i, ii & iii
i. Not a single piece of jigsaw
We’d completed a jigsaw puzzle some distant months ago, when spring was a faraway season. It was a photograph of the salt flats in Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, with a sheet of water reflecting the sky in a splendid gradient of blue. A cyclist skated across the horizon and that was where we started, gradually branching out until we were comparing the shades of pieces.
The final jigsaw was like an exhalation, air rushing out of an organism, having delivered all its necessary particles. We glued our labor, all eight hundred pieces, to a board, framed and mounted it, and nothing had ever looked more dead.
Even as we work toward finity, there is solace, I think, in building something with all the pieces in hand. The purpose is not to see or to find, but to achieve that which is guaranteed as long as we exercise patience. Part by part, we construct a vision we already know, knowing that it’ll end once we set our eyes on it.
Now, on a weekend, the shelves are empty from people finding things to do indoors. The shop we go to is completely sold out of jigsaw puzzles. How about a game instead? Reaching up, the assistant means to show us what else we could do to entertain ourselves.
On our way back, news filters through broadcasts and monitors. After a while, nothing shocks anymore.
ii. Shrunken pomegranate, juiced pomegranate
For a mousse, we measure out pomegranate juice and pour into a bowl. It is absurdly red, like blood. Jay drinks it with a spoon. Doesn’t really taste like pomegranate, he says with a ring of red over his lips.
We melt gelatin into the juice and beat the egg white until soft peaks form. Gently, we trickle in the liquids and the mixture becomes a pretty, fleshy pink.
Before lockdown, there was a pomegranate at the museum wrapped in xiao, a kind of translucent raw silk. Confined at ripeness, the pomegranate had shrunk slowly until all that remained was its dry husk and the hollow space between its surface and the enveloping xiao, a testament, the artist said, to time.
In fact the pomegranate had become so disfigured it was no longer recognizable to people:
This post has been updated to reflect the fact that the fruit in Hu Xiaoyuan's work is a pomegranate, rather than a passionfruit.
Breaking open a pomegranate, I line the seeds up in a row on the table. For the damsel had broke her fast; she had plucked a pomegranate from the bending tree, and had chewed in her mouth three grains taken from the pale rind. Five. I chew until they pop and crackle with juice inside my mouth.
Aiya! My mother cries as she rushes to stop our washing machine which is frothing from the door, and has been whirling on eco mode for hours.
Aiya! she says as the eggs stick to the frying pan and we scrape the salvageable bits for breakfast. Our family takes turns to prepare food now, sort of like playing house, and we’d told her it is fine, it can be something simple, but she insists and so we nibble on edges that are charred and crunchy.
Aiya! The daisies, see? I turn to see them blooming yellow and easy on our coffee table, and she takes photos to share with her friends and changes her WhatsApp icon.
Is it 7pm? Honey, come, the show is on. Finishing up with dishes from dinner, my mother wipes her hands and sits down for something she would’ve never been able to watch as an office worker.
I make popcorn, getting really good at this now, and nuzzle my face into her hair. Aiya, this too will pass. In our long and furloughed days we discover how little we know of home: how to clean with baking soda, how to trim the stalks of plants. A rerun of Cats. Onscreen, magnificent felines gather in the neighborhood and sing to the large midnight moon.
Jacqueline Leung is a writer and translator from Hong Kong. Her work has appeared in Asymptote, the Asian Review of Books, Cha, Cicada, and Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine.