Xinyi

He gets a fifty-thousand-dollar bonus from his job managing computer-chip designers, descends via elevator down what was once the tallest building in the world, nods to the security guard, walks across the street, and spends his entire salary at a high-end restaurant on the thirtieth floor and on jewels for his wife. After he drives home in his Buick he tries to commit suicide for the third time.

But it’s always hard, so hard, and the blood in the sink reminds him of the stars that he so rarely sees. So he gets in the car again, leaving the blood there because it’s too beautiful to wash away. He drives through the tunnel that divides two worlds—on one side is his, the financial district, with the tallest buildings, emptiest courtyards, and palest skies of the city—and on the other is the Bengal tiger of the city zoo, a green mountain range filled with cicadas, and a stone-carving workshop with translucent boulders the size of bears. He memorizes the license plate number of every car that he drives behind, knowing he’ll forget them when he arrives. When he gets to the university campus he parks between two spots in the empty parking lot and wanders around, walking quietly when he approaches feral dogs so as not to scare them. There are children in the plaza, riding bicycles, and a boy stares at the blood on his sleeve.

Eventually he reaches the stadium. He ignores the staircase and climbs the cement seats, lunging with each step. When he reaches the top the sun is already setting, and he stands there watching the clouds turn pink and thinking about how beautiful it was when each town only had a single building tall enough to cast yourself from. He counts the stars as they begin to appear, and when the third airplane trails across his field of view, lights like a star, blinking, he runs to the car and drives back. In the tunnel, spirit money flies out of a delivery truck, golden leaves against the darkness of night, destined to never be burned for the ancestors.

March 2018