Lost In Translation

Being someone who considers themselves a second language speaker, I have always found that my native-language of Mandarin (although no longer as good as my English), holds a few words or phrases that I realized couldn’t translate into English. I say this not because there weren’t words for them in the English dictionary, because there were plenty, but because of the meaning that is lost in translating them into another language.
Mandarin has roots that trace back 3,000 years to the origin of the Chinese language, more recently becoming the common language of China over 700 years ago. Because of this, over the centuries, Chinese characters have gone from simply representing ideas or objects, to imbedding themselves into the deeper meaning of these ideas, becoming symbolic of what they represented.
I really don’t know if that would make sense to anyone who doesn’t have a non-English language where they can find an example of this. But essentially, what I’m trying to say, is as time as progressed, these words have solidified themselves as the sole-identifier for these ideas, meaning that the word in itself evokes instant imagery and clarity on whatever is being conveyed, it is the ultimate adjective, noun, verb, it requires no follow up, the word is a definition in itself just from the emotions it lets off.
Below I have jotted down a few that I’ve heard over the past several weeks that I don’t believe could ever be translated into another language and hold the same significance that it does in Mandarin.
香- xiang, like very good taste, smell, just feels right on the palate
哎哟,你做的饭好香啊
aīyō,nǐzuò dèfànhǎoxiāng a!
Oh my, this food that you made is so savory!
(Personally when I use this word, it evokes an image of that scene from Ratatouille when Remi takes a bite of the cheese and strawberry together and colors begin to swirl together on screen as he’s just in ecstasy. Just to give an example of what I mean by evocative)
情 qing, like very caring of, adoring, affection, lovey-dovey
转盼多情
Zhuǎn pàn duōqíng
a loving (or soulful) glance
辛苦- xin ku, working very hard, deserving of praise, worked to exhaustion, withstanding bitter hardships
路上辛苦了。
Lùshang xīnkǔ le.
You must have had a tiring journey.
脑海- nao hai, mind, same symbolic connotation as a heart that just doesn’t exist in English
你存在我深深的脑海里。
nǐ cúnzaì wǒ shēnshēn dè nǎohǎi lí
You exist, deep in my mind
存- cun, to exist, to protect it, cherish, withstand the test of time
爱长存。
aì chángcún.
Love will last forever
轻- qing, weightless, gentle, worry-free, relaxing
她走路脚步轻。
Tā zǒulù jiǎobù qīng.
She walks with a light, carefree step.
Source: AsiaSociety.org

Maybe they will bloom once more

Of course it had to be raining when they told me. It’s called pathetic fallacy.

I felt like I wanted to cry or wretch or go to sleep for a long time.

I suppose I could sit around and be angry for a while, but, at this point, I’ve resolved just to move on. This is much more of a quiet kind of feeling.

I have to be okay with things just being how they are.

But it was never a matter of being over her or having enough time, was it? It was always just a matter of me and you that would never exist.

I always talk about how seasons change and how that’s the way it is supposed to be, but I never thought it would be so drastic.

Image via Pinterest.com

Summer is almost here, but, though it may be peaceful, it will still be hot, so I’ll have to stay busy. And while I’d love to have citrus all year, I know that pixie season has come and gone.

Maybe next year, after the rains come and when the sun starts shining again, they will bloom once more and I will be okay.

To a Stranger in Brooklyn Heights

Dear stranger in Brooklyn Heights,

I don’t know much about you, but I can infer some things.

I think you are someone who cares about your belongings.

Like your copy of Spoon River Anthology, for example.

Photo Credit: pinterest.com

I think you care about it because you stamped it twice – once inside the front cover and once inside the back.

Maybe you just didn’t want to lose it and for it to be returned to you if it ever did get lost. But, if that’s the case, how did it end up in a used bookstore in a town 3,000 miles away?

I would want to know which poems are your favorites, but it seems like you never read them. The pages are nearly perfect, despite being printed in 1962.

I wish I could ask you some questions.

How old were you when you bought it? How old are you now? Why didn’t you read it? How did it end up with me?

I don’t know who you are, but I want to say thank you. Your book that was originally sold for 95 cents is now my book that was sold to me for three dollars.

And now I have a story within a story, thanks to you.

I’m not sure if you still live in New York or if any of my assumptions about you were correct or if you’re even a person at all.

But just in case I was right, once I finish the book, I’ll send it back to you.

 

The story of kale, tangerines, and the realizations I made.

I ate a piece of kale the other day.

It was growing in a garden box at school, so I pulled a leaf off of the plant and ate it.

It was a nice, sturdy piece of kale. It tasted pretty good. I continued munching on it as I walked over to the baseball field.

Photo Credit: Pinterest.com

Kale can be a nice snack, if you’re into dark leafy greens. But, as many experienced plant-eaters know, raw kale is quite tough to chew.

