• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 07
Image by

Little Circles

“The foot is connected to every part of the body,” Ma said as she held Little Brother, my only brother, on her lap, her already worn hands rubbing small circles on his feet. “This will help him grow taller.”

I wanted to be taller too, but Ma saw more need for men to be tall. After full, long days of leaning over us, maybe she was sick of tilting her neck a little lower to also look at Ba, who was only two thumb lengths shorter than Ma. Maybe that’s why Ma had to soak Simon’s feet in water, saying it drew out the toxins of his body and left only purity to circulate.

I watched Ma do this every night for thirty minutes. In these thirty minutes, Little Brother was a version of himself no one saw during the rest of the day. He sat calm and still, held firmly in Ma’s arms. I wondered what it was like to be so close to Ma’s chest that he could will his heartbeat to match hers.

“Can I get a massage too, Ma?” I asked one day after Oldest Sister hid Mr. Hu the tiger on the top-most shelf of the closet in the hallway.

“You don’t need it,” Ma said. “You don’t want to be too towering.” She added that she had no time anyway, she had to finish cooking dinner and she didn’t even start the rice yet.

But I didn’t see why I couldn’t be tall and strong, too. I wanted to feel connected to the rest of me, to the water, to Ma.


Little Circles

I knew everyone would think me silly, so when everyone was asleep that night, I tiptoed past my siblings’ beds and crept to the bathroom. I put a wash basin in the tub and filled it with water. Then I sat on the tub’s edge and submerged my feet into the warm pool, feeling it enclose my skin with tenderness. In the quiet of the night, I took my still soft hands to my feet and rubbed little circles on them like I watched Ma do. Maybe tomorrow, I thought, I too would be a little bit taller.