Mier?s house

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is old and smells like food my American nose does not recognize. She notices our faces immediately
and explains that she lives alone with her father and he is a very bad cook. What she really means,
of course, is that he is a fine cook that makes food like they make in China. Robert and I have
never had Chinese food anywhere except Panda Express and that is not Chinese.

We do not ask Liyu where her mother is or why she does not have any brothers and sisters.

Inside, the house is very empty. There are a few couches that look brand new, and a statue with its
private parts showing. Liyu seems very embarrassed about that. She stands in front of it and tries
to motion us further inside. In the kitchen there is nothing except for the things which cannot be
missing because they are attached to the house. There is no air conditioning in here but I feel
cold. It is never cold in Arizona.

We go outside to the backyard because I am cold, and I ask Liyu where her dad is, because he is not
there either. But that only makes her nervous. She just looks at us for a second and then asks us
if we would like some water and how many ice cubes do we want.

We laugh and say to surprise us, but she must not have liked that answer because she comes back with
just plain water with no ice cubes at all. We drink our water with no ice cubes and look at a
Chinese newspaper for a while, which me and Robert think is very interesting, and Liyu doesn't
understand why.

Liyu is an artist and she goes to her room which we have not been into to get some drawings to show
us. She did not want to show them to us, but when we asked to see them she said okay as long as she
can bring them out here.

Robert smiles as soon as she is gone. 'Her dad doesn't know we're here.'

I am confused, and am about to ask how does he know that when she comes back already, beaming and
holding a poster that is taller than her with its back to us. She steps in front of us, and turns
it around.

Suddenly I am face to face with a stunning, ballpoint-pen-and-paper rendition of myself, down to the
last fleck of my eyebrow, holding hands with an equally meticulous Robert.

We stare in disbelief.

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*

The door closes quietly behind us, and since Robert and I do not talk the whole way home, I think I
hear a noise behind me as we are walking away. Muffled. Maybe like someone' crying'

Robert turns around because I am falling behind, and I start to walk again. But suddenly I remember
all at once something my mom said to me about the way some Chinese families treat their children. I
think maybe it is better Liyu's father does not know we were over. And I feel very sad.





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