It is an odd feeling being fifty. Wrinkles are settled in now, and my body feels more flimsy by the day. An elaborate continuum of forgotten memories hangs by a thread. As time passes, my thirst for spontaneity dissipates. My brain is resistant like dusty cogwheels waiting for a spark. Looking around, many strangers I used to know now rest six feet under with an identical bouquet of flowers adorning an $11,000 gravestone. Some of their bodies were taken by the wind, drowned in the deep blue sea, or kept in generational attics. Looking back, I lost many jobs in my late 20s, but thankfully I had a second chance to restart my life. Today is my 50th birthday. A day I never knew would come so soon. Occasionally, I wonder how differently my life would have played out or ponder on old friends. Even at this instant, I can taste the bittersweet memories of nostalgia in my lukewarm cappuccino. Reaching into my pocket, I felt a terrible shock enter my body. Like a pinch too sudden and too painful to even breathe. Slowly I pulled out my hand with purple bruises and a pack of sewing needles. A series of flashbacks entered my mind. My mother had sowed, and her mother sewed, and before her, my great-grandmother sewed, and her mother before that. Funny how bits of my past somehow sneak into my present and future. The pain took me back to when I was a little girl sewing patches of all textures and colors onto my corduroy pants. Clothing was scarce then, and most of my blankets were quilted. Sowing became a part of me and followed me through adolescenthood when I joined the Craft Club at my school. During the second meet-up, I noticed a girl named Lila, with hazelnut eyes and brown hair, in the back of the classroom with a croquet kit on her desk. After introducing myself to her, we became instant friends with the everlasting promise of world domination. Our friendship ended abruptly when she told me she was going to study in Europe. I lost contact with her and thought about her occasionally over the years. Even now, her mystery plagues my mind in times of solitude and reflection. Today is my Birthday. My kids and grandchildren are waiting for me to come home and celebrate a year more. This morning has been my secret escape into the past, but now I must return to the present and finish my cold cappuccino. I reach the table next to me and grab a few napkins to place my needles in. It is an odd feeling being 50, but now I feel comfortable in my flimsy skin. My life has played out the exact way it should have, and now I must keep telling my tale so that my daughter and her daughter, and her daughter will tell it too.
I find it annoying that most people when they say 'I love fish' feel no need to specify 'dead' and 'fried'. Some people throw in the word 'to' in the middle but that is hardly the point I am trying to make. That one kind of conveys both meanings at the same time. It kills two birds with one arrow. Or two fish with a bait, to be hilarious. Anyway, the conversation Finn and Gill were having wasn't any better than this. "The weather is fine but it cod be better." Gill hummed in a shrill voice, banging her beer can hard on the table. "Oh dolphinately." added Finn as he cackled, slapping his hands on his lap. "Holy Carp! You are krilling me" Gill said from the other side. Her voice had hit the roof of her pitch. She could as well be in an Acapella. "Oh Cod! It cannot get Betta than that!" Finn replied gulping down his can in one go, spitting out half of it in middle of giggles. "Finn, that one was eel-y eel-y good! Oh my god, could this night get any punnier?" Gill replied as she choked herself laughing. The next minute she jumped of the stool, her stomach paining from all the manic energy. She needed to stop. "You need to clam down, buddy" Finn shouted at her as she walked around trying to stop laughing. Her entrails hurt from the vibrating. She was getting a little dizzy. Less from the beer, more from the puns. "I got one more, Gill! It is an FIN-teresting one" Finn lost it too at this one. He was rocking in quivers of laughs, spit falling out, jaws hurting, beer raining around. And Gill joined in, chuckling even harder than she was at the start. "Ok stop now. I can't laugh... Haaaaaaaa..... No really... You are such a pain in the ass!" she said hoola-hooping into another cackle. "Do you mean, pain in the BASS?! HEEEEEEE! GET IT? PAIN IN THE... BASS." More laughter. More spit. More eyes looking at them, two drunkards laughing there bass off. "Ok we need to stop. Otherwise we'll have to get tr-OUT!" Gill said as she slipped and banged her head on the barstool, then got up and continued to laugh in an even stronger fit. "Yeah, yeah, they will probably call the oooo-fish-ials on us." More laughter. "You don't want the cops as your anemonenies" It was finally time that they settled down back into their seats rubbing their bellies. The people around were probably glaring at them. But they were too late to care at this point. "I can't Fink of anemone" Finn said. Gill smiled. The joke was done. It didn't feel that funny anymore. The fading laughter brought back the ichthyologist. "So, this is it. I am leaving tomorrow" she said rubbing her head and throwing her hair back. "Yeah... Tomorrow... You better solve the Freshwater Fish Paradox." She smiled and chuckled a little. "You are making it sound like it's a big deal. It's just a research. To study the patterns in freshwater fishes and extrapolate data to account for their evolution." "Yeah, I don't know, that sure sounds like it's a big deal." "You were saying something earlier? Before the puns?" she said. "Oh, I guess I was. I... I don't really remember now." Silence. "I will tell you if I remember." "Yeah." The waiter walked in, his face knotted in disgust. The puddles of beer around the floor were enough to trigger his mood from bad to foul. But as he reached the table, he managed to pull the most artificial fake smile. "Here's your prawns, sir! Anything else?" "No that would be all!" The sight of prawns brought a smile back on their faces. "You know, when you first told me that you love fish?" Another giggle. "Yeah I do." "Right. I had thought you liked... Eating fish." Yet another giggle. The blushing kind. "I know." "Okay, you know what. I... I like you." The blood in his face was hot. Looking in her eyes, he could see the same. The smiling lips flattened into surprise. It felt like an infinity. In-fin-ity. Stop it. It's not the time for puns. She halted there, completely still for a moment. And then slowly, the smile grew back. And it grew larger. "So... You want me to be your Gill-friend?"
