Family Planning

The other day the Family Planning came to my door. I didn’t know it was the Family Planning until later. Someone was pounding my door and I opened it to see two old ladies and one giggling policeman.

The lady in front of me had a clipboard with papers. The other lady was knocking at the other neighbor’s door. Her knocking was halfhearted as she was more intent on staring at me. The giggling policeman standing between her and the woman holding a clipboard started asking me questions.

She wanted my name and my phone number. I didn’t want to give her my phone number. I already registered with the police what more do they need? But my phone was behind me on a shelf in clear view. I looked at the paper trying to decipher the characters. She asked me if I could speak Chinese and I said, in Chinese, “A little”.

“Well, then that’s all we need here. Just give me your name, phone number…” and something else she kept circling.

I asked if she could come back later as my Chinese wasn’t good. She said she’d come back the next night. I said around eight would be good.

I showed my husband the application. “We don’t need this,” he said. “This is for Chinese people. See it’s the Family Planning Committee. They need your citizen number. This is not for us.”

“Well, it was two ladies and a policeman was there, too. They’re supposed to be here tomorrow night.”

The next night we got in late. I checked the clock. It was eight o’clock, but there were no ladies in the hallway, no giggling policeman, and no demands for applications to be filled out. I was relieved.

Two nights later there was pounding at our door. “Who could that be?” asked my husband. He got up to answer the door, I skittered about behind him like a Chihuahua who’d drunk too much coffee. “It’s probably the family planning people. It’s probably them.”

He opened the door. It was the same lady who had earlier held a clipboard. She rattled off about the application and he in return rattled off that there was no need to register our reproductive history or future plans, as we were foreigners.

She wasn’t deterred. She waved the clipboard and poked it with her finger. My husband again explained it wasn’t necessary, and politely asked her to go away. She paused and looked behind him to see me. She lowered her head, her eyes slanted as her lips smiled. We locked eyes for a moment. She kept smiling as if we had a secret together, as if we had a connection, and because of this connection I would hand over a filled out application for the Family Planning Committee.

Finally, she left. I looked at the clock. It was nine o’clock. I grabbed the empty application, threw it into the trash, and thought about the Chinese.