My jaws were getting a little bit tired, so I switched over to eating a different leaf that I had also picked from the garden box. I’m not sure what plant this was, but it was softer and sweeter than the kale.

As I was chewing, I twirled the piece between my thumb and my pointer finger.

I started to study the leaves. The kale was dark and rough. It was much more aggressively textured than the other leaf.

It was at that moment when I stopped chewing, for I noticed dozens of very tiny, white bugs all along the sides of the leaves.

I swallowed my bite, then tossed the remnants of my half-eaten leaves aside. I decided not to dwell on it too much, because I didn’t want the thought of the bugs to take away from the otherwise positive experience I had eating them.

(I would like to apologize to the innocent lives I took that day. I didn’t thoroughly inspect the leaves before eating them, and that was selfish of me. To the bugs that once inhabited the kale: I am sorry.)

On a completely unrelated note, this morning my parents and I went out to our tangerine trees. It was time to prune them. After about an hour of picking fruit and chopping branches, my dad said to me: “This is a chore that very few other people your age have to do, but you have to remember that it just makes you more cosmopolitan.”

Though I didn’t really enjoy being outside when it was 40 degrees, I did find comfort in the fact that our work would provide more fruit for us next season.

I never realized it before, but I am so thankful that I know how to take care of citrus trees.

I live in a place where I am fortunate enough to grow my own food. I take that for granted.

I hope that I will always have this luxury, bugs and all.

The Ghost in my Kitchen

There’s a ghost in my house. I’ve been talking to her.

She doesn’t talk back very often. In fact, I’ve only heard her once. I think she told me her name.

But the thing is, I’m not even sure if she’s real.

If she’s not actually there, that means I’ve been asking lots of questions to absolutely no one for about a week, which is slightly embarrassing. But if she is there, that means I can talk to ghosts, which is kind of badass. Regardless, I’m putting this story on the internet, so I guess you can decide for yourself.

It all started when we were eating dinner. I looked down the hallway and saw a white silhouette so clear that I thought it was my brother. I asked him what he was doing and turned around to find him walking into the kitchen behind me. I looked back in the other direction, but the figure wasn’t there.

“I just saw a ghost,” I said, quite matter-of-factly.

My dad, the self-proclaimed cynic, is surprisingly interested in the “supernatural,” if you will. While he’s never seen an actual ghost-like figure, he’s experienced quite a few unexplainable events.

He proceeded to text my aunt, who is our go-to gal for all things psychic and told her I’d seen an apparition. To put her into perspective, she once made me come to a meditation with her, involving tinctures, crystals, incense – the whole set-up. (Whilst there, I discovered that in my past life I may have died in 9/11, but that’s a story for another day.)

Photo Credit: pinterest.com

She responded saying that I needed to ask the ghost what it was doing and why it had made itself known to me. I eyed my father skeptically.

“I would do it, dude, but she [my aunt] says you’re more in-tune with this kind of thing,” my dad said to me, in a manner that reminded me of a little kid trying to convince his mother to buy him a lollipop.

My mom assured me that I didn’t need to attempt to communicate with the ghost if I didn’t feel like it.

But I felt a sense of obligation, like this was my duty. This was a task that had to be done, and only I could be the one to complete it. I was Gilgamesh setting out on his quest, but instead of searching for immortality, I was just trying to talk to a dead person.

So anyway, that’s how I started talking to this ghost in my house. At first, I was a little freaked out, but from what I’ve concluded from our encounters, I think she’s friendly and just here to visit, so I’m not worried.

I think she was telling me her name is Mary. The reason I’m not exactly certain I heard it correctly is because I thought I might have been tricking myself. My dad’s grandmother was named Mary. She was an artist and we have her paintings hanging all over our house.

But, like I said, I’m not sure if any of this was real. I’ll let you know once I figure it out.

 

 

Greek Tragedy (pt. III)

Read pt. I here and pt. II here. — (music)

Spring.

The light filtering into the kitchen was the type of gray-white light that made her glow like a goddess. She was fastidiously picking through a bowl of cereal for the fruit, too focused to really care about the food. He came and placed a hand on her shoulder, stilling her arm, he tiptoed his fingers across her collarbone to her other shoulder and pulled her in, his bicep laying gently across the top of her t-shirt, his hand idly playing with the hem of her sleeve.

Photo Credit: pinterest.com

It was still chilly outside and he could see a mist drifting by the window, the grass looked like blades of pure emerald. Rich and dark, sharp in comparison to the fogged and blurred weather. He glanced down into the grass under the window, he could just see the tale of a garden snake, he had begun to think of it as his pet this last month, disappearing into the grass. He tapped her twice on the arm.

“You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m just trying to find the right words,” she hummed.

