Sainan no Kekka: Peace
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Legacy: Sally

"I think about our two faces. I think about my intentions. Which one
is American? Which one is Chinese? Which one is better? If you show
one, you must always sacrifice the other."
--Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club

She had a quiet Chinese childhood.

Her father was a banker, no one special. He was the chief finance officer of the South China Bank, which meant he worked long hours and the family hardly ever saw him except for on weekends. And even on weekends he was there perhaps two weekends out of the four in the month. He traveled a lot, her mother said to console them. He was making money for them. They should be proud, make good grades in school, because their daddy, their baba, was doing it all for them.

They had a small apartment in the downtown of Beijing for the first few years of her life before her father made enough money that they could move into the semi-suburbs around the city, where the air didn't have the constant tinge of smog and where one could actually see the stars at night. In the rolling fields and quiet forests of the China countryside, they built a moderate sized house. It wasn't until she grew older that she realized how much a moderate-sized house actually cost, and how incredibly wealthy her parents actually were.

She was the oldest out of the three children. Her brother was four years younger than she, a noisy kid who tagged around after her and cried on the first day she went off to school because he couldn't go too. Her sister was two years younger than that. More than once she would awake in the middle of the night to the baby's screams, which would send her mother running to quiet the baby with some warm milk.

Her parents loved her. They said so.

She was always the quiet one, even through junior high and high school, but no one minded. After all, she made good grades. Her parents were content with the grades, though she and they both knew she could have done better. The high school she tested into wasn't the top, but it was decent, and there was a boy who went there, a junior when she had been a freshman, that she liked. They had a brief fling that turned into nothing when he graduated and went on to greater things. A few years later she came through her father's bank, which by that time was no longer where he worked, to cash a check, and discovered that the same boy was one of the bank tellers. He didn't see her and she didn't walk over to say hello.

They were an urban family, through and through, and a modern one. The color of her hair came from her mother's side of the family, a dirty blond color that had the children staring at her in the classroom when she had started school and had made her the most noticeable one out of the crowd of her friends. Her father's side was pure-blooded Chinese, but her mother's father had emigrated to the United States years ago and married an American girl. After a few years, they'd moved back to China, had a few children, lived and died without leaving any great legacy. Her mother looked Chinese, and her siblings looked Chinese, but she didn't. She had white devil roots, and it showed.

Oh, they didn't call them white devils anymore, because it was a new era and such prejudices were behind everyone, old taboo practices of a forgotten world. But behind closed doors, her friends reported to her in whispers, their parents talked about the foreigner girl. The white devil child. Her perfect Chinese friends with the straight black hair and dark brown eyes and slim, petite figures, with the perfect Chinese parents. The parents wondered how it was that she, a foreigner, could have such money and such good luck, while they, the true countrymen of China, still lived in the smog-covered city in a tiny, two bedroom apartment with six children?

It must be the devil's luck, they said. The devil's luck.

She learned that it was not enough just to speak Chinese and read Chinese and act Chinese. To be truly Chinese, one had to look Chinese. And that was something she could never do.

Her parents raised her the Chinese way. No matter that her mother was not pure-blooded Chinese, because by that time the American influence had long gone and she might as well have been any descendant of age-old Chinese dynasties. If she studied hard, she would be something in this world. If she went to high school, got into a good college, had the right major, she would enjoy life. Never mind that her father worked backbreaking hours at a job he hated. A job, her mother said, was not something one was supposed to enjoy. A job was for money. Hobbies could be practiced in her spare time, but a hobby was not a job. It never would be.

Her mother had been a journalist in her youth and then a script writer for a moderately successful radio program in Beijing before she had met her father and they had gotten married. After the first child, her, her mother had quit her job. Her real job was to have children, tend the house, care for her husband. The man was most important. That was the Chinese way.

Her mother instilled in her the beliefs of hard work and success, because most of the time her father was away. When he was home from business trips or working, he would sleep. Then he would get up and go to work. So it was her mother who scolded her when she got bad grades on her tests, her mother who would write the notes to the school counselor, her mother who supervised every minute of her life to make sure her daughter was growing up to be the perfect woman.

Everyone has dreams, she said, but dreams are for children. You have to grow up someday. As long as you are successful, it doesn't matter what nationality you are or what you believe in.

She never talked back to her mother. Chinese children just didn't do that.

After the first year of junior high, it didn't matter that she had a Chinese last name and yet looked American, because there were two other white students in the school with her. One of them was from France. His name was Pierre, a standard boring French name, he said, but he was anything but standard and boring. Pierre gave a new meaning to the word intelligent. He couldn't speak a word of Mandarin when he first arrived, yet by the end of the second month was speaking it passably and then by the end of the third was fluent. He excelled at sports, especially basketball. The girls, for all of their white devil talk, adored him. The boys were jealous of him. His grades were top of the class, his face belonged on the cover of a teen magazine, and he was polite, friendly, and outgoing. No one was surprised when he became class president of the junior high class the next year.

