I lie on the table that I haven't rested my head on for many years, the familiar smell of rubbing alcohol and the sounds of needles popping out of paper and plastic bouncing off the walls of the tiny room, my hands clinging to my long locks, waiting for the puncture. I am in Dr. Cui’s room, my old acupuncturist, where I used to spend every Sunday afternoon from age 9 to 17, my father just an arm’s length away through a fabric partition, getting treated next to me.
Our conversations are almost the same as before, but now peppered with showing photos on smartphones that did not exist when we first met, and discussing weather in places I never imagined I would go. His English is heavily accented, but I know these words well:
“How are you?” He dabs rubbing alcohol over my body.
“Good.” The needles come out of their box right next to my head, different sizes and thicknesses.
I tense up, and try to relax, hands still holding tightly to my hair.
“Don’t be scared.” The mantra he always says to everyone, it becomes a song after reciting it for so long.
“Don’t worry, I’m not.” This is the first time I’ve said this to him.
He aptly and quickly pushes in needles in my face, hands, legs, and I hesitantly relax, remembering that it’s really not so bad. My fear has run its course.
“No pain.” He reminds me.
“I know.” I try to remind myself.
“Good job.” He means it.
“Thank you.” I close my eyes and drift off to sleep until he returns.