Ma drove to Claire’s to buy the silver ladybug earrings I’d been wanting for years. She didn’t trust the employees at the strip mall to do any kind of piercing, so after an hour of arguing in the backseat of her silver Honda Civic, she sat me down on the high chair I’d outgrown nearly five years ago and went to retrieve her favorite needles. Ma had an eye for perfection when it applied to everything but herself, and our bodies bore witness to the burden of this knowledge: her hands were bruised from years of labor, but mine had the smoothness of fresh bubblegum. This was before I learned that it was her intention for our lives to look like mirrors of our palms, her sacrifice a demand for obedience on my part. When Ma burned herself feeding a needle into an open flame, she cursed in her mother tongue, the language of mountains: a lifeline I would choose to loosen. This was before I learned to see the scars she’d accumulated from tending to our house, before I learned that choice was only a derivative of change. Some things were like that: we swore we’d return to the lands we left at night, but we were too afraid of the ghosts of our forefathers—the ones we left behind, the ones who accepted us only in our dreams. Our common tongue had no room for words that could bind wombs across bodies of water. Our common tongue had no room for bodies at all: only the sound of my mother threading my ear, only the wind passing through our years like a memory: my mother leaving her mother for the first and last time, riding a current to a new country. Her hands were hard pink, bubblegum left to blister in the sun. But they were so soft against my ears, the tenderness more violent than the puncture itself. As the needle bulleted through my flesh with a speed that verged on vengeance, I imagined the echo of firecrackers on my birthday, a gunshot resounding against the bones of its past self. I thought I was accustomed to skinned knees, sharp pinches from my kid brother, and scoldings meant to sting so badly that I wouldn’t commit the same crime twice. Still, I screamed. When Ma handed me a worn towel to wipe my tears, I thought the throbbing would never end—such was the kind of blow only she could inflict. The earrings lay forgotten on the table, my ears ringing.