Suicide no. 52: Mirage
–by Derek Alan Wilkinson
The rail workers heading out of Austin, eastbound, had found, in the dry heat of the desert, a shriveled up pile of bones—no doubt picked clean by the vultures. On his person, a piece of parchment:
July 14th, 1842
My lovely Li Na:
It has been long since I headed east on one of the great ships to America. Beautiful landscape! Brilliant cities! All pale in comparison to staring deeply in your eyes—for once, I was lost in them.
Now, I am merely lost in a perilous land.
How I miss your father’s gardens, and the long walks we used to take on the streets of Beijing. The arrogant and stupid white men scream at me all day; there is never enough railway for the steam-driven carriages. How my bones ache from this pointless labor! Surely, there will be an end to it. Surely, I will return home soon.
August 3rd, 1842
My dearest lotus—how I long for your embrace! Yesterday, I injured my arm working too long for too many hours on end. I could not lift another hammer, to save my life. One of the boss men told me that I had to work, or else he would keep my wages from me. Devils! Still, he offered me something to ease my pain.
And settle my aching bones it did!
Everything is so marvelous, now! Opium is a precious gift, so sparse in supply in this terrible place! For, only if I had more coin, I could see and feel you in my embrace—my flower, my one and only.
August 10th, 1842
Surely, all that is good has abandoned me! While my shoulder has healed, my body feels as if it has been cast aside into the icy depths of the sea! I have escaped my captors, only to end up alone in this desert. The heat scorches my skin all day, while the cold of the night chills my very bones. I’ve run low on food and water, and have run out of my precious opium.
May God have mercy on me.
August 15th, 1842
I have found it! An entire crop of poppy, laying beneath a stack of rail ties! It has become my salvation! I have reached enlightenment—for, off in the great distance, I see you! I can see into your eyes! The railway men have all gone—their work continues onward. But here, in this beautiful place, I will wait for you to come.
I will wait forever in this beautiful moment.