The Paper Menagerie <折纸>

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The Paper Menagerie <折纸>

中文译文在评论中。

Source: http://escapepod.org/2012/05/17/ep345-the-paper-menagerie/

BEST SHORT STORY of 2012 HUGO Awards

The Paper Menagerie
by Ken Liu

One of my earliest memories starts with me sobbing. I refused to be soothed no matter what Mom and Dad tried.

Dad gave up and left the bedroom, but Mom took me into the kitchen and sat me down at the breakfast table.

Kan, kan,” she said, as she pulled a sheet of wrapping paper from on top of the fridge. For years, Mom carefully sliced open the wrappings around Christmas gifts and saved them on top of the fridge in a thick stack.

She set the paper down, plain side facing up, and began to fold it. I stopped crying and watched her, curious.

She turned the paper over and folded it again. She pleated, packed, tucked, rolled, and twisted until the paper disappeared between her cupped hands. Then she lifted the folded-up paper packet to her mouth and blew into it, like a balloon.

Kan,” she said. “Laohu.” She put her hands down on the table and let go.

A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.

I reached out to Mom’s creation. Its tail twitched, and it pounced playfully at my finger. “Rawrr-sa,” it growled, the sound somewhere between a cat and rustling newspapers.

I laughed, startled, and stroked its back with an index finger. The paper tiger vibrated under my finger, purring.

Zhe jiao zhezhi,” Mom said. This is called origami.

I didn’t know this at the time, but Mom’s kind was special. She breathed into them so that they shared her breath, and thus moved with her life. This was her magic.

#

Dad had picked Mom out of a catalog.

One time, when I was in high school, I asked Dad about the details. He was trying to get me to speak to Mom again.

He had signed up for the introduction service back in the spring of 1973. Flipping through the pages steadily, he had spent no more than a few seconds on each page until he saw the picture of Mom.

I’ve never seen this picture. Dad described it: Mom was sitting in a chair, her side to the camera, wearing a tight green silk cheongsam. Her head was turned to the camera so that her long black hair was draped artfully over her chest and shoulder. She looked out at him with the eyes of a calm child.

“That was the last page of the catalog I saw,” he said.

The catalog said she was eighteen, loved to dance, and spoke good English because she was from Hong Kong. None of these facts turned out to be true.

He wrote to her, and the company passed their messages back and forth. Finally, he flew to Hong Kong to meet her.

“The people at the company had been writing her responses. She didn’t know any English other than ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye.’”

What kind of woman puts herself into a catalog so that she can be bought? The high school me thought I knew so much about everything. Contempt felt good, like wine.

Instead of storming into the office to demand his money back, he paid a waitress at the hotel restaurant to translate for them.

“She would look at me, her eyes halfway between scared and hopeful, while I spoke. And when the girl began translating what I said, she’d start to smile slowly.”

He flew back to Connecticut and began to apply for the papers for her to come to him. I was born a year later, in the Year of the Tiger.

#

At my request, Mom also made a goat, a deer, and a water buffalo out of wrapping paper. They would run around the living room while Laohu chased after them, growling. When he caught them he would press down until the air went out of them and they became just flat, folded-up pieces of paper. I would then have to blow into them to re-inflate them so they could run around some more.

Sometimes, the animals got into trouble. Once, the water buffalo jumped into a dish of soy sauce on the table at dinner. (He wanted to wallow, like a real water buffalo.) I picked him out quickly but the capillary action had already pulled the dark liquid high up into his legs. The sauce-softened legs would not hold him up, and he collapsed onto the table. I dried him out in the sun, but his legs became crooked after that, and he ran around with a limp. Mom eventually wrapped his legs in saran wrap so that he could wallow to his heart’s content (just not in soy sauce).

Also, Laohu liked to pounce at sparrows when he and I played in the backyard. But one time, a cornered bird struck back in desperation and tore his ear. He whimpered and winced as I held him and Mom patched his ear together with tape. He avoided birds after that.

And then one day, I saw a TV documentary about sharks and asked Mom for one of my own. She made the shark, but he flapped about on the table unhappily. I filled the sink with water, and put him in. He swam around and around happily. However, after a while he became soggy and translucent, and slowly sank to the bottom, the folds coming undone. I reached in to rescue him, and all I ended up with was a wet piece of paper.

Laohu put his front paws together at the edge of the sink and rested his head on them. Ears drooping, he made a low growl in his throat that made me feel guilty.

Mom made a new shark for me, this time out of tin foil. The shark lived happily in a large goldfish bowl. Laohu and I liked to sit next to the bowl to watch the tin foil shark chasing the goldfish, Laohu sticking his face up against the bowl on the other side so that I saw his eyes, magnified to the size of coffee cups, staring at me from across the bowl.

#

When I was ten, we moved to a new house across town. Two of the women neighbors came by to welcome us. Dad served them drinks and then apologized for having to run off to the utility company to straighten out the prior owner’s bills. “Make yourselves at home. My wife doesn’t speak much English, so don’t think she’s being rude for not talking to you.”

While I read in the dining room, Mom unpacked in the kitchen. The neighbors conversed in the living room, not trying to be particularly quiet.

“He seems like a normal enough man. Why did he do that?”

“Something about the mixing never seems right. The child looks unfinished. Slanty eyes, white face. A little monster.”

“Do you think he can speak English?”

The women hushed. After a while they came into the dining room.

“Hello there! What’s your name?”

“Jack,” I said.

“That doesn’t sound very Chinesey.”

Mom came into the dining room then. She smiled at the women. The three of them stood in a triangle around me, smiling and nodding at each other, with nothing to say, until Dad came back.

#

Mark, one of the neighborhood boys, came over with his Star Wars action figures. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lightsaber lit up and he could swing his arms and say, in a tinny voice, “Use the Force!” I didn’t think the figure looked much like the real Obi-Wan at all.

Together, we watched him repeat this performance five times on the coffee table. “Can he do anything else?” I asked.

Mark was annoyed by my question. “Look at all the details,” he said.

I looked at the details. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say.

Mark was disappointed by my response. “Show me your toys.”

