The Creative Writing Column

This is a new column that will give students an opportunity to display their short stories, creative writing, or other essays. If you re interested in submitting your work, please email the Editor. Thanks!

By Anita Xu ’13

A descriptive place essay from Laurie Sales’ Exposition class

305. This is it. I trace my fingers through the numbers, now coarse and dull, carved on a tarnished iron plate. A thick layer of dust clings to my finger, leaving a clean imprint. I can’t help smiling as I remember the chant that I used to sing, “Three-oh-five. Three-ooh-five! My home is three-o-five!” This has always ensured that I would never get lost.

Ringing the rusty, faded doorbell, I hear footsteps rushing towards the door. My grandma appears between the metal bars of the new protection screen. With a click, it snaps open. Ten years ago, returning from daycare, I always shouted “I’M HOME!!” and lunged at my grandma’s legs. Now, I still rush into my grandma’s open arms.

I don’t know what to expect. My old memories of the place hang in limbo—half reality, half a dream. Did grandma refurbish my room? Did grandpa toss out the chess board? How much has changed? I hold my breath as I tread into the sticky humid air of the apartment. The familiar sweet aroma of my grandma’s homemade soup dumplings awakens the taste buds in every part of my mouth. The scent of juicy pork buns steaming on the stove instinctively remind me of the dishes my grandma cooked for me when I was younger—the sizzling chicken soup with just the right amount of salt, and the ma-po tofu, a red hot sauce spread lazily over the limp tofu. It looks like she’s prepared her favorite dishes for my homecoming. My grandpa stands to greet me. Oh how he has aged! There are wrinkles around his eyes as he looks me over, many white hairs sprinkled on his head. Afflicted with knee problems, he walks slower and less steadily as he takes my hand and leads me to my room.

The same pink, flowery curtains welcome me. The small roses, deep crimson, have countless layers all beautifully wrapped together in the shape of the golden spiral. Light, airy curtains billow with the breeze from the window, coming alive with a flirty mystery about them. Though my feet feel a chill from the cool, bumpy wooden floor, I feel warmth inside as I notice my bureau, in the corner near the window, completely decorated with stickers. Smiling lady bugs dominate the bureau, but much of it consists of a blend of Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and Barbie characters of different sizes. A large rectangular image of a stoic white horse jumping from bright raging flames around it sticks out. Oh how I loved stickers!

I spot my white, elegant nightstand, a pile of magazines on top that display headlines in Chinese. Do they think I could still read these? The characters seem so foreign, as if the pieces of a puzzle have all been jumbled and distorted. On the edge of the table is a ripped copy of The Monkey King, a famous Chinese story. Turning the crumbly, well-worn pages, I see some scattered words, written in my stretched and untidy scribbles. The illustrations suddenly bring me back to my four-year-old self, bouncing up and down on my large queen sized bed and laughing with pure, carefree joy as my grandma sat on the edge of the bed, reading to me excerpts about the “monkey king” conquering another evil spirit by using his large all powerful stick to vanquish his enemies. I always placed my stuffed animals, Jiajia the duck, Piglet, and doggie, towering above the others, in rows on my pillows so they can also listen to the story. Engrossed in the world of supernatural powers and triumphant conquests, I felt safe and protected within my soft pink sheets as I snuggled against my fluffy friends. What could possibly go wrong in a world guarded by the Monkey King and grandma?

The dusty, unfamiliar book lies where it always rested, yet the gateway to my childhood innocence and story time is latched shut. Under the window, a small grey structure sits undisrupted, out of place. Metal legs hide a broad foot pedal underneath. It once had a wheel spinning on top. Compared to the new electronic sewing machines, this one is bulky and clumsy. The mechanical, dadada sound used to spew from the ancient machine whenever grandma pedaled. The familiar monotonous sound signaled that grandma was making another flowery dress for me. My grandma no longer sews; it’s too difficult for her to see the little pieces of string. The machine now rusts beneath a purple velvet cloth which covers the ancient relic.

A wobbly, wooden table is propped against the wall containing the window. Two stiff chairs, on opposite sides of the table, are cushioned with pink pillows. A chess board stands upright against the table, quietly resting amidst the piling dust, mostly forgotten. The pieces themselves have lost their shine, they are dull and chipped. When I was younger, I would stand on my chair atop the pink cushions as I proudly knocked my grandpa’s pieces. But he was always prepared, easily overwhelming my pieces. As I look over at him now, his hand trembles as he eyes the pieces through his new glasses, and deliberates for a long time. My grandma appears, smiling, surrounded by a cloud of steam. Carrying a plate of juicy buns towards us, she momentarily disrupts our concentration. As I savor the delicious pork bun, I knock out my grandpa’s pieces one by one. I slide my black knight towards victory, completely surrounding his king. Checkmate.

Framed pictures are placed all around the room—hanging on the walls, leaning against the window, sitting on my tables—all displaying images of a little girl sporting short black hair, showing off her dimples. She recites a poem, standing on a stool and acting it out for her grandpa. She frolics in the living room, skipping and holding her cousin’s hand. She, missing a tooth, blows out candles on a birthday cake… This is 305—my link to the past, a rusty treasure chest of memories. I can never forget it.

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