Fangze Li, ‘19
Before Ming left home for college, her family packed the entire medicine cabinet into her suitcase. They said Bai Yao (白药) stops the bleeding, Lian Qiao (连翘) for fever, Luo Han Guo (罗汉果) for sore throat, Pi Pa (枇杷) for soothing your lungs, Shan Zha (山楂) for your digestion, and Lu Cha (绿茶) for your blood vessels. Take all these herbs and make sure you eat plenty of fruits and veggies. Now she’s in America. Her roommate, Tessa, is a white girl who grew up in a small town in the middle of Wisconsin. Ming and Tessa come back from dinner.
“Ugh, this headache’s been bothering me all day,” says Ming.
“I have some ibuprofen for that,” Tessa puts down her book and jumps up from her bed.
“Thanks but I’m not taking drugs for it,” Ming frowns. “I’m just sleep deprived.”
“Didn’t you take some of that darkish liquid medicine the other day for your cough? I can’t remember the name.”
“Well, you do whatever’s best,” Tessa sits back down and picks up her book. But after she finishes the page she stands up again, cuts herself an apple and picks up a jar of Nutella. She dips a slice into the jar and puts it in her mouth.
Ming has a pretty good appetite. Back home her family calls her “little bear” because she eats two bowls of rice and stir-fry and still has room for dessert after every meal. She never liked the nickname. Now Tessa has finished the apple and she’s getting up again. She makes a nutella sandwich and eats it as she reads.
Ming goes to bed and dreams of rice and stir-fry.
Some days Ming feels sad for no apparent reason. Sometimes she thinks that college is sucking the life out of her. She sleeps less so she can work more, so she can get better grades, so she can go to a better grad school, so she can get a better job that pays her well and lets her work regular hours. So she can sleep more.
Ming thinks she is managing better than Tessa. Some days Tessa has trouble getting out of bed. Tessa often goes to class late, on a good day. Some days Tessa doesn’t get out of bed at all. Tessa tells Ming she is taking Prozac. But all of Tessa’s medicine bottles look the same. One orange bottle for this, another orange bottle for that.
In class, Ming learns about depression and that it can be passed down. She decides to video call her mom later that day and ask about her pet turtle. Ming’s mom is driving to work. She tells Ming that her turtle is doing well and that he just shed a few pieces of shell last week.
“Have you ever felt…...down but everything is fine?” Ming asks.
“Every now and then.”
“No not depression. No one is depressed in our family,” Ming’s mom keeps her eyes fixated on the road. “Why do you ask?”
“Fresh air can brighten your mood, you know.”
The next morning Ming decides to go for a walk. There are clouds in the sky but not enough to cover up the sun. Maybe she will go to a restaurant for dinner instead of the cafeteria. She gets a text from her mom: “Chai Hu (柴胡) strengthens your liver, which can regulate your mood. I’ll send you some this weekend.”
She passes by SuperAmerica. A man is pumping gas into his car with one hand. His other hand is holding a bag of donuts that says: America runs on Dunkin’
And drugs, Ming thinks, and keeps on walking.