I didn’t have any toys except my paper menagerie. I brought Laohu out from my bedroom. By then he was very worn, patched all over with tape and glue, evidence of the years of repairs Mom and I had done on him. He was no longer as nimble and sure-footed as before. I sat him down on the coffee table. I could hear the skittering steps of the other animals behind in the hallway, timidly peeking into the living room.

Xiao laohu,” I said, and stopped. I switched to English. “This is Tiger.” Cautiously, Laohu strode up and purred at Mark, sniffing his hands.

Mark examined the Christmas-wrap pattern of Laohu’s skin. “That doesn’t look like a tiger at all. Your Mom makes toys for you from trash?”

I had never thought of Laohu as trash. But looking at him now, he was really just a piece of wrapping paper.

Mark pushed Obi-Wan’s head again. The lightsaber flashed; he moved his arms up and down. “Use the Force!”

Laohu turned and pounced, knocking the plastic figure off the table. It hit the floor and broke, and Obi-Wan’s head rolled under the couch. “Rawwww,” Laohu laughed. I joined him.

Mark punched me, hard. “This was very expensive! You can’t even find it in the stores now. It probably cost more than what your dad paid for your mom!”

I stumbled and fell to the floor. Laohu growled and leapt at Mark’s face.

Mark screamed, more out of fear and surprise than pain. Laohu was only made of paper, after all.

Mark grabbed Laohu and his snarl was choked off as Mark crumpled him in his hand and tore him in half. He balled up the two pieces of paper and threw them at me. “Here’s your stupid cheap Chinese garbage.”

After Mark left, I spent a long time trying, without success, to tape together the pieces, smooth out the paper, and follow the creases to refold Laohu. Slowly, the other animals came into the living room and gathered around us, me and the torn wrapping paper that used to be Laohu.

#

My fight with Mark didn’t end there. Mark was popular at school. I never want to think again about the two weeks that followed.

I came home that Friday at the end of the two weeks. “Xuexiao hao ma?” Mom asked. I said nothing and went to the bathroom. I looked into the mirror. I look nothing like her, nothing.

At dinner I asked Dad, “Do I have a chink face?”

Dad put down his chopsticks. Even though I had never told him what happened in school, he seemed to understand. He closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “No, you don’t.”

Mom looked at Dad, not understanding. She looked back at me. “Sha jiao chink?

“English,” I said. “Speak English.”

She tried. “What happen?”

I pushed the chopsticks and the bowl before me away: stir-fried green peppers with five-spice beef. “We should eat American food.”

Dad tried to reason. “A lot of families cook Chinese sometimes.”

“We are not other families.” I looked at him. Other families don’t have moms who don’t belong.

He looked away. And then he put a hand on Mom’s shoulder. “I’ll get you a cookbook.”

Mom turned to me. “Bu haochi?

“English,” I said, raising my voice. “Speak English.”

Mom reached out to touch my forehead, feeling for my temperature. “Fashao la?

I brushed her hand away. “I’m fine. Speak English!” I was shouting.

“Speak English to him,” Dad said to Mom. “You knew this was going to happen some day. What did you expect?”

Mom dropped her hands to her side. She sat, looking from Dad to me, and back to Dad again. She tried to speak, stopped, and tried again, and stopped again.

“You have to,” Dad said. “I’ve been too easy on you. Jack needs to fit in.”

Mom looked at him. “If I say ‘love,’ I feel here.” She pointed to her lips. “If I say ‘ai,‘ I feel here.” She put her hand over her heart.

Dad shook his head. “You are in America.”

Mom hunched down in her seat, looking like the water buffalo when Laohu used to pounce on him and squeeze the air of life out of him.

“And I want some real toys.”

#

Dad bought me a full set of Star Wars action figures. I gave the Obi-Wan Kenobi to Mark.

I packed the paper menagerie in a large shoebox and put it under the bed.

The next morning, the animals had escaped and took over their old favorite spots in my room. I caught them all and put them back into the shoebox, taping the lid shut. But the animals made so much noise in the box that I finally shoved it into the corner of the attic as far away from my room as possible.

If Mom spoke to me in Chinese, I refused to answer her. After a while, she tried to use more English. But her accent and broken sentences embarrassed me. I tried to correct her. Eventually, she stopped speaking altogether if I were around.

Mom began to mime things if she needed to let me know something. She tried to hug me the way she saw American mothers did on TV. I thought her movements exaggerated, uncertain, ridiculous, graceless. She saw that I was annoyed, and stopped.

“You shouldn’t treat your mother that way,” Dad said. But he couldn’t look me in the eyes as he said it. Deep in his heart, he must have realized that it was a mistake to have tried to take a Chinese peasant girl and expect her to fit in the suburbs of Connecticut.

Mom learned to cook American style. I played video games and studied French.

Every once in a while, I would see her at the kitchen table studying the plain side of a sheet of wrapping paper. Later a new paper animal would appear on my nightstand and try to cuddle up to me. I caught them, squeezed them until the air went out of them, and then stuffed them away in the box in the attic.

Mom finally stopped making the animals when I was in high school. By then her English was much better, but I was already at that age when I wasn’t interested in what she had to say whatever language she used.

Sometimes, when I came home and saw her tiny body busily moving about in the kitchen, singing a song in Chinese to herself, it was hard for me to believe that she gave birth to me. We had nothing in common. She might as well be from the moon. I would hurry on to my room, where I could continue my all-American pursuit of happiness.

#

Dad and I stood, one on each side of Mom, lying on the hospital bed. She was not yet even forty, but she looked much older.

For years she had refused to go to the doctor for the pain inside her that she said was no big deal. By the time an ambulance finally carried her in, the cancer had spread far beyond the limits of surgery.

My mind was not in the room. It was the middle of the on-campus recruiting season, and I was focused on resumes, transcripts, and strategically constructed interview schedules. I schemed about how to lie to the corporate recruiters most effectively so that they’ll offer to buy me. I understood intellectually that it was terrible to think about this while your mother lay dying. But that understanding didn’t mean I could change how I felt.

She was conscious. Dad held her left hand with both of his own. He leaned down to kiss her forehead. He seemed weak and old in a way that startled me. I realized that I knew almost as little about Dad as I did about Mom.

