By Mayee Zhu
Crawling on the freshly mowed lawn, xiao Jia stops her shimmying when she spots a blade of grass taller, greener, and prettier than the rest. Just like New Mom, so much prettier and nicer than Old Mom. Jia crawls closer, further drawn by a dewdrop glistening on the blade. She sticks out her tongue and laps up the dewdrop. Then she takes the proud grass blade and eats that, too.
After she tires of eating the prettiest flowers she can find in the garden, xiao Jia wanders around her pretty house. As always, she lingers in New Mom’s room. A light winks from the top of the dresser. Jia stands on tiptoe to see the source. A pair of diamond earrings refracts a beam of sunlight, gleaming like this morning’s dewdrop. Xiao Jia swallows the gems in two gulps.
Xiao Jia becomes just Jia. She still hungers for beautiful things, but she doesn’t eat them now. She’s too old for that. She breaks this hunger strike somewhat with her first kiss. The boy makes Jia work her jaw so much, it’s as if she’s eating anyway. The boy is not beautiful enough to excuse the ugliness of the kiss. After the boy leaves Jia’s beautiful house, he texts her a heart. She deletes his number.
Jia goes to college. She devours Vogue, inhales Sephora, gluts herself on Louis Vuitton halter tops. She takes out loans, maxes out her credit cards. Her dormmates call her Hong Kong Barbie.
She peers at her reflection every day before going to class. Gleaming onyx eyes peer back at her under curled eyelashes. Snowy skin peeps out of tailored silk clothes. She is ready to consume and be consumed.
But no boy at her college, not even her boyfriend, seems to share her appreciation for beauty. Her boyfriend starts saying she dresses up too much. He says she tries too hard. She continues doing so, sans boyfriend. She struts past the quad with a full face of makeup, Birkin bag, and Jimmy Choo boots when she locks eyes with the most beautiful boy she’s ever seen.
He smiles at her, and the world glows brighter.
She brings the boy back to her dorm. They eat each other’s faces. It’s almost as messy as her first kiss, but since it’s him, she doesn’t mind. His eyes, hair, and voice are honey. He says, “I’ve never met someone so beautiful.” He tells her she’s dazzling, perfect, and everything.
His kisses aren’t ugly anymore. He nibbles Jia’s lips, licks her skin, laps up her glistening sweat as the moonlight bathes their bare bodies. Jia reciprocates.
“They’re like dewdrops,” Jia says, swirling a bead of sweat in the crook of the boy’s elbow with her finger.
Jia and the boy take the train to see her parents. But it is not New Mom, but Dad who picks them up, with Newer Mom.
The boy gives Jia a diamond ring. When she is alone in her apartment, she studies it more closely. It gleams. Just like dew. She takes it off. Swallows it. Rifles through her beautiful hoard. Lipstick tubes, cashmere scarves, designer shoes. She piles them in a corner of her bathroom, one hand on her lips, the other on the trash.