Narrative: Where are you from?

Family

Not too long ago, I was shopping in Stater Bro.’s for fish sauce to make Pad Thai for my boyfriend. While I was scouring the teeny-tiny “Asian Section” of the ethnic foods aisle, I noticed an elderly lady eyeing me. “Do you eat Asian food?” the woman asked me. I remember thinking, “Woman, do you not see my hand on this fish sauce?” When I told her yes, relief visibly washed over her. She said that she thought that I looked Asian and told me that her friend suggested that she try this soup called “Simply Asian”. She wanted to know if I could help her find it and what it tasted like because, obviously, I would know this. When we found the soup, she held up packaged freeze-dried ramen and asked me what type of Asian food this is. With a name like “Simply Asian”, I don’t think that the manufacturers even knew; so, I told her the white kind.

So, where am I from? Or, more colloquially, what am I? This question always made me feel like an outsider. I sometimes had a very hostile response that shocked or shamed the person asking me into silence. My reaction stemmed from an underlying animosity: My unanswered question of personal identity. Each time someone asked me, “what are you”, I had to acknowledge that I didn’t know. Every answer I gave tried to force me into an identity that satisfied the inquirer but not me.

The generalization that the Simply Asian company made about ramen was exactly the one that the woman made about me: All Asians are simply the same. Suggesting that Asians are all part of some nondescript group is dehumanizing and strange. Am I simply Asian? No, in fact, I don’t identify as Asian at all.

My identity is fragmented like a puzzle, but where I find authenticity, is where I am from. Nothing forces you to sort out your priorities like tragedy, trauma, or fear. A few weeks ago, my dad told me that he has cancer. The part of me that is still a small girl wept; the grown up in me wept as well. It made me pause and ask, who and what are important to me, and where am I investing my time?

I am my father’s daughter: I can point out the features that I inherited from him – toes, kneecaps, and ankles. I have his dry sense of humor, his love of dad jokes, and his special way of making slang sound awkward. He has given me the only nicknames that I will acknowledge. When I laugh, I hear my mother. She has always been there to pull me out the dark places in my life and has saved me more times than she knows.

Simply, I am from my family; I am from love. I could tell you that I am Japanese and Sicilian, that my paternal great grandfather was English and built a fountain in some township’s square, but none of that matters. It doesn’t matter that people will call me a Twinkie, tease me for liking Hello Kitty or assume that because I look Asian, that I identify as such. What does matter is that whenever I feel like my puzzle-pieced identity is falling apart, I can call my mom or my dad and everything makes sense again. My dad has always told me not to bother with what any one says about me because at the end of the day he loves me. It may have taken me over 20 years to appreciate and understand what he meant, but I can finally and definitively tell you where I am from.

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i+u

Before We, i was Me.

Now, W E is no longer We,

and i can never be Me

again.

i saw You in the periphery                         of my dream: You exuded life.

You burned life into

my soul; breathed life in my

heart.

For a moment, W E returned to We.

i became Me.

You, why do you lurk                                  in the shadows of my dreams?

Awake, you are dead.

Asleep, you live.

I owe You My life.

Each night, I sleep like the dead      in hopes that W E will be We again.

how to love a loveless girl

love, she whispered
love, i replied.
she hid from me
for so long that i
had almost forgotten her face.

don’t look, she begged
i won’t, i lied.
she stood;
her hair danced across her back,
and, inside, i died.

i can’t, she cried
then don’t, i sighed.
she laid next to me; her skin on mine.
i turned to look her in the eyes,
but her heart chose to hide.

why, she breathed
because, i replied.
i held her cold, reluctant hand in mine
and tried to warm her.

stop, she yelled
i will, i lied.
i held her closer and kissed her hair.
i told her i loved her and exhaled.

no, she cried
yes, i sighed.
she tried to push me away, but
i held her tighter.
i kissed her again and rested
my head against hers.

love, i promised
love, she sighed.

Red Eyes (Potential Submission for Creepy Pasta)

“You’re suffering from PTSD. You will continue to experience nightmares, night terrors and panic attacks until we have given you some closure.”

“My medication doesn’t work the same anymore. I can still dream.”

“You need to give it time and see your psychiatrist to change your medication. But, remember that it will get better.”

“Yeah. I’ll try.”

“OK, tell me again about the nightmare. Maybe there is something that we can relate it to, some stressor in your life.”

“Fine. It is the same every night, and it has been for the last 20 years.

I crawl into my bed and laydown with my rosary in my hands and my Holy Water on my nightstand. I usually say three rosaries before I try to sleep in the hopes that God will protect me from the demon that lingers in my dreams. The heaviness of sleep presses me into my sheets, and I begin to dream.

I can see myself in bed asleep. My clothes are haphazardly thrown around my room, my cell phone on my nightstand, and my rosary is woven between my fingers. For a moment, I feel at peace. Looking at myself, I look young and tired. The black circles that surround my eyes aren’t as prominent when I’m sleeping and the annoying habit of breathing through my mouth makes me look like a child. I float up in the corner of my room watching myself sleep, and, out of the corner of my eye, I see a shadow in the darkness.

