When I came into this world, crying as all other babies, nobody knew the first thing about my charmed gift and reminiscent memory of former lives. In the little mind of mine there hung a vague yet pretty picture: countless snowflakes danced all over the sky, flickering in the yellow street light, beautiful beyond enduring. The air was clear and fresh, above the white, flawless ground. In years to come to pass, I would have grown into a lovely young girl, who likes to quietly contemplate snowing nights by the window. Perhaps a handsome young lad would suddenly appear in front of the window and smile at me. Or a mere glance of me might have reddened his face.
But soon reality drew me back from that distant quixotic image. On a hot and humid July evening, I was lying on a turf all alone. On the left there was a desolate trail. No one had passed by since the woman who gave me life left in a hurry. Underneath rough grasses and stones mercilessly shoved against my delicate skin. A miasma of latrine lingered in the air. Sweating all over, I suffered from acute hunger. I was too little to move myself, let alone seeking milk or anything else to drink. Desperately, I started crying out aloud. Yet the understanding of my own frailness was quickly furthered by the loss of my voice.
It was indeed a night of misery. In darkness all sorts of queer nameless sound of summer floated around, bugs jumping back and forth on my body. Those tiny creatures, tinier than I was, who were they to push me around like that? I waved my hands in anger, but the movements were so clumsy and ineffective that the bugs partied even more wildly. Occasionally I managed to turn my head and see the wraith of ghostly light in the distant field. I stared at the world from which I just came, shivered over the thought of its endless darkness and coldness beyond any bounds. Minutes and seconds ticked away, as my new life wore on. I wept under the stars, still unable to hear my own voice. Then I fell asleep, exhausted.
When I woke up I saw red clouds in the morning sky. The perfect sunrise cheered me up. Feeble as I was, I waited for the turn of my fate with hope, still dreaming about the fairy tale of snows. I was almost falling into the last sleep of all when I heard sounds of steps stopping beside me. A man stooped down. It was a jaundiced face in its forties, grimness carved into the deep wrinkles on its forehead. The man checked me up and down before he smirked, revealing a mouthful of yellow teeth and stench. Having been prepared by the latrine reek over the night, I looked at him calmly. He reached and held me in his hands. The touch of a human being for the first time since I left the womb suddenly betrayed me. I strived to make a hoarse sound of crying and then lost consciousness.
The power of hunger was hefty. The instant I smelt a strange yet also familiar sweetness I opened my eyes, pounced on a dirty plastic teat with my little chapped lips, and sucked with all my might. Revitalized a bit by the turbid liquid, I started to check out the new surroundings. It was an ordinary room, plain yet decent. Behind the milk bottle was a 5 year-old. Her eyes were big and clear, filled with tiredness beyond her age. The skinny man who picked me up stood beside a stout woman. They muttered to each other, occasionally glancing at me with a look of contentment. I smiled back to show my gratitude, but they didn’t seem to understand it. Farther away a girl of 7 or 8 years old stared at a water bottle with an empty gaze, not interested in me or anything else around. Being a charmed one, I soon came to realize that this was a small family and the two girls were called Ahua and Ali. Perhaps, I have become one of its members too? The sense of belonging somewhere immersed my heart with a tide of warmth. I recalled an old saying from a previous life: “The quality of life is contingent upon the people whom you are with, not the place where you are.” The tender thought of my growing up and watching snows together with my family engrossed me.
Outside the Sun had risen high. The parents called the girls and murmured a few words. Ahua then came over to grab me, walking toward the door. Her younger sister Ali picked up a stained backpack and followed after hesitating for a splinter of second. We thus left the six-storied apartment building in a small village. I lost the count of turns before the three of us reached a bus station out of the hamlet. Curiosity mixed with nervousness began to build up on me: where were we going? Was my home not set already? I hadn’t had time to elaborate my concerns when the girls got on a bus. The driver, a guy tall and robust, took a thoughtful look at the sisters and me. Pity and something else that I could not read were in his eyes. I tried to have a conversation with Ahua as the bus started, only to find myself not acquiring the ability to speak yet. Ahua still looked insolent and weary. Holding me in her arms, she yawned and soon fell into a nap. Ali gazed at me for a while, but before long she leaned her head against the bus window and dozed off. I, on the other hand, remained fully awake. Staring thoughtfully at the wobbling ceiling, I continued the dream of my beautiful snow. When the bus stopped, the driver left his seat and came toward us. He patted Ahua on her shoulder, “Watch out for the baby. Don’t let it fall.” Said he gently. Before I was able to raise my head and look into his eyes, he walked back to the front, mumbling to himself, “Every day! Free bus ride, to beg for money…”
That was a blow to me. So Ahua and Ali were going to beg for money? Why? Why them? Why bringing me? Even though I had learned to accept the dreadful prelude to my life, it was really difficult for me to bear its absurd development. The fairy tale of snow shattered inside of me. I coughed my heart out, asking the world for an answer. Not the faintest whisper was stirred.