Mom smiled at him. “I’m fine.”

She turned to me, still smiling. “I know you have to go back to school.” Her voice was very weak and it was difficult to hear her over the hum of the machines hooked up to her. “Go. Don’t worry about me. This is not a big deal. Just do well in school.”

I reached out to touch her hand, because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I was relieved. I was already thinking about the flight back, and the bright California sunshine.

She whispered something to Dad. He nodded and left the room.

“Jack, if—” she was caught up in a fit of coughing, and could not speak for some time. “If I don’t make it, don’t be too sad and hurt your health. Focus on your life. Just keep that box you have in the attic with you, and every year, at Qingming, just take it out and think about me. I’ll be with you always.”

Qingming was the Chinese Festival for the Dead. When I was very young, Mom used to write a letter onQingming to her dead parents back in China, telling them the good news about the past year of her life in America. She would read the letter out loud to me, and if I made a comment about something, she would write it down in the letter too. Then she would fold the letter into a paper crane, and release it, facing west. We would then watch, as the crane flapped its crisp wings on its long journey west, towards the Pacific, towards China, towards the graves of Mom’s family.

It had been many years since I last did that with her.

“I don’t know anything about the Chinese calendar,” I said. “Just rest, Mom. ”

“Just keep the box with you and open it once in a while. Just open—” she began to cough again.

“It’s okay, Mom.” I stroked her arm awkwardly.

Haizi, mama ai ni—” Her cough took over again. An image from years ago flashed into my memory: Mom saying ai and then putting her hand over her heart.

“Alright, Mom. Stop talking.”

Dad came back, and I said that I needed to get to the airport early because I didn’t want to miss my flight.

She died when my plane was somewhere over Nevada.

#

Dad aged rapidly after Mom died. The house was too big for him and had to be sold. My girlfriend Susan and I went to help him pack and clean the place.

Susan found the shoebox in the attic. The paper menagerie, hidden in the uninsulated darkness of the attic for so long, had become brittle and the bright wrapping paper patterns had faded.

“I’ve never seen origami like this,” Susan said. “Your Mom was an amazing artist.”

The paper animals did not move. Perhaps whatever magic had animated them stopped when Mom died. Or perhaps I had only imagined that these paper constructions were once alive. The memory of children could not be trusted.

#

It was the first weekend in April, two years after Mom’s death. Susan was out of town on one of her endless trips as a management consultant and I was home, lazily flipping through the TV channels.

I paused at a documentary about sharks. Suddenly I saw, in my mind, Mom’s hands, as they folded and refolded tin foil to make a shark for me, while Laohu and I watched.

A rustle. I looked up and saw that a ball of wrapping paper and torn tape was on the floor next to the bookshelf. I walked over to pick it up for the trash.

The ball of paper shifted, unfurled itself, and I saw that it was Laohu, who I hadn’t thought about in a very long time. “Rawrr-sa.” Mom must have put him back together after I had given up.

He was smaller than I remembered. Or maybe it was just that back then my fists were smaller.

Susan had put the paper animals around our apartment as decoration. She probably left Laohu in a pretty hidden corner because he looked so shabby.

I sat down on the floor, and reached out a finger. Laohu’s tail twitched, and he pounced playfully. I laughed, stroking his back. Laohu purred under my hand.

“How’ve you been, old buddy?”

Laohu stopped playing. He got up, jumped with feline grace into my lap, and proceeded to unfold himself.

In my lap was a square of creased wrapping paper, the plain side up. It was filled with dense Chinese characters. I had never learned to read Chinese, but I knew the characters for son, and they were at the top, where you’d expect them in a letter addressed to you, written in Mom’s awkward, childish handwriting.

I went to the computer to check the Internet. Today was Qingming.

#

I took the letter with me downtown, where I knew the Chinese tour buses stopped. I stopped every tourist, asking, “Nin hui du zhongwen ma?” Can you read Chinese? I hadn’t spoken Chinese in so long that I wasn’t sure if they understood.

A young woman agreed to help. We sat down on a bench together, and she read the letter to me aloud. The language that I had tried to forget for years came back, and I felt the words sinking into me, through my skin, through my bones, until they squeezed tight around my heart.

#

Son,

We haven’t talked in a long time. You are so angry when I try to touch you that I’m afraid. And I think maybe this pain I feel all the time now is something serious.

So I decided to write to you. I’m going to write in the paper animals I made for you that you used to like so much.

The animals will stop moving when I stop breathing. But if I write to you with all my heart, I’ll leave a little of myself behind on this paper, in these words. Then, if you think of me on Qingming, when the spirits of the departed are allowed to visit their families, you’ll make the parts of myself I leave behind come alive too.  The creatures I made for you will again leap and run and pounce, and maybe you’ll get to see these words then.

Because I have to write with all my heart, I need to write to you in Chinese.

All this time I still haven’t told you the story of my life. When you were little, I always thought I’d tell you the story when you were older, so you could understand. But somehow that chance never came up.

I was born in 1957, in Sigulu Village, Hebei Province. Your grandparents were both from very poor peasant families with few relatives. Only a few years after I was born, the Great Famines struck China, during which thirty million people died. The first memory I have was waking up to see my mother eating dirt so that she could fill her belly and leave the last bit of flour for me.

Things got better after that. Sigulu is famous for its zhezhi papercraft, and my mother taught me how to make paper animals and give them life. This was practical magic in the life of the village. We made paper birds to chase grasshoppers away from the fields, and paper tigers to keep away the mice. For Chinese New Year my friends and I made red paper dragons. I’ll never forget the sight of all those little dragons zooming across the sky overhead, holding up strings of exploding firecrackers to scare away all the bad memories of the past year. You would have loved it.

Then came the Cultural Revolution in 1966. Neighbor turned on neighbor, and brother against brother. Someone remembered that my mother’s brother, my uncle, had left for Hong Kong back in 1946, and became a merchant there. Having a relative in Hong Kong meant we were spies and enemies of the people, and we had to be struggled against in every way. Your poor grandmother — she couldn’t take the abuse and threw herself down a well. Then some boys with hunting muskets dragged your grandfather away one day into the woods, and he never came back.

