My bizarre apartment building
has sixteen doors, big and small.
These doors ape each other, fighting for no reason –
every day, each one struggles
to distinguish itself from the others.
For example, Cafeteria Door 1 and Cafeteria Door 2
are only ten centimeters apart, but when it’s drafty,
Cafeteria Door 1 insists on crying guanglang while Cafeteria Door 2
always squeaks zhizhi yaya. It’s the same
with Kitchen Doors 1, 2, and 3,
where the odor of cheese, hot pepper, and onions
pervade the space. Because I hate cheese,
I never enter the kitchen through Door 1. The conflict
between Door 1 and Door 2 of Bathroom 1
is irreconcilable. If I need to take a shit, I have to go through Door 1
and come out through Door 2. Otherwise, I’d never close the doors right
and the smell of garlic from the toilet would fill the building.
Sometimes it’s too confusing, and I’d rather
go to Bathroom 2 to take a shit, but Bathroom 2
is a little annoying – it’s also
Door 2 of my roommate Carlos’s room.
When Carlos comes out to brush his teeth, I have to say good morning
while I’m squatting on the toilet. These peculiar doors
play nasty practical jokes on each other.
When my lonesome bedroom door is in a good mood,
it will imitate my neighbor Paulo’s
hedonistic bedroom door, and one day
after Paulo’s girlfriend with the enormous tits used Bathroom 3,
she came back to the wrong room. These days, it’s Christmas break,
my roommates have all gone home, and I’m alone
in the apartment looking after these sixteen bizarre doors.
This afternoon, as a storm came through,
I threw open all the doors and closed them again,
chanting to them: four times four is sixteen.
Sixteen days until I can open
my little door in China.
trans. Eleanor Goodman and Wang Ao