The girl’s mother didn’t say anything when the girl bought a motorcycle. She didn’t say anything when the girl passed her driving test. She didn’t even say anything as the girl packed. She just watched as her daughter put a few shirts into an old cloth bag and set a camera on top. But the next morning, as the girl was about to drive away, the mother finally said, “You are making a mistake. You should go to university.”
The girl closed her eyes. She looked as if she was counting to ten. Then she opened her eyes and smiled and said, “I’ll be back as soon as I find one perfect picture.” She was wearing a leather jacket. She kicked the bike’s engine into life and raced away along Ginko Road. She raced away under the shade of the trees, getting smaller and smaller.
After few weeks a letter arrived for the girl’s mother. The ink was blotted where rain drops had fallen on the paper. The girl wrote, “My bike is in great shape. It is the fastest thing I have ever known. The air here is different. It smells green and fresh, like someone has brushed everything clean.” There was a picture. It was of a boy with no front teeth about to bite into an ear of corn. The girl’s mother pinned it to the wall of her bedroom and looked at it before she went to sleep. She wondered how the boy could eat the corn with no teeth.
The girl’s mother went to the crowded Thursday market to buy cheap fruits and vegetables. She listened to her favorite radio program on Sunday afternoons. She played cards with her friends. And she waited for another letter. It came when the leaves were turning from red to brown. There was no note in the envelope, just a photograph. It was a picture of a man smoking a cigarette. He was standing in a shop window and hanging a yellow dress on a manikin. The picture made the girl’s mother laugh. But she didn’t know why. She hung it next to the first picture.
When the snow fell, the girl sent a picture of one of the fishing woman from the north islands. The fishing woman was holding a heavy net full of shells. The fishing woman looked strong and young, but she was probably older than the girl’s mother. More pictures arrived. A mountain of old bicycles reflecting the afternoon sun. A little girl with only one leg jumping rope in the street. The mother pinned each picture to the wall. She took them down and looked at them every night. She thought the pictures were beautiful. She thought that maybe they were perfect. But she began to hope that maybe they were not. She began to hope that maybe there were so many more beautiful things in the world. She began to wonder how her own daughter had become the kind of person who might be able to find them.