My father is dead, suffocated by the rocks that he swallowed, and I’ve never known my mother. These things were on my mind that September morning in 1924 when the train stopped at Hangzhou. I got off with the helping hand of a young student.
“How old are you, professor?” he asked me as he watched me struggle down the steps on my bandy legs.
“Three hundred and twenty-five years old,” I said.
He laughed, and I laughed too, even though it was completely true. It’s a long time, I know. I was sent to live with my grandparents in the nearby mountains when I was only a baby, and as I grew they told me great wild stories about my origins. Grandmother had warned me that because of my blood, because of its magical mixture, I would live for centuries. Centuries. I supposed, then, hobbling along the steep streets of Hangzhou while the sun climbed the sky, that it was the expectation she planted in my mind that fated me to live so long, not any magic. I didn’t know when it was that I became so skeptical, but there it was. But all that was soon to change. I can tell you only now that old and skeptical is no way to be.
If you would like to read this article in its entirety, be sure to check out the June issue.