Read from A Single Swallow

Even after we were out of earshot of the firecrackers, Buffalo walked with me.

“Just for a little further, sir. Just a few more steps,” he said, grinning. My enormous pack made him look like a snail. It wasn’t until we reached the sampan that Buffalo finally stopped and returned my pack. He stood on the slope facing the sampan, waving. As the boat drifted further and further away, he waved with bigger and bigger gestures. The pair of military boots around his neck swayed like two sparrow hawks jumping about his shoulders. Eventually, he became just a black speck in the mountains. At that time, I didn’t know this was farewell. Farewell to these mountains, this bay of water, this row of terrace fields, the strange cattle half-submerged in the water, the malaria, cholera, and typhoid we narrowly escaped, and farewell to the people we would have never known if not for the war.

And it was farewell to Wende.

Perhaps I’d guessed it was farewell, but I didn’t want to face it. To the person who is leaving, the attraction of what lies ahead is greater than what lies behind. Recollection is something that is left for later.

And just like that, I left Yuehu, China.