My Los Angeles
My Los Angeles,
My precious city.
Buildings that spring like bamboo shoots, a sun of great compassion, and of great wrath, because it still manages to burn through the exhaust clouds and contamination to bake my skin a deeper yellow and almost set my black hair on fire in the summers.
My Los Angeles, full of sound and silence. The deep, ancient echo of the buddhist temple’s ringing bells that whisper to me their secrets if only you’re willing to listen.
Lucky dragon palaces and good fortune gardens crowd every corner of my street, we could be the most blessed place on the Earth.
The scent of fresh-baked pastries wafting delicately in a soft zig-zag, making my stomach rumble for a dou sha bao, a red bean bun.
Neighborhoods full of secrets, but homes of warmth and fierce loyalty.
My parents’ broken English, and my younger brother’s sounds of impatience. Fan yi bu guo lai, my mom would say, not sure how to translate her words from Chinese to English.
I still recall the day the first case of COVID in our city was discovered. My mom bought me a mask, something I had never seen or worn before.
After she dropped me off at school, I immediately took off the mask and discarded it in the nearest trash bin. I would get enough “China virus” remarks already, I did not need a face mask to help do the job.
Then the cases grew, higher and higher. And the comments got worse. Contaminated, kung flu.
When I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t escape. From the girl there, the one who wore the slanted skinny eyes, opened as wide as they could and made it look like I was always scared. I bleached my hair on my bathroom floor, but even afterwards it still came. The self hatred and the secret wish, the wish that I could never speak aloud because I too was afraid of it. The wish to be someone else, to be someone my classmates could look at as a full person, not a virus or plague.
It hurts, to grow this poisonous fruit inside of you that taints your blood and makes you forget who you are.
Why must we always be some place in the middle?
We’ve cut ourselves off from one side, but we cannot reach the other.
Why must we always be the quiet ones?
We have faced towering treachery as big as the waves of Santa Monica.
Why must we suffer in private?
We must strip from ourselves the compliance, the mianzi or the face, because there is no such thing as a model minority that would ever be able to measure up in a systematically racist country.
And we see that now: our elders are being beaten, are being killed.
Now more than ever, we cannot stay silent. We cannot comply. We cannot let this wave crash over our heads, because it will swallow us whole. With our fellow brothers and sisters, we must lift up our heads, faces of every color, looking towards our city’s sun and against racism and against ignorance, and let them see our tears, illuminated crystals that sepe from our eyes, and our deep despair, bottomless so that it could swallow whole any tides sent towards us.
For Vicha Ratanapakdee, whose last moments were a morning stroll through a nearby neighborhood. He was left there on the sidewalk to die. For the countless victims in Oakland, who can no longer feel safe in their own homes as robberies continue to rampage, let alone going outside of them.
For Chui Fong Eng, who just two days ago was stabbed while she was waiting at a bus stop.
For the hundreds of elders who go through a hellstorm of hatred and degradation and still, somehow are patient enough to have waited