INHERITANCE


January 24, 2022 / Kelly Wei


AUTHOR’S NOTE: My grandfather was born into a wealthy, land-owning family in 1941, on the cusp of the Chinese Land Reform Movement. It was a time of great and terrible changes.


THERE'S A SILENCE IN ME THAT I INHERITED FROM MY MOTHER, WHO INHERITED IT FROM HER FATHER.

WHO HE GOT IT FROM, WE'LL NEVER KNOW.

MY GRANDFATHER WAS FIVE YEARS OLD, THE YOUNGEST OF FOUR, WHEN OUR LINEAGE RECORDS WERE SUMMARILY STRUCK FROM HISTORY ON THE PARTY'S ORDERS.

(IT WAS ALL VERY ROMANOVIAN. SOMETHING ABOUT THESE BRUTAL OLD COUNTRIES.)

BEYOND HIM, THE REST OF MY FAMILY ARE PHANTOM BRANCHES OF AN OLD, DEAD TREE.

GENEALOGICAL STUMPS.

SO MUCH OF WHAT I REMEMBER HAS BEEN WARPED BY TIME, DISTANCE, AND LANGUAGE.

HOW DO I KNEEL IN THE SNOW BESIDE MY GRANDFATHER, BEGGING WITH HIM FOR WHAT WAS ONCE HIS — AND IN SOME OTHER WORLD, MINE?

HOW DO I WAKE AT DAWN WITH HIM, WIPE THE BLOOD OFF THE SINK WHILE HE DRESSES, TRAIL AFTER HIM TO UNIVERSITY WITH FAKE PAPERS IN HAND?

HOW DO I MAKE THIS STORY SOUND REAL, LESS MYTHOLOGICAL? HOW DO I AVOID SENSATIONALIZING, WHEN I MUST INVENT NEW DETAILS EACH TIME I REIMAGINE IT?

(THE FLOWERS IN OUR OLD GARDEN WERE THE COLOR OF CRUSHED WINE.)

(IT WAS HIS MOTHER’S HEIRLOOM PEARLS HE WAS BEGGING FOR.)

I AM CHASING AFTER FRAGMENTS OF A WORLD NOBODY REMEMBERS BECAUSE I COULDN’T SAVE IT. OUR WORLD. THE ONE WHERE THIS FAMILY STILL HAS SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL TO GIVE TO ITS CHILDREN. I AM HUNTING IN THE LAND OF THE DEAD, DIGGING THROUGH CHRYSANTHEMUMS FOR SOMETHING I CAN CALL MINE.

AND I AM REFUSING TO LET GO.

“ALL THIS WORK YOU DO,” SOMEBODY ONCE ASKED ME. “DOES IT MAKE YOU HAPPY?”

I OPENED MY MOUTH TO ANSWER, AND LIKE A GHOST, COULDN’T SPEAK. ■








by: Kelly Wei

videographer: Maddie Abdalla


layout: Caleb Zhang

photographer: Alyssa Olvera

stylists: Olivia Abercrombie & Marta Broseta Castelos

hmuas: Jaycee Jamison

models: Julia Garrett & Justin Gonzales




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