Growing up, Sarah always dreamed of making a difference in the world. She was the kind of person who was always looking for ways to help others, whether it was volunteering at the local food bank or organizing a fundraiser for a deserving cause. Despite facing numerous challenges and setbacks throughout her life, Sarah never let anything stand in the way of her dreams. She worked hard, studying late into the night and taking on multiple jobs to pay her way through college. After earning her degree, Sarah dedicated herself to a career in public service. She spent years working on the front lines of social justice, fighting to make the world a better place for all people. Through her tireless efforts, Sarah was able to bring about real change in her community. She helped to establish programs that provided meals to the hungry, housing for the homeless, and education for underserved children. But Sarah's greatest accomplishment came when she was chosen to lead a team of international aid workers on a mission to bring medical care and supplies to a remote village in Africa. It was there that she saw firsthand the transformative power of compassion and generosity, and she returned home with a renewed sense of purpose and determination. Today, Sarah is an inspiration to all who know her. She continues to work tirelessly to make the world a better place, and her efforts have touched the lives of countless people around the globe. Despite all that she has achieved, Sarah remains humble and grateful, always remembering that it is by working together that we can create a brighter future for all. Sarah's work did not go unnoticed, and she soon found herself in high demand as a speaker and advocate for social justice issues. She traveled the world, sharing her story and inspiring others to take action and make a difference in their own communities. As she spoke to groups large and small, Sarah's message was always the same: that each and every one of us has the power to create positive change in the world. She encouraged her listeners to follow their passions and pursue their dreams, no matter how big or small they may seem. Sarah's own dream was to establish a nonprofit organization that would provide ongoing support and resources to those in need. And with the help of a dedicated team of volunteers and supporters, she was able to do just that. The organization, called "Heart of Gold," quickly became known for its innovative programs and its commitment to making a lasting impact on the lives of those it served. Whether it was providing disaster relief to communities in need or offering job training and mentorship to young people, Heart of Gold was making a difference in countless lives. And through it all, Sarah remained at the heart of the organization, always leading with compassion, kindness, and a fierce determination to make the world a better place. As she looks back on all that she has accomplished, Sarah knows that her journey has just begun. There is still so much work to be done, and she is more committed than ever to making a difference in the world. But no matter what the future may hold, Sarah knows that she has already made a lasting impact, and for that, she is truly grateful. As the years went by, Sarah's work continued to grow and expand, touching the lives of even more people around the world. She was constantly amazed by the generosity and compassion of those who supported Heart of Gold, and she knew that it was because of their efforts that the organization was able to achieve so much. But Sarah also knew that there was still so much more to be done, and she was determined to keep pushing forward. She worked tirelessly, never taking a day off and always striving to find new and innovative ways to make a difference. And her hard work paid off. Heart of Gold continued to grow and thrive, and Sarah was able to see the positive impact of her efforts in the lives of the people she served. She knew that she was making a real difference in the world, and that was all the motivation she needed to keep going. As Sarah approached her 50th birthday, she knew that she had accomplished so much, but she also knew that there was still so much more work to be done. She had no plans to slow down, and she was as passionate and dedicated as ever to the cause of helping others. Looking back on her journey, Sarah knew that she had been blessed with many gifts and opportunities. But she also knew that it was her own hard work and determination that had brought her to where she was today. And she was grateful for every challenge and every setback, knowing that they had only made her stronger and more resilient. Sarah's story is one of hope and inspiration, and it is a reminder to us all that with hard work and determination, anything is possible. No matter what challenges we may face, we have the power to make a difference in the world, and to create a brighter and more compassionate future for all.
