Watching the Centaur Races with Yeh-Yeh
It’s Wednesday. Race day.
Volume’s turned up high on the racing channel.
There my grandfather is, seated in front of the television with the remote clutched in a shaking hand.
The cane he is too proud to use is propped up against the far corner wall.
I uncork the bottle of whiskey I have brought with me,
pour it out into a glass tumbler, and go to him.
Whiskey for him in one hand, soda for me in another.
Grandfather calls me by my father’s name when he thanks me for the drink.
I sit on the armrest of his couch, and wonder if I have turned into my father—
we have the same eyes, the same sharp cut of the nose.
The sepia photograph next to the television could have been of me.
I want to correct my grandfather.
I do not want to correct him.
“Yeh-yeh!” I shout in his good ear, over the babble of the telecaster introducing this week’s contestants.
“Which one are you betting on this round?”
“Number Ten in Q-place. A hundred dollars.”
The dappled grey centaur in the blue-and-white uniform.
“Do you really think she’ll be in Q-place— in the first three?”
“She’ll win. Just you see. Still new, but she won the last few races. Give the young a chance.”
She fixes the strap of her helmet beneath her sharp chin.
The screen cuts to a close-up of her face, as she trots to the starting line with the others.
I know her but do not remember her name.
In my memory, she still stood on two legs instead of four,
wore a school uniform instead of a racer’s colours.
That was five years ago, and I had not yet turned into a facsimile of my father.
The horn blasts; the race starts.
The roar of the crowd is tinny behind the telecaster’s lightning-fast narration.
At the bottom of the screen, the numbers shift like waves on a beach.
I catch one last glimpse of her before yeh-yeh switches the channel.
Ten, ripping the helmet from her head,
an arm braced around her waist where human flesh meets fur,
eyes like coal, chest heaving, dark sweat staining the back of her shirt.
The seven o’clock news jingle.
A movie— a man and woman kissing in the rain.
Another movie— explosions in the night sky.
A commercial for investment banking.
And then it is just me, fingers numb against the sweating soda can,
and my yeh-yeh, red-faced from drink and wordless with disappointment.
Wen Ma is a queer nonbinary Hong Konger who sometimes writes speculative fiction about cities and post-colonialism. They also work in translation, editing, education, and occasionally theatre. In their spare time Wen can usually be found going on hiking expeditions throughout the city’s many mountain trails or indulging in their obsession with street food and strong coffee. Wen’s fiction has appeared in Anathema. Wen can be found on Twitter at @spritesngoblins, and occasionally blogs at wenrma.wordpress.com.