Inside Tiantan Park, in Beijing,
there's a courtyard
encircled with a concrete ring.
If you stand at the right place with another person,
you can speak into the rock, and you can hear each other.
On the sign, it says there are two conditions to be met:
that you must both be facing north,
and there must not be too many people in the yard.
It costs as much as you want
to make a wish.
Children younger than thirteen get a free medallion.
So you keep your souvenir, and move along the line.
You wish for a twin. It is a passing thought,
but you notice it doesn't go away even when you leave the shrine.
Your family takes pictures of you on this day, and years later you realize
you are frowning in every photo—
you clutch the medallion and out of the dozens of pictures
you face the ground.
On the car ride back, someone you love tells you a joke.
You laugh so hard your head hurts. You pretend to sleep.
It never leaves; you carry this new feeling for the rest of your life
Haolun Xu is twenty-four years old and was born in Nanning, China. He immigrated to the United States in 1999.
Danielle Hark is a writer and artist who lives with PTSD and bipolar disorder. Founder of the nonprofit Broken Light Collective and empowering people with mental health challenges using photography, Danielle expresses her lifelong struggles through her creative lens. IG: @daniellehark