My breathing has become little clouds that linger at the edge of my lips. The shadow crosses the threshold to my bedroom, and I am thrown back into my body.

I can feel its weight as it crawls up the foot of my bed. The slight pulling of my comforter and the snags from its long, pointed fingernails let me know that it is almost to my feet. Even in my dream, I cannot move. It crawls up and stands at my feet before lowering onto its hands to crawl up my body. I feel its weight transfer from foot to hand back to foot; its right side on the outside of my left leg and its left side between my legs. Once it reaches my hips, it crawls onto my stomach. Its weight is suffocating and I can feel its hot, wet breath through my tank top.

It steps off of me, and stands next to my left shoulder. I open my eyes. The first time I was shocked by what I saw, but, now, I know what to expect. It stands there and moves so I can see it fully. It can’t be more than a foot tall. Its skin is the color of lake scum and the texture isn’t too far from scum either. It is visibly lumpy and pock marked. If I touched it, I am sure that it would be rough and porous. Its head is wide with abnormally long ears, and its hair is just tufts of white wire. Its eyes are yellow and almond shaped like cats’ eyes with slit like pupils.

It stands naked next to me. Its arms and legs are the same length, but its feet are flat with black nails. Its hands are thick with short, clubbed fingers. I am the most afraid of its hands. Its nails are long, thick and black. They look like an eagle’s talons.  I always regret looking at its hands. As soon as I do, its black lips curl up into a snarl that somewhat resembles a smile, and it runs its right index finger down the edge of the knife in its left hand.

It laughs. Its laugh is breathy and guttural. It leans over me putting its right hand on my left collarbone and presses the knife to my throat just below my jaw. I feel the coolness of the metal and the edge breaking my skin. By this time, I’ve stopped breathing. My eyes are watering and I am unable to move. It looks me in the eyes and laughs again. Its lips are almost touching mine when it begins to speak to me.

Every time it’s different. Sometimes it will tell me how the Devil has my place in Hell waiting for me, other times it tells me it follows me every where I go and I’ll never be able to escape it. It always ends by putting its lips next to my ear causing it to press the knife deeper into my throat so it can whisper its good-bye.

I feel its cracked lips brushing my ear as it opens its mouth to speak. It tells me that she is watching me; that she sent it. She wants me to know that she will never stop and that God can’t help me now. It kisses my ear and backs away.

Before it leaves, it steps back to look at me. Its eyes turn red and its body slowly fades away until all I can see are its eyes floating next to me.

I usually wake up screaming or crying at this point. I always have a mark on my neck.”

“Is there anything that you find significant about this?”

“The red eyes.”

“Why the red eyes?”

“My aunt used to tell me stories about how she could get red eyes to hover over baby cradles when she was younger. And, that she could still do it.”

“Do you believe her? Or do you think this was one of her ways to manipulate you as a child?”

“I didn’t believe her until the dreams started and never stopped. When she left our family, the dreams got worse. She and my mom had a falling out, and my aunt took out a lot of her frustration with my mom on me.”

“How did they get worse?”

“They stopped happening only when I am asleep. Now, I am followed by a large black shadow when I am awake. I see it behind me sometimes, but its usually just ahead of me. It’s so black that I can see it in the dark.”

“Are you sure? Is it here now?”

“Look, I know that you think I’m hallucinating. I know that I sound crazy.”

“Is it here?”

I look behind her chair in the corner. The shadow is there shaking its head. “No. No; it isn’t here.”

“OK, I think that it is best if I start seeing you twice a week and that your psychiatrist evaluates you for anti-psychotic medication at your next appointment. I’ll let him know.”

I lift my gaze from my shoes to look her in the face as I say good-bye. It was right behind her now, and I am sure that fear filled my eyes in that instant because she turns to look behind her.

The lights went out, and all I can see are the floating red eyes.

Each morning I rise

Each morning, I rise.
I cannot shake, break,   separate
You
From me.
You stare back, unapologetic:

Placid, Smooth.

Many have drowned in your deceptive depths.
Seductive siren songs of insults
Lure many who seek confirmation of their faults.

I am no different.

I gaze.                   You swallow.

I die a death worth living for

And, your pool, it gets a little deeper.

Lover’s Notes

Part I

touch me:
lightly let your fingers linger over
every hollow and
slip slowly into the softest parts
of me.
press your lips to mine and
let me swim to you.
here, we will find rest.

Part II

pin-pointed starlight illuminates the darkness,
and Little Death beckons your soul to dance.
tip-toeing, i follow.
dressed in shadows, I see you waltz
Little Death closer to each star.
with every step, the shadows lighten
until you arrive within me, and
i am naked, bathed in light.

Part III

as the sun illuminates the moon,
you shine and i glow.
“love?”
“love.”
reaching within my chest, i hand you my heart,
“there’s not much left.”
“but, it is enough,” you mend the darkened pieces
with the brightest parts of your own.

i no longer fear the night: your fingertips guide me.
this heart brightens the stars, and
bathes me light.