There I was, a ten-year-old orphan. The only relative I had in the world was my uncle in Hong Kong. I snuck away one night and climbed onto a freight train going south.

Down in Guangdong Province a few days later, some men caught me stealing food from a field. When they heard that I was trying to get to Hong Kong, they laughed. “It’s your lucky day. Our trade is to bring girls to Hong Kong.”

They hid me in the bottom of a truck along with other girls, and smuggled us across the border.

We were taken to a basement and told to stand up and look healthy and intelligent for the buyers. Families paid the warehouse a fee and came by to look us over and select one of us to “adopt.”

The Chin family picked me to take care of their two boys. I got up every morning at four to prepare breakfast. I fed and bathed the boys. I shopped for food. I did the laundry and swept the floors. I followed the boys around and did their bidding. At night I was locked into a cupboard in the kitchen to sleep. If I was slow or did anything wrong I was beaten. If the boys did anything wrong I was beaten. If I was caught trying to learn English I was beaten.

“Why do you want to learn English?” Mr. Chin asked. “You want to go to the police? We’ll tell the police that you are a mainlander illegally in Hong Kong. They’d love to have you in their prison.”

Six years I lived like this. One day, an old woman who sold fish to me in the morning market pulled me aside.

“I know girls like you. How old are you now, sixteen? One day, the man who owns you will get drunk, and he’ll look at you and pull you to him and you can’t stop him. The wife will find out, and then you will think you really have gone to hell. You have to get out of this life. I know someone who can help.”

She told me about American men who wanted Asian wives. If I can cook, clean, and take care of my American husband, he’ll give me a good life. It was the only hope I had. And that was how I got into the catalog with all those lies and met your father. It is not a very romantic story, but it is my story.

In the suburbs of Connecticut, I was lonely. Your father was kind and gentle with me, and I was very grateful to him. But no one understood me, and I understood nothing.

But then you were born! I was so happy when I looked into your face and saw shades of my mother, my father, and myself. I had lost my entire family, all of Sigulu, everything I ever knew and loved. But there you were, and your face was proof that they were real. I hadn’t made them up.

Now I had someone to talk to. I would teach you my language, and we could together remake a small piece of everything that I loved and lost. When you said your first words to me, in Chinese that had the same accent as my mother and me, I cried for hours. When I made the first zhezhi animals for you, and you laughed, I felt there were no worries in the world.

You grew up a little, and now you could even help your father and I talk to each other. I was really at home now. I finally found a good life. I wished my parents could be here, so that I could cook for them, and give them a good life too. But my parents were no longer around. You know what the Chinese think is the saddest feeling in the world? It’s for a child to finally grow the desire to take care of his parents, only to realize that they were long gone.

Son, I know that you do not like your Chinese eyes, which are my eyes. I know that you do not like your Chinese hair, which is my hair. But can you understand how much joy your very existence brought to me?  And can you understand how it felt when you stopped talking to me and won’t let me talk to you in Chinese? I felt I was losing everything all over again.

Why won’t you talk to me, son? The pain makes it hard to write.

#

The young woman handed the paper back to me. I could not bear to look into her face.

Without looking up, I asked for her help in tracing out the character for ai on the paper below Mom’s letter. I wrote the character again and again on the paper, intertwining my pen strokes with her words.

The young woman reached out and put a hand on my shoulder. Then she got up and left, leaving me alone with my mother.

Following the creases, I refolded the paper back into Laohu. I cradled him in the crook of my arm, and as he purred, we began the walk home.


 

有些敏感词,希望不会被墙。

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译文(与原文有出入)

 

雨果獎(Hugo Award)是一個頒發給科幻或奇幻小說的文學獎。得名於《驚奇故事雜誌》(Amazing Stories)的創辦人雨果·根斯巴克(Hugo Gernsback)。每年由世界科幻年會(Worldcon, World Science Fiction Convention)的參加者投票,從上年度內的作品中選出獲獎者,其選舉過程則由世界科幻社群(WSFS)制訂。與星雲獎(Nebula Award)同為科幻界最受矚目的年度獎項。 ------ from Wikipedia

=================================================================

手中纸,心中爱  
(分卷名:正文)  
(作者:刘宇昆  本章字数:9,131  更新时间:2012-09-03 19:46:35)  
  范何丰 译  
   
  我最早的记忆是我儿时的一次哭泣。那次,不管爸爸妈妈怎么哄,我就是不搭理,一个劲儿地哭个不停。  
  爸爸拿我没办法,只好任由我在卧室里哭。妈妈却把我抱进厨房,将我安置在餐桌旁坐好。她从冰箱上抽出一张彩色包装纸,想吸引我的注意,“瞧瞧,这是什么?”  
  每年圣诞节过后,妈妈都会将各种圣诞礼盒的包装纸小心翼翼地裁剪下来,整齐地叠放在冰箱顶部。几年下来,包装纸积了厚厚一沓。  
  她拿出其中一张,正面朝下反面朝上,平整地摊在桌上,给我叠小玩意儿。折、压、吹、卷、捏……不一会儿,这张纸就在她指尖消失不见了。她轻轻一吹,一个被压得扁扁平平的纸模型瞬间变成了有血有肉的生灵。  
  “瞧!小老虎!” 她边说边将手中的纸老虎放到桌上。它个头不大,和我两个拳头加起来差不多,白色虎皮上点缀着红色糖果和绿色圣诞松。  
  我接过妈妈手中的小老虎。它似猫非猫,高翘着尾巴,在我指尖左右乱窜,“嗷……”的吼叫声夹杂着纸张的窸窣声。  
  我既惊又喜,用食指摸摸后背,小东西连蹦带跳,发出低沉的吼叫声。  
  “这叫折纸。”母亲用中文告诉我。  
  那时我对折纸一窍不通,但我知道妈妈的折纸术神奇无比。只要她轻轻一吹,这些纸玩意儿便可借助她的气息活蹦乱跳起来。这么神奇的折纸术只有她一个人会。  
   