Jake and Fiona had been inseparable as kids. They were the best of friends and spent every moment they could together. They lived on the same street and went to the same school, and even ended up in the same class for most of their elementary and middle school years. When they were little, they loved to play dress up and have tea parties in the park, climb trees, and run through the sprinklers on hot summer days. As they got older, they started to explore their interests and passions more, and while they still had a lot in common, they also started to drift apart a bit. Fiona became really interested in art and spent most of her time drawing and painting, while Jake developed a love for sports and spent hours practicing and playing with his friends. They still saw each other often and would hang out when they could, but it wasn't quite the same as it used to be. When high school came around, they ended up in different schools and saw each other even less. They stayed in touch, but their friendship wasn't as strong as it had been. After high school, Jake and Fiona both decided to go to the same college, but they ended up in different dorms and had very different schedules. They ran into each other from time to time, but it was usually just a quick hello in passing. One day, they ended up in the same study group for a difficult class they were both taking. At first, it was a little awkward since they hadn't spent much time together in years, but as they started working together, they realized how much they still had in common. They started to hang out more outside of class and their friendship picked up right where it had left off. As they spent more time together, they started to realize just how much they had missed each other's company. They laughed and talked about everything, just like they used to when they were kids. They even started to do some of the same things they used to do when they were younger, like having picnics in the park and going on adventures. Before they knew it, Jake and Fiona were the best of friends again, just like they had been all those years ago. They were each other's support system and were always there for each other, through the good times and the tough ones. As they graduated college and started their adult lives, they knew that they would always be there for each other. They had come full circle, from being the best of friends as kids to drifting apart and finding their way back to each other as adults. They were grateful for the time they had spent apart, as it had helped them grow and discover who they were as individuals, but they were even more grateful to have each other in their lives again. They were a team, and they knew that they would always have each other's backs, no matter what life threw their way.
When I was younger, I would wake up before the rest of my family and run down the dirt road that winded in front of my family farm to a lavender field. I walked, I sat, and I walked back. Dawn broke early halfway across the world. I woke to a bright pre-summer sky at 6 o'clock in the morning. Looking back, it was a sun that was harsher than New York's — hotter and less forgiving. It was freer in the Chinese countryside, no midday traffic droning down concrete streets or towering skyscrapers stopping me from hopping towards an endless sky. The meadow was one and a half miles away. On the very last morning before I had to leave for America, my legs ran me to my cousin's room instead of out the door at the break of dawn. I made a beeline for her window and threw her curtains apart, the light attacking every last inch of her room with an intense morning glow. “Jin-Yi! Get up! Let's go somewhere!” I shouted, jumping onto her bed. Her eyes flew open, about to burst with curiosity. “Where?” “Let's go!” was all the information I gave up before pulling her out of bed and pushing her towards the doorway. I had her chasing me down the stairs and out the door in less than ten minutes. And if she had not been fully awake before, the blinding hello of the endless wheat fields and eccentric sky forced her into full consciousness. A slight draft sneaked past us and I breathed in the fresh air as it pressed against my skin. Jin-Yi gaped at the sunkissed tint of the morning. Her eyes bulged as she stepped past the security of the house, as if soaking in the scene of a world she had never before seen. I broke into a sprint and a moment later, she followed. The road under us clapped to the beat of our clumsy race, a round of applause encouraging us as we ran. By the time we were doubled over, panting, we ran into our family cows. We watched them while trying to catch our breath. They were slowly gnawing at the grass, eating early breakfasts without a care in the world. I made eye contact with one, and she held my stare while finishing a mouthful of grass. She eventually grew bored of me and started strolling in the direction of the lavender field. Jin-Yi and I walked alongside her. “Let's call her Olivia,” Jin-Yi suggested. “Olivia?” It was a foreign name for a Chinese cow. “Yes,” she responded. “An American name for an American girl.” She smiled at me before launching into another short sprint. As the three of us traveled, we tried to stick together. Olivia helped herself as we went along, munching on the edible blanket of grass at her feet. Twice, there were irresistibly tasty patches and she would stop to revel in the taste. Although she had invaded our party of two, we couldn't find it in our hearts to leave her behind so we waited for her to finish, even though we knew she would be fine. Calm flatness was all that surrounded us. No man-made structures disturbed the crisp horizon-like border between the ground and the sky. Time trickled by like water leaking out of a broken faucet unnoticed. After we had walked far enough, the grass grew wilder, taller and darker. Having journeyed the path more times than I could remember, I charged into the grass in front of Olivia and threw my arms out to my side, drawing a cross with my body to protect the visible sea of lavender behind me. “You can't walk into the lavender field, Olivia. Go back.” Olivia stared me down with blank eyes, chewing slowly. She turned and walked away, her tail swaying side-to-side behind her, as if mocking me. I turned to my cousin, “You can't let her in the field. She'll eat the lavenders. Remember that.” She nodded her understanding. With an elated smile, I shouted “Then let's go!” before barreling towards the meadow. I buried myself in the middle of the lavenders, collapsing onto the ground and letting the flowers tickle my face as I lay on my back. A laugh bubbled in my throat and escaped to the same effect as a bird song in a serene forest. My cousin danced around me, throwing flowers in the air. Clouds had begun to form, blocking out the sun so that all I saw as I stared up were fluffy white clusters being strung across the sky. Bathing in the warm breeze, I let out a sigh and let the scent of fresh petals hug me. That same day, I packed my bags, and got into my parents' car, squishing my face against the window and trying to melt into the disappearing countryside on our way to the airport — a journey West. There was a simple freedom in those excursions that I took while the world was still sleeping, prancing down a blank road, seemingly leading nowhere. I never forgot about that lavender field, or any of the walks there. That purple heaven and the path lying before it belongs to Jin-Yi now. She wakes up at 6, she walks with Olivia where I walked alone. She sits, and she walks back.