It was an hour later when we arrived at our destination. I let Ahua carry me onto a downtown overheard bridge, with no strength left to care. This was a lively city, extravagant mansions and skyscrapers standing tall everywhere. Banners of different colors offered all sorts of eye-catching commercial discounts, whereas smoking babes displayed their enticing smiles on gigantic billboards. Under the bridge automobiles came and went, whose impetuous honks formed an endless stream. Lots and lots of people, clad in shiny fashions, hurried by in confident steps. What a prosperous world. Ahua put me down. From the backpack that Ali carried, she took out two enamel bowls and two large pieces of paper filled with words. She ordered Ali to take one bowl with one piece of paper and sat down about thirty steps away. Meanwhile she herself held me and settled on the ground. The bowl pressed down a corner of the paper, on which I was able to recognize a “HELP” in big fonts. Below it poor handwritings related some sort of miserable stories. I laughed. What could be more miserable than the encounters of me, a one day old baby? Scorching sunlight fell on my face and my body without pity. I laughed even louder. In the ears of the world, it was merely crying sound of a starving baby. Nobody knew that my voice conveyed a mockery of its stale absurdity from a soul yet fresh.
Through tears I saw several passer-by tossed coins and notes into the bowl, shaking their heads and sighing. Grimly Ahua looked at them, uttering a few mechanical thanks once in a while. Such wore half the day. The fiery Sun of July burned till I was soaked in gnawing sweat. Ahua appeared to have become impatient. She rocked me harshly for a couple of rounds before placing me down on the smoldering ground of cement. My back was on fire, and my stomach joined the protest with intense hunger. Ahua must have got hungry as well. She yelled a quick sound at Ali, who then left with a couple of notes taken out from her bowl, and quickly returned with two cooked tea eggs, handing one over to Ahua. An innocent compassion entered her eyes when she noticed the torture on me. “Sister, let me hold the baby.” She said. Ahua agreed immediately.
So I migrated to Ali’s arms thirty feet away. I sucked on the teat put into my mouth, gazing at her eyes that were still unclouded. My thirst and hunger subsiding for the nonce, I attentively watched Ali nibbling at the tea egg. Suddenly she gave me an impish smile, wetted a finger tip with juice from the egg and sent it to my mouth. She was truly a tender, innocent little angel.
Tenderness and innocence as such were ubiquitous. Take a little boy dressed nicely for example, he was apparently in shock when he saw Ali and me. Rushing toward us, he stopped halfway and turned to his Mom, “Please give the little sisters some money, Mama.” He requested. The beautiful lady patted her son encouragingly on his hair, took out a fairly large bill from her purse and put it in the bowl in front of us. The young boy left reluctantly, his hand held by his mother. From afar he still turned to look at us. I seemed to hear his mutter in the air, “Poor little sisters!” As soon as they were out of sight, Ahua hurried to our location, grabbing the large bill to thrust it into the backpack. “I’ve told you many times. Put the big money away!” At her words Ali nodded at once.
I cried wearily for the whole afternoon. Stream of people flew constantly on the overpass. There were toddlers, teenagers, youths, middle-aged, seniors. A sad-looking guy in midlife squatted in front of us, let out a long sigh as he dropped a note of 50 cents. A middle school student bashfully poured all the coins from her school bag into the bowl, as if our misery were her fault. Three uniforms strode by, heads held high. A bald, beer-bellied business man strolled drunk, cuddling with a pretty young woman. A couple of college students, keenly debating something about “domiciliary registration law”, stared at us for a few seconds and walked away. A guy wearing thick glasses obviously wanted to talk to Ahua and Ali, yet both of them remained deadly silent.
I was lost into sleep. Those who wanted to help could not, and those who could did not want to! Or perhaps nobody could help me at all. Who made me abandoned to the wild right after I was given a life? Who turned me into a shameful tool of greedy hands? I was too little to protect myself, but where were you all, people who should have protected me?
At sunset I was carried back to my “home”. A day before I lied in desolation, still waiting for miraculous turns of my life. Yet now I was left with nothing save a broken dream of white snows.
I thus extended my life of a little beggar day after day. Miracles did not favor me after all. My health deteriorated fast. Oftentimes I completely lost my voice on the bridge. Red spots grew all over my gaunt, stinking body. Even in my own eyes, I was a little disgusting creature. Occasionally Ali sent me a gentle look, but she has become more and more alike to her sister. They belonged to “Les Miserables” themselves. On days when they could not turn in the demanded amount of money, the villain beat them badly. Just as with me, life was not in their hands. But who has that privilege? In this splendor yet ghostly empty city, all lived as desired by others.
I often thought of my beautiful white snowing night. The dream of snow-field was especially soothing under the heat of the summer Sun. How wonderful it would have been were I able to live till a day when snowflakes fly in the sky, even without the window, the handsome lad or the hazy streetlight! That image would at least be worth this short life of toil. But of course I have got used to my deluded self and to the breaking of all fantasies. Thirty-nine days after I was born, I calmly stopped breathing. Within a few days my sense was still able to hang around the body. I watched the skinny guy rip off all its clothes and push it in a ragged bag. I watched him throw it into a trash can. Ahua and Ali were also watching quietly, with indifferent fear. Their father would soon find them new props.
I visited my shell once more before I returned to the void. Rats bit off one of its eyes. It was covered by blood and flesh, smelling of a foul carcass. If Ali had seen this, she would have been horrified into tears. I smiled at the thought of that little girl born good and naive. I would be very happy if one day she grew up to be the girl contemplating snows in my dream. Glittering snowflakes danced in front of my eyes. Slowly I sank into the darkness that had been so familiar to me.