  爸爸是从一本册子里挑中妈妈的。  
  记得有一次,正在读高中的我向爸爸询问其中经过。他显得很不情愿。  
  那是1973年的春天,爸爸想通过婚介找个对象。于是他漫不经心地翻阅着介绍册,每一页都瞟上一眼,直到他看到妈妈照片的一刹那。  
  “我从未见过那种照片。”爸爸说。照片里,一位女子侧身坐在藤椅上,她身着丝质的紧身绿旗袍,双眸视镜,一头秀发优雅地垂在胸前,依于肩侧,孩童般的双眼透过照片,盯着爸爸。  
  “自从看到她的照片,我就不想再看别人的了。”爸爸说。  
  册子上说,这名女子芳龄十八,爱好舞蹈,来自香港,英语流利。但这些个人信息没一个是真的。  
  后来,爸爸开始给妈妈写信。在那家婚介公司的帮助下,他们一直保持着联系。终于,他决定亲自去香港看她。  
  “她根本就不会说英语。我收到的信也都是婚介以她的口吻代写的。她的英语完全停留在‘你好’、‘再见’的水平。”  
  究竟什么样的女人会把自己像商品一样放到册子里,并期待别人把她们买走呢?我那时还是个高中生,轻蔑鄙视之情油然而生。  
  爸爸没有因为受骗而闯入婚介所要求退费赔偿。相反,他带妈妈去了餐厅,找来服务生给他们做翻译。  
  “她怯生生地看着我,眼神中透着几分害怕和期待。当服务生开始翻译我的话时,她脸上慢慢露出了笑容。”  
  爸爸回到康涅狄格,为妈妈办了入境手续。  
  一年后,我出生了。那一年,是虎年。  
   
  只要我想要,妈妈就会用彩色包装纸给我折各种各样的小动物——山羊、小鹿、水牛等等。在我家客厅,这些小动物随处可见。而老虎则咆哮着四处追赶它们,一旦追上,就会用爪子将其摁倒,挤压出身体里的空气,让它们变回一张扁平的折纸。每当遇到这种情况,我就只好往小动物的体内吹口气,让它们重新活蹦乱跳。  
  小动物时常会陷入麻烦。有一次,水牛在我们吃午餐时掉进了酱油碗,似乎它还真想像水牛一样在泥浆里打滚嬉闹一番。我赶紧把它捏出来,但它的四肢已经被黑黢黢的酱油泡软了,无法继续支撑躯体,只能软绵绵地趴在餐桌上。  
  我把它放在阳光下晒干,但它的四肢却因此而扭曲,不再像以前一样能四平八稳地奔跑走动。最后,妈妈用莎伦纸将它的四肢包扎固定起来。这样,它又可以随心所欲地打滚了(不过不是在酱油碗里)。  
  当我和老虎一起在院子里嬉戏玩耍时,它总喜欢去捕捉麻雀。有一次,一只被逼得走投无路的小鸟一怒之下把它的耳朵给咬了,它疼得呜咽了许久。在我的陪伴下,它忍痛接受了妈妈的胶带缝合手术。从此以后,看到那些鸟儿,它都躲得远远的。  
  某天,我在电视上看了一集关于鲨鱼的纪录片,便要妈妈给我做一只鲨鱼。鲨鱼做好了,见它躺在餐桌上闷闷不乐,我便在洗手池放满水,把它放进去。在宽阔的水域里,鲨鱼快乐地游弋着,没过多久,它的身子变得湿软、透明,慢慢沉入池底,折叠的部分也慢慢在水中展开。待我回过神要救它时,已经来不及了,躺在我手中的只剩一张湿纸片。  
  我的小老虎扒拉着前爪使劲往水池边爬,找好位置后把小脑袋轻轻靠在爪子上。看到刚才发生的惨剧后,它的耳朵耷拉下来,喉咙里发出呜呜的怒号,让我听了好生内疚。  
  妈妈用防水纸为我重新做了一只鲨鱼,它快乐地游弋在宽广的金鱼缸里。我喜欢和我的小老虎一起坐在鱼缸旁看着防水鲨鱼在水里追赶金鱼。但是小老虎一般会站在鱼缸的另一边,昂着头,透过鱼缸看我,眼睛被放大得像咖啡杯一样大。  
   
  十岁那年,我家搬到了镇上的另一头。两个女邻居跑来串门,爸爸赶紧拿出饮料招待客人,但他还得去水电部门一趟,因为前任户主的水电费没结清。爸爸临走前连声向两位邻居道歉:“你们自便啊。我太太不大会讲英语,所以不能陪你们聊天,千万别见外啊。”。  
  那会儿我正在餐厅里学习,妈妈在厨房里收拾东西。  
  我听见邻居在客厅里讲话,她们没有特意压低声音。  
  “他看上去挺正常一人啊,怎么会干这种事?”  
  “混血儿都怪怪的,像是发育不全。瞧他那张白人面孔配上一双黄种人的斜眼睛,简直就是小怪物。”  
  “你说他会不会英语啊?”  
  两人没有说话了。过了一会儿,她们来到餐厅。  
  “嘿,小家伙!你叫什么名字啊?”  
  “杰克。”  
  “不像是中国名字哦。”  
  妈妈也来到厨房,用笑容问候了两位客人。接着,我就在她们组成的三角包围圈中,看着她们面面相觑一言不发,直到爸爸回家。  
   
