WHERE REASONS END | YIYUN LI

Perfect. Imperfect. A pair of adjectives that come over and again, in all seasons, day in and day out, taunting us, judging us, isolating us, turning our isolation into illness. Is there a more accomplished adjective than perfect? Perfect is free from comparison, perfect rejects superlative. We can always be good, do better, try our best, but how perfect can we be before we can love ourselves and let others love us? And who, my dear child, has taken the word lovable out of your dictionary and mine, and replaced it with perfect?

Words provided to me– loss, grief, sorrow, bereavement, trauma– never seemed to be able to speak precisely of what was plaguing me. One can and must live with loss and grief and sorrow and bereavement. Together they frame this life, as solid as the ceiling and the floor and the walls and the doors. But there is something else, like a bird that flies away at the first sign of one’s attention, or a cricket chirping in the dark, never settling close enough for one to tell from which corner the song comes.

He used to bake on weekends and on the days when he did not have much homework. He used to bake all the time, and how could we reproduce all the time? Butter and cream and honey and cinnamon and vanilla and nutmeg and clove and all the jars and bottles on his baking shelf: No one’s words, Proust’s included, could bring back to life their warm fragrance mixed with the scents of the winter rain of California and the wet eucalyptus leaves. You owe us an invention to immortalize scents, Mr. Edison. Without that our memory is incomplete.