- Excerpt from Folklorn
Stepping Through the One-Way Mirror
I can’t remember when I was born or the years before and soon after that very important event—but it’s a fact that I lived in my house before my friend ever showed up. She liked to remind me that she’d been around for much too long, even before me, but I don’t think it counts if most of that time was in her world, and I’m not just saying that because I brought her into mine. I can’t take all the credit anyway. It was my father, not me, who broke her free.
I first got the idea of making a friend of my own while watching my mother eat her shiny, bruised leaves. She had a stack of them, soaking in dark oil and covered with specks of red chili. With her silver chopsticks, she peeled off the very top leaf and carried it to her bowl. It hung like a broken bat wing as the light shone through the skin between the drooping veins, but the shape was unbroken. With a flick of her wrist, she wrapped the leaf around a bite-sized bundle of rice, and the whole thing went into her mouth. She chewed with her eyes closed and said that it tasted just like home. She meant the one in her own country.
My mom grew her leaves and other strange things in the backyard. Her garden was a long strip of dirt that ran around the back, like a frame with only three sides, pushed up against the cement walls that separated us from the neighbors. Most of her [End Page 91] plants were for eating, but not for me, and a lot of them had spikes or thorns, like the aloe vera or the purple roses. But none could be eaten raw. She had to brew them in potions and cover them with powders. My brother said, “She’s just fooling herself thinking she can remake her old life.” Chris said that she was keeping herself “rooted in all the old ways, especially her mind.” He didn’t eat the leaves either. That got me thinking that the dirt was special too. And while I watched her chew, I realized that she was feeding a secret, one that made her smile because she’d made something just for herself. I didn’t ask if magic could be grown in our house because I didn’t want my brother to laugh at me or my mother to grab me and pray, so I kept my theory to myself. Instead of asking, I decided to experiment. This was a couple years ago when I was almost eight.
In the beginning, I just wanted something sparkly. So I hunted for a nice rock at my father’s shop. There were lots to be found because other men wearing helmets were breaking the old building and the ground into pieces and carrying in new blocks to stack together and make a bigger building. In one of the holes dug out by the men in helmets, I found a rock that looked like a gold nugget. I took it home and dunked it in oils and shook powder on it like glitter. I wrapped it in foil and planted it in my mom’s garden. But a few days later, I couldn’t remember where I’d buried it. So I tried an egg next and marked the spot. I wanted a pet this time. When I dug it up a week later though, it was still cold. I washed it carefully and put it back in the fridge.
Around this time, on both sides of the house, my dad’s collection of old car parts began to fill the narrow spaces between our home and the cement walls that kept us separate. These were the extra bits that were brought here because of all the building going on at his shop. My brother had to carry them, even the rusty, heavy pieces that looked like giant shields and the long, curved bumpers that he lifted over...