  马克是邻居家的孩子。一天,他拿着《星球大战》的欧比旺·肯诺比玩偶来我家玩。玩偶手中的光剑不但能发光,还能发出尖声:“运用原力!”然而,我真看不出这个玩偶哪点儿像电影里的那个欧比旺。  
  我和马克一起看着这个玩偶在咖啡桌上翻来覆去地比画了五遍。“它能换一个动作么?”  
  马克被我的话激怒了,“看清楚点儿,小子!”  
  可我看得够清楚了。我不知道还能说什么。  
  马克见我不说话,急了,“你有什么玩具,拿出来给我瞧瞧!”  
  可我除了那些折纸外,什么玩具也没有。于是,我把那只纸老虎带出卧室。那时它已经破旧不堪,身上也缠满了胶带,全是过去几年里我和妈妈修补时贴上去的。时光流逝,今已年迈的它早已失去了往日的矫健。我把它放在咖啡桌上。同时,我还听到其他小动物发出轻快的脚步声,似乎都在伸长脖子张望着。  
  “小老虎!”我用中文说,随后,我停下来,用英文又说了一遍。  
  小老虎十分小心谨慎,没有轻举妄动,只是作匍匐提防的姿态,双眼怒视着马克,用鼻子嗅他的手。  
  马克上下打量了一番这只用圣诞礼盒包装纸做的纸老虎,“这哪是什么老虎啊?你妈用垃圾做玩具啊?”  
  我从来不觉得我的纸老虎是垃圾。但说真的,它确实就是一张废纸而已。  
  马克用手碰了碰欧比旺的头,光剑又舞动起来,手臂上下摇摆不停,“运用原力!”  
  小老虎转过身,向欧比旺扑去,将那塑料小人狠狠推下餐桌,摔得个骨头断裂、脑袋搬家。“嗷……”老虎得意了。我也笑了。  
  马克狠狠地把我推向一边,“这玩具很贵的!现在根本买不到!没准儿你老爸买你妈的时候都没花这么多钱!”  
  我愣住了,瘫倒在地。纸老虎咆哮着,径直朝着马克的脸猛扑过去。  
  马克哇哇大叫。倒不是因为他被老虎弄疼,而是因为眼前的景象让他既害怕又惊讶。毕竟,这只老虎是纸做的。  
  他抢过我的纸老虎,铆足劲地蹂躏,连撕带咬。我的纸老虎瞬间就被肢解成两半,身首异处。他把揉烂了的两团碎纸狠狠地扔给我,“拿去!愚蠢的破玩意儿!”  
  马克离开后,我一个人哭了很久。我试图把它展平后沿着原有的褶皱恢复成原样,但不管怎么试,它就是无法恢复。过了一会儿,其他小动物都凑了过来,但它们看到的不再是曾经认识的那只老虎,而是一堆碎纸。  
   
  我和马克的恩怨没有就此终止。马克在学校的人缘很好。我根本无法想象,接下来两个星期的学校生活该怎么过。  
  两周后的星期五,我放学回家,一进门妈妈就问:“学校好吗?”我闷不吭声,不想搭理她。我把自己关在洗漱间里,凝视着镜中的自己——我不像她,根本不像!  
  晚餐时,我问爸爸,“我是不是长得很像中国佬?”  
  爸爸停住了手中的筷子。虽然我从未跟他提过学校的事,但他似乎早已猜到发生了什么。他双目紧闭,摸了摸鼻梁,“不,你不像。”  
  妈妈不解地看了看爸爸,又看看我,“啥叫中国佬啊?”  
  “英语!说英语!”我爆发了。  
  她努力寻找着会说的英语词汇,“你怎么了?”  
  我啪地摔下筷子,推开面前的饭碗,看着桌上的“青椒爆炒五香牛肉”,带着命令式的口吻说,“以后不准做中国菜!”  
  “孩子,很多美国家庭也吃中国菜啊。”爸爸试图帮妈妈辩解。  
  “问题就出在我们不是美国家庭!”我怒视着爸爸的眼睛说。美国家庭里根本就不会有我这样的妈!  
  爸爸没有回话,只是将手搭在妈妈的肩膀上说了句:“我回头给你买些做菜的书吧。”  
  妈妈转过头来问我,“不好吃?”  
  “说英语!说英语!”我急了,扯着嗓子大喊。  
  妈妈伸出手想摸我的额头,“你发烧了吗?”我用力推开她的手,“我很好!不要你管!我只要你给我说英语!”  
  “以后多和他说英语吧,”爸爸对妈妈说,“你知道迟早会有这一天的。不是吗?”  
  妈妈沮丧地坐在那儿,看看爸爸,又看看我,嘴唇张了又合,欲言又止。  
  “你该学学英语了,”爸爸说,“只怪我过去没什么要求,可是杰克还得融入这个社会。”  
  妈妈看着爸爸,用手指摸着嘴唇说,“当我用英语说‘爱’字的时候,感受到的是声音,但是当我用中文说‘爱’字的时候,感受到的是真情。”说着,她用手捂住自己的胸口。  
  爸爸无奈地摇了摇头,“但你现在是在美国啊。”  
  妈妈沮丧地坐在椅子上,看上去就像一只泄了气的纸水牛,被纸老虎打击得没了气力。  
  “我还要一些像样的玩具!”  
   
  爸爸给我买了一整套《星球大战》玩偶。我把里面的欧比旺·肯诺比赔给了马克。然后,我把那堆折纸动物一股脑儿扔进了一个废鞋盒,塞到床底下再也不想理会。  
  第二天早上,小动物们纷纷从盒子里逃了出来,在它们过去玩耍的地方打闹。我毫不留情地把它们全抓了回去,一个不落,并用胶带把鞋盒封得严严实实。但那群动物还是会又吵又闹,搅得我烦躁不已。无奈之下,我只好把它们扔到阁楼,能扔多久就扔多远。  
  如果妈妈和我说中文,我就拒绝回答。久而久之,她只好和我说英语了。但是她蹩脚的口音和离谱的文法让我觉得很丢人。她出错,我就挑错。终于,她不在我面前说英语了。  
  如果她想要对我说什么,就会像打哑谜一样地对着我比画。她会学着电视里的美国妈妈,拥抱亲吻我,但她的动作总是那么夸张、别扭、滑稽、丢人。知道我不喜欢她这样后,她就没再抱过我了。  
  “你不该这样对你妈妈。”但爸爸说这些话的时候,却不敢直视我的眼睛。娶了这么个农村姑娘,期望她可以融入康涅狄格的郊区社会——这本来就是个错误的想法。  
  妈妈开始学着做美式餐点,我则在家里玩着电游,在学校学着法语。 有时候,我看见她坐在餐桌旁,望着手中的包装纸发呆。不久,就会有一个新做的小动物出现在我的床头柜,依偎在我身边。不过我照样会把它们压扁,然后扔进阁楼的盒子里。  
  上高中后,她再也没给我做过纸动物。她的英语也进步很多,但那时的我已经不是那种听大人话的毛孩子了,管你对我说英语还是中文!  
  有时回到家,望着她瘦弱的背影,听她哼着中文歌,在厨房忙前忙后,我还是难以相信她竟是我的亲生母亲。我们根本不是同一个世界的人啊!她活在月球,我活在地球。我不会走去和她说话,我把自己关进卧室,独自追寻美国式的幸福生活。  
   
