“Unpacked”

Adelaide Z., Contributor

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She unpacked her passport, visa, I-20, health certificate for international travelers, offer from school, dad’s deposit certificate, vaccination form, letter to the Customs officer— everything important in that worn-out pink file holder. In a corner of the suitcase she unpacked a bag of medicine for flu, cold, sore throat, digestion and bandages for wounds and calcium tablets and some weird Chinese herbs that she did not know the names of. She unpacked a new toy bear with the name Brown University embroidered on it and a dirty Mickey Mouse from Disney World. She unpacked textbooks. She unpacked summer shorts, athletic wear, jeans, tank tops, t-shirts, trousers, all the way to leggings and jackets and cotton socks and sweaters and boots. She was amazed by her mom’s ability to squeeze four thick winter coats into one vacuumed cloth bag and fit it into the suitcase besides everything else like rice cooker and chopsticks and tons of Wang Wang crackers. She unpacked two mini statues of Terracotta Warriors as a gift for her new host family. She remembered giving her first host family a handmade tapestry of Lunar New Year from an artist friend, the second host family a picture book of China, and she also remembered unpacking all her stuff into their homes and then having to pack them all up again. She unpacked some old books by Yu Hua and Lu Xun. She skimmed a few pages but felt distant from the stories told, so she stopped reading and unpacked Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and The Princeton Review: Essential SAT Vocabulary. She unpacked an old photo taken during middle school graduation of her and a boy hugging each other and laughing— her eyes full of him and his eyes full of her— and they were totally embracing the sweet breeze, ready for vanilla ice-cream and iced green tea, not thinking about the future, no idea of what was happening next, just enjoying the purest form of happiness, the taste of summer at home. She wonders if the boy has grown taller and if he still laughs like he used to. Does he still keep the photo? It’s been two years. Eight hundred and thirty seven days. In these two years she packed, unpacked, packed, unpacked, packed everything in disorder, unpacked everything in vain. She unpacked her insecurities—like walking barefoot on scattered debris of broken glass—which constantly chases her and hunts her and splits her in parts. In these two years she unpacked everything. She unpacked nothing.

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