∆∆∆

As the weather had warmed she had grown colder and colder. The spread of tingling embers that always started in her ribs and shoulders, that radiated out when he was near her, faded into cool pinpricks, like rain or snow. The clock had ticked out the final seconds: tick, mine; tock, mine; tick, mi– and then it was gone, the ticking of the clock was gone. They were no longer tied together, something no longer felt right.

So she found a way to say goodbye.

∆∆∆

He knew he shouldn’t. But he did.

Stop.

He couldn’t help it. He had to look at her one last time, to look back on her like he always had, if only he could have walked the road in time, he could have let the music of what tied them together play as a reminder that she was there, she was real, she was his. But he had to stop — look.

Photo Credit: dreamstime.com

Today she was in white — she never wore white — mourning. She was frozen mid-stride, a raindrop stopped just upon impact with her nose. He reached out and hugged her fiercely, angrily. Wildfire’s searing nails dragged down every nerve in his body. If only he hadn’t looked. If only — he stared at her eyes: cool, unwavering, timeless. He bent down to her —

Start.

He was back in the doorway his back to her, turning away. He tried to spin back, feeling like reality had finally slowed to meet him. He turned just in time to watch helplessly as she slipped away, pulled by an unseen force.

Greek Tragedy (pt. II)

Read pt. I here. — (music)

∆∆∆

She placed the mug in front of him, she was warm just looking at him, it had been like that since the beginning. She could still remember all the steps to the dance that got them here: all the cups of coffee, all the late night fry runs.

She could still remember what he was wearing the first time they had brushed hands and it felt like a powerline had hit her. He had been in a pair of well fit light-wash jeans and a plain white t-shirt, next to her heavy boots his were stylish and sleek.

She could remember the first time she realized that just looking at him could make her blush. Just seconds ago, she had been staring out the window at him thinking she was going to burn up just knowing that he was hers.

Photo Credit: blog.iloveflycasual.com

As she sat down though, everything ran cold, her blush fell from her face faster than a spring thunderstorm. It felt as if all her blood had sunk into her feet, leaving the rest of her shivering and pale. She looked away from him, a cold finger running down her spine. Her heart jumped as if just shocked back to life, sluggish and uncomfortable.

In an attempt to warm herself, she brought her mug to her lips and the steam felt cool. Looking over at him didn’t warm her; that molten flame in her chest was guttering. She pressed her lips together as she gently placed the mug back onto the table with a small tap.

She could feel the breath in her chest jump and stumble a little, it wasn’t the normal hitch she got being near him. She lifted her mug again and let the warming steam brush its hands, like his, across her cheeks and nose. She took another sip of her coffee — bitter. She looked up at him — sweet.

She put the mug down again, warmth returning to her fingers, wondering what he would look like come rainy season in the spring. Would he wear that pair of soft, fit-as-if-tailored-specifically-for-him jeans with the tear in the knees? Would he wear that black sweatshirt she so desperately had wanted to steal, would he wear the sleek black jacket, that she loved on him, over it all?

She didn’t know how they were going to reach that point, but she knew they would. Her heart beat a little faster just thinking about it, but then it skipped like it hadn’t quite been beating in rhythm. She was still cold.

He murmured something, pulling her out of her thoughts, “Hmmm?” She responded.

He looked bashfully introspective. She watched him glance up again, with a warm glow in his face, following the trails of steam, a spaceship, into space, finding her eyes in the dark of space, staring at him cooly, like frozen stars.

Photo Credit: rustichome.com

“I love you,” he whispered across the planet, with oceans of coffee, beneath them.

She blushed gently, the flame in her ribcage sparked and gained strength slowly, an ember being coaxed back into full warmth.

“I love you too,” she whispered back. An umbrella offered against the snow.

She grinned at him then, content to just look at him as the clock ticked away the seconds somewhere within the cafe. She watched the easy fluidness of his movements as he leaned forward to grab his coffee mug. She watched and painted the angles of his arms as he took a drink, she followed his gaze as he looked past the awning.

He was staring at the pale sun just beginning to show its face through the cloud layer, the snow persisted in small delicate wisps that turned to messy slush on the pavement. She couldn’t help but wonder what went through his head, as he watched the sun slowly appear as if dabbed into existence on a pale, gray background.

She looked away from him then, and looked back into the window of the cafe toward the clock that was adding up their time. Adding up the time that he was hers, another second, another minute, another hour, all hers.

She didn’t even need to look at him head-on to know how the light shining through the clouds lay on his face, making his skin look soft and downy; to know how the bridge of his nose, the center and peaks of his lips, his chin, the very tips of his eyelashes, his gently sloped forehead, and his cheekbones, sloped up, were all glowing with snowy light, like painted lines of adoration.

She looked at him then, at those lines of Olympian light tracing his face like her fingertips. He was looking at her, though, out of the corner of his eye, not at the sun, not out at the world in front of him, he was looking at her.