  医院里,母亲躺在病床上,我和爸爸分守在病榻两侧。她不到四十,看上去却老得多。  
  多少年来,她身体有病却坚持不去医院,每当被问起身体时,她总说自己没事,直到有一天她被救护车送进了医院。医生诊断,她已是癌症晚期,手术都救不了她的命。  
  但我的心思根本就不在母亲的病情上。那时正值校园招聘会的高峰期,我满脑子装的都是简历、成绩和面试,整天琢磨的都是怎样在招聘主管面前美化自己,让他们聘用自己。理智告诉我,在母亲即将离世的时候,想这些很不应该,但是理智并不能改变我的情绪。  
  在她失去意识之前,爸爸用双手紧紧地握住她的左手,深情地给了她一个吻。他看上去特别苍老憔悴,我不禁战栗着意识到,我其实并不了解我的父亲,犹如我不了解母亲一样。  
  妈妈努力给他一个笑容,“我没事。”她转过头来看了看我,笑容依旧挂在嘴角,“我知道你还得回学校,”她的声音十分微弱,而她满身医疗器械发出的嘈杂声更让我难以听清她的声音,“去吧,不要担心我。我没事儿。在学校好好表现。”  
  我握住她的手,心里如释重负,因为我做了件此刻该做的事。我的心早已飞到机场,飞到阳光明媚的加州。  
  父亲靠在她嘴边听她私语了些什么后,点了点头,然后离开房间。  
  “杰克,如果……”她咳个不停,好不容易喘上一口气,抓紧机会对我说,“如果我不行了,不要难过,这对身体不好。你要好好生活。阁楼上的那个鞋盒要留着,以后每逢清明,把它拿出来,你就会想到我的。我永远都在你身边。”  
  清明是中国人怀念死者的传统节日。我很小的时候,妈妈会在清明那天给她死去的父母写信,告诉他们她在美国生活得怎么样。她会把信上的内容大声地读给我听,如果我说了什么,她还会把我的话写进信里。接着,她会把信纸叠成一只纸鹤,放飞到空中。纸鹤扑打着清脆的翅膀,向西飞去,飞越太平洋,飞向中国,落在祖辈的坟冢上。  
  但这已经是很多年前的事了。  
  “你知道我对中国年历一窍不通,”我对她说,“妈,你就好好休息吧。”  
  “盒子你要存着,没事的时候打开看看。记得……”她又开始咳嗽起来。  
  “知道了,妈。”我不自在地抚摸着她的手。  
  “孩子,妈妈爱你……”她再次猛咳不止。我不禁回想起多年前的那个场景,妈妈捂着自己的心口,用中文说着“爱”字。  
  “好了,妈,你歇会儿,别说话了。”  
  爸爸回来了。我跟他说我想早点去机场,因为我不想误点。  
  在我搭乘的飞机飞过内华达上空的时候,母亲离开了人世。  
   
  母亲过世让父亲立马老了许多。对于他来说,房子太大了,他决定卖掉。我和女朋友苏珊赶来帮忙收拾收拾东西,搞搞卫生。  
  苏珊在阁楼里发现了那个鞋盒。那一堆折纸动物不知在这个角落孤独地度过了多少个日子。由于长期被遗弃在阁楼的黑暗角落里,那些折纸变得脆弱不堪,原本明亮光鲜的图案也模糊不清了。  
  “这么漂亮的折纸,我还是头一次看到!”苏珊显得十分惊讶,“你妈妈真是一个了不起的艺术家。”  
  是啊,但此时,我眼前的这些折纸动物却一动不动,毫无生气。也许在母亲去世的那一刻,它们也随她一起去了;或许远去的不是它们,而是我童年的记忆。而童年的记忆大多不真实。  
   
  母亲去世两年后,四月的第一周,苏珊作为管理顾问被公司外派出差,家里只剩我一人。我懒洋洋地躺在沙发上,看着电视机,不停地换台。一档关于鲨鱼的纪录片突然吸引了我的注意力,那一刻,我似乎感觉母亲又回到了我身边,用防水纸给我折着纸鲨鱼。而我和我的小老虎围她在旁边,出神地观看着。  
  刷的一声!我惊讶地抬起头。只见一团缠着胶带的包装纸滚到了地上,落在书架旁。我走过去把它拾起来扔进垃圾箱。  
  突然,纸团动了动,慢慢舒展开来。原来这是那只被我遗忘多时的小老虎啊!肯定是妈妈想办法把它粘回了原样。  
  它显得比以前小了许多,也许是我的手变大了的缘故。  
  苏珊将折纸摆放在我们的公寓各处作为装饰。但这只老虎没有被摆出来,它独自躲在角落,终日与破旧家什为伴。  
  我蹲下来,趴在地板上,伸出手指想摸摸它。小老虎摇着尾巴,调皮地左扑右跳。我开心地笑了,抚摸着它的后背,它发出呜呜的低鸣声。  
  “最近怎样啊?老伙计。”  
  小老虎停止扑腾,站直了身子,然后以猫科动物特有的优美姿势跳到我腿上。接着它的身体开始肢解、舒展,最后,我腿上留下的是一张皱巴巴的包装纸,正面朝下,反面朝上。白色的纸面上点缀着密密麻麻的中国字。我没学过中国字,但“儿子”两个字还是认识的,它们在纸的最上方——只有写给某个人的信才会把对方的称谓放在这个位置上。信里的字迹,一笔一画都像个孩子写的。  
  我赶紧跑到电脑前,打开网页。  
  今天正是清明。  
  我立马带上信跑到城里,因为那里可以遇到中国人的旅游巴士。瞅见个长得像中国人的游客,我就会跑上去问:“你会读中文吗?”因为很久没说过中文了,为确保他们能明白我的问题,我又会用英语再问一遍,“你会读中文吗?”  
  最后,一位年轻的女士同意帮我。我们找到一条长凳坐下。她一字一句地把信念给我听。多年来,我一直逃避驱赶的声音终于又飘回到我的耳际,但这次它没有被迅速遗忘,而是沉入心底,浸入骨髓;此后,我的内心翻江倒海,灵魂夜不能寐。  
   
