When to cut my toenails

A conversation between Mother and child

Henry He
Henry He
Jul 4, 2014 · 2 min read

I don’t know when to cut my toenails
They look like they do but do they really?
Mother would say,
“An uncut toenail is so
out of place”
I would chastise her and tell her to stop
Thinking so narrowly
(I was lazy)
“They’re fine!” I insisted.
And I would tell her what she always told me
In Chinese:
To “let your chest be open
So large as to encompass the entire ocean.”
So just let a toenail be.

She laughed and said over her shoulder,
“Why not encompass the entire universe?
Infinitely large and still expanding
At an increasing speed and
Positive acceleration”
“Where does it expand to, the universe?” I asked
“Well, into itself. That’s what happens with infinities,”
she replied as-a-matter-of-factly
and swept the chopped carrots into the bowl with a flourish.

“The Universe scares me,” I confessed.
There are so many dark patches
Dark thoughts
Stumbling around in a world of entropy
But where is the proverbial right-way?
That makes me angry, not knowing
The universe provokes
So many unanswered questions
makes me angry
Angry at myself
Not you
“Go beyond your anger,”
I would hear Mother soothe.
“Let your chest swallow it
Then deposit that anger in your ocean
A tiny speck
And soar over it.
Trust me, you’ll feel
Infinitely better.”

She said it with a twinkle in her eye
And I completely believed her
at that moment
With all my confidence
Some eyes are quick and mischievous
But others are wise, knowledgeable
And most importantly large enough
to contain the entire universe
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Then the sun-like warmth from hers
is the most beautiful to me

…Yet I still don’t know when to cut my toenails
And I can never ask her again.

    Henry He

    Written by

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