Last Days of Sugarcane

An-Li Frisk
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Written by An-Li Frisk (set in the year 1981, Guangdong province of China)

When a situation was not ideal, my Father and Mother had the persistent idea that we were resilient like the sugar cane crop we grew. I don’t know if it really holds true or if it’s something parents tell to console.

I eyed the setting sun over the vast green of our fields - the sun slowly filtering out of the horizon. If I really think about it, the sun and the cycle of harvest and planting sets the pace of life. A sweet humidity filled the air and there was no longer the beating sun of the day. Before I enjoyed it too much, I crossed the courtyard and into our dwelling. I was invited by the aromas of supper that began to permeate the air and the promise of a full stomach. Arriving before I was called garnered an almost imperceptible appreciation. But I sensed a sad tension in Ma. Before I began to ask, Pa walked in.

Supper carried with it a similar air of solemnity to what I was used to, though this was more so today. Father began to talk. He laid out our future in an even tone: we would not farm anymore, we would move out to a growing city. The government informed him of this - we could not stay - we would have nowhere here anymore. There was no talk of the sugarcane resilience.

Somehow I did not know what to feel - Father explained that we were helping our country become modern. I was open to accept this. My brother, Bingwen, too young to understand, was oblivious, he won’t remember the sugarcane.

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It was accepted fate. We did not, and could not fight it or stick it out. Father became a factory worker at an already built factory and our fields, our home, were to be the grounds of a new one.

And I went to a new regional school, which Bingwen will attend once he is of age. I will become an engineer. Mother will have less work now, but I have heard the prospect of her finding a job to fill the newfound time. It’s quite strange, but sugarcane is of the past - we look back on it as one would on a historical spectacle - you could say in our case - a sweet history. We moved into a high-rise apartment on the 7th floor - life now controlled by the repetitive rhythm of money.

Author: An-Li Frisk
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