  儿子:  
  我们好久没有说话了。每当我接近你时,你总是那么生气,我不知道该怎么办。而这一心结好像变得越来越紧了。  
  所以,我决定给你写信。把信写好后,我会把它做成你一直都很喜欢的纸动物。  
  如果我去世了,那些小动物也将失去活力。但是,如果我用真心给你写这封信,我便可以在自己走后给你留下点儿关于我的东西。这样一来,每到清明节,每到死去的亲人回来看望家人的日子,我可以在你想我的那一刻来到你身边。我给你做的那些小动物到那时会乱蹦乱跳,也许你能看到这些字。  
  因为我希望用我全部的爱来写这些话,所以我只好用中文写下来。  
  多年来,我一直都没有向你说起我的过去。当时你还小,我总想,等你长大了再说给你听,那时你肯定已经懂事了。但是这一天却未能到来。  
  我出生在越南,祖籍是河北省四轱辘村,那里的折纸很出名。妈妈从小就教我如何用纸折小动物,并且赋予它们生命。这是我们老家村子里的一大法术。我们做纸鸟把蚱蜢赶出稻田,做纸老虎吓唬老鼠。每到春节,我和我的小伙伴们会一起折红色的纸龙,把它们拴在爆竹杆前头,至今我都能清晰记得轰隆隆的鞭炮声把小飞龙震得在我们头顶乱舞的样子,就这样,过去的烦恼全都被炸没了。如果你能在场,应该也会喜欢吧。  
  后来,这样的和睦场面再也没有了。周围的人越来越歧视我们华人,我可怜的祖母因为受不了羞辱,投井自杀了。我祖父被几个扛步枪的男子拖到了附近的林子里,再也没能回来。  
  十岁那年,我成了孤儿。我听说我还有个叔叔在香港。一天夜里,我跑了出来,爬进了一辆向南的货车。  
  几天后,我到了海边,因为偷东西吃被人抓到了。我对抓我的人说我想去香港,他们都笑了,说:“你真够幸运的,我们正好要送些女孩子去香港。”  
  我和其他女孩藏在货船底舱,偷偷地出了境。我们被关进地下室,他们让我们站直了,还嘱咐我们在客人面前学乖巧点儿,变机灵点儿。  
  一些想要孩子的家庭向他们交笔介绍费后,就可以过来挑人。一旦被看中,我们就可以被“领养”。  
  有户姓金的人家挑了我,让我照顾他们家的两个男孩子。我每天早上四点就得起来做早餐,做完早餐后还得给孩子喂饭、洗澡,还要买菜、洗衣、打扫房间。我每天围着这两个孩子忙得团团转,他们要我干什么我就得干什么。晚上,我被关进厨房的橱柜里睡觉。如果我做事稍稍慢了一点,或者做错了什么,就会挨打;如果他们家的孩子做错了事,我会挨打;如果我偷着学英语被他们逮到,我也会挨打。  
  “你为什么想学英语?”金家先生问,“你想报警?你如果敢报警,我们就说你是在香港非法居留的船民。他们巴不得让你蹲监狱。”  
  就这样,过了六年。一天早上,一个卖鱼的老太把我拉到一边说:“像你这样的女孩子我见得多了。你多大了?十六了吧?说不定哪天买你的男人喝醉了就会对你动手动脚,你想反抗都不行。若被他老婆发现,你都不知道自己怎么死的。你得想想出路啦。我认识能帮得上你的人。”  
  她告诉我,有些美国男人喜欢娶亚洲女孩做老婆。如果我会做饭,会做家务,能好好伺候美国老公,他就会给我一个幸福的生活。这是我唯一的出路。就这样,我的照片连同虚假的资料出现在册子上,接着你爸爸认识了我。虽然故事情节一点儿也不浪漫,但这就是我的故事。  
  在美国的郊区,我是孤独的。你爸爸对我很好,很体贴,我很感激他。但没有人能真正了解我,当然我也不了解周围的事物。  
  接着你出生了。我看着你的小脸蛋长得那么像我的爸爸妈妈还有我,我高兴极了。我没了家人,没了四轱辘,没了我所爱的一切。但是我有你,你的脸蛋告诉我,我关于故乡的记忆是真实的,不是幻觉。  
  现在,我有了可以说话的人。我可以教你我的语言,还能一起做一些我小时候喜欢的事。你第一次说中国话时,带着我和我母亲的乡音,为此我哭了一整天。第一次给你做折纸时,你被逗笑了,我顿时觉得世间没有了烦恼。  
  你一天天地长大,现在还可以帮我和你爸爸交流,真让我有了家的感觉。我终于找到了属于我的幸福生活。我真希望我的爸爸妈妈也能在我身边,这样我就可以给他们洗衣烧饭,让他们享享清福,但是他们已经不在了。你知道对中国人来说,最痛苦的是什么吗?就是当孩子想要孝顺父母的时候,父母已经不在人世了。  
  儿子,我知道你不喜欢自己长着中国人的眼睛,但它们透着我对你的期望;我知道你不喜欢自己长着一头中国人的黑发,但它饱含着我对你的祈愿。你能想象你让我的生命变得多么美好吗?你能想象当你不再和我说话,也不让我和你说中文的时候,我的心有多疼吗?我很害怕,我害怕我即将再次失去生命中一切美好的东西。  
  儿子,你为什么不和妈妈说话?妈妈的心真的好痛。  
   
  信读完了。那位中国女士将信递给我,我羞愧得无法抬头看她的脸。我低着头,请她再帮我一个忙,让她教我中文的“爱”字怎么写。照着她在信下方写的“爱”字,我笨拙地模仿着,写了一遍又一遍。她轻轻地拍了拍我的肩,起身离开了。这会儿,和我在一起的只有我的母亲。  
  我顺着折痕,把它折回了原来的样子,用手臂把它窝在怀里。随着它的一声咆哮,我带着它踏上了回家的路……

 

北美工大校友们加油!