Illustration by Jean Young.
It started with another mention of Dad, the C in Chemistry you didn’t know about, or the friendly next-door Honduran neighbors that just moved in, that you told me not to trust.
My hand gripping green plastic chopsticks,
your soup spoon clatters as it hits hard wood,
Mother, 46, in Chinese: Ungrateful child, how do you insult me this way?
Daughter, two months shy of 20, in English: I hate you, I wish I was never born.
The Vietnamese waitress looks down, knowing all too better to interfere, the Cantonese cashier feigns disinterest as he sorts out handwritten checks.
Wai guo ren, their perked pink ears and wide eyes like marbles draw towards the unfamiliar family drama, look on, frozen.
A hand slams down a $20, no change,
keys rattle as you pick them up,
screaming match in transit shut by a slamming screen door, car door,
impatient throttle and black smoke as the
beaten up Honda Accord drives away, swerves, with sharp stops.
More shouts, fingers pointed.
The garage door groans as it opens
Your hand leaves marks on my arm as we pull each other into a cracked doorway of a one-room apartment for two,
they hear us through the paper walls, our shadows wring their hands and hair, sparring in warring tongues, until
doors slam hard enough to shake windows — then, stillness.
Another normal Sunday afternoon passes,
sticky, slow, and bitter, like medicine you shoved down my throat as a child.