One balmy May night, Pierre was on a train home from a weekend in Canton, returning back to Beijing to finish the last week of school before finals. The accident was on the radio. Almost two hundred fifty people killed instantly on impact when the train careened off the tracks and smashed into the hillside. Several cars exploded.

They never found Pierre's body.

The other Western child was a girl, quiet and withdrawn, from America, where her mother's descendants had come from. She was not at the school long enough for anyone to find out anything about her. Apparently, her father died suddenly of a stroke and her mother had had enough of China. They moved back to America less than four months after they had appeared in Beijing.

It was the devil's luck, her classmates said in lowered tones, that those white children didn't last long around the true-blooded Chinese. And then they would look at her and pretend that they were talking about something different.

She didn't mind.

The question of who she was, Chinese or American, had never been an issue in her mind, because she had grown up Chinese, in China, speaking the language. Yet it seemed an issue to her classmates. When are you going back to America? they would ask curiously. Not if. When. When are you going back to the States? Are you going to get a job there when you finish school?

Her home was in China, yet she didn't belong.

When she entered college, she applied for pre-med, because that's what her parents wanted. By that time, her father was retired, tired from a career filled with constant travel, and he was happy for her. The University of Hong Kong was a good school, and Hong Kong was similar enough to Beijing that she could pretend she was still at home. By that time, she spoke Mandarin, English, enough Cantonese to navigate the streets of Hong Kong without getting lost, and Japanese. All working people who wanted to make a career for themselves in the world and on the colonies spoke Japanese, so she learned. Her friends were impressed. To her, it was business.

She went to America for the first time in her life the summer of her freshman year.

There were people who looked like her. She had seen them on television, in the movies, seen live ones on the streets in China, but never so many. They spoke English, offered her a friendly handshake, helped her with her bags up the hotel elevator wondering what part of the country she was from.

China, she'd say in her faltering accent, and they would blink at her, then lapse into silence.

But you're white, she could hear them thinking in the confused expressions on their faces. You're white.

And for the first time in her life, she didn't know who she was anymore.

She spent a summer in America walking the streets of New England and tasting the clam chowder off of Cape Cod Bay. Climbing mountains in Colorado, where the cold air stung her nose and made her feel alive. Riding horses in Texas across the flat plains, her back soaked with sweat. Hiking in California. Shopping in New York. Sightseeing in New Mexico, gaping at the old Indian ruins left behind thousands of years ago. Dancing to jazz in New Orleans. Reliving the glorious plantation life of days gone by in Virginia.

And night after night she'd dream about the stars over China, where her blood pounded with the drums of the dragon dance and the sounds of her native language and the smells of the outdoor markets and the thousands of years of history.

She stepped off the plane into the Beijing airport, clutching her bags of American souvenirs for friends and family, walking towards the train outside, when a travel agent stopped her.

Excuse me, xiao jie, he said with a friendly smile. Do you need directions? Is this your first time here?

She looked him in the eye, and replied in a firm voice, in Mandarin, I am Chinese.

The Federation Army Forces recruiting poster drew her eye not because of its flashy colors or because of the benefits it advertised. She didn't know what possessed her to take the train to the recruiting office and sign the paper, asking for more information.

Fight for what you believe in, it said. Fight for your country.

China was her country, and she was willing to fight for it. She would fight for it, if that was the only way she could show that it was her own.

Her parents were furious, but it really didn't matter what they thought anymore. They had two other children, her brother embarking on a successful career in her father's footsteps to become a banker, and her sister still in high school. They could do without her.

I want to find out who I am, she said to them.

It doesn't matter, her mother insisted. As long as you're successful, it doesn't matter.

And even though Chinese children never talked back to her parents, she knew that in that moment it was then or never. Because it was the beliefs, not the customs, that made her into who she was. Because success was not how much money one made, but knowing exactly who she was.

Mama, she said, I'd rather make one penny my whole life knowing that I have an identity than to be the world's richest woman and have no country to hold to.

She went through the one year commissioning program at the university, graduating early and joining the Federation medical corps, because it did matter who she was. She didn't want to be successful. There was the blood of two different cultures running through her veins, and she wanted to see which one was stronger.

And then all of a sudden the Federation was under attack and so was her country, from two different sides, and she had to choose. When she looked in the mirror that night they told her that in order to stay in the Federation forces, she had to fight against the country she loved, the mirror did not lie. There were the two honey colored braids, the lighter-than-Asian eyes, the Western nose.

But it didn't matter, because at that moment, the face that looked into hers was as Chinese as the faces of those straight-haired, dark-eyed girls whose parents had whispered and pointed and called her the devil child.

The resignation she sent into Federation headquarters was only one sentence long, but with those few words, she was free.

I am Chinese, she wrote, and I believe in loyalty.

And maybe it was her own skill, and maybe it was the devil's own luck, or maybe it was just because she had always loved China, and China had always loved her.

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