
My mother peered into one of the two places where I thought babies were from.
“And here. And here.”
My stomach, too, had straight rows of red bites, my shoulders.
But I didn’t tell Benjamin what the doctor said. I smoked my cigarette slowly on the balcony and what I told him that afternoon was that because of me, bedbugs spread to the entire floor of the clinic before they’d realized what had even bitten me.
“It was like an epidemic,” I said. “Rich white kids coming in after a bad asthma attack, whatever, and bedbugs in their beds.”
“I thought about going into medicine. Cardiology or psychiatry, maybe.”
He was petting the small of my back, smiling and I took a step back.
“Were you a bed wetter?” Out of nowhere, he said it. “Did your mom used to get mad at you for bed wetting?”
“I’ve always had a feeling you were.”
I asked him what the hell it was supposed to mean that he thought I had been one. The light in the spring sky was pink and setting and we stared at thousands of people without even noticing a single one.
“Your issues with drugs. Self-esteem, trust. You think I’m stupid?” His words can be so methodical, of a scalpel’s clean precision. “Don’t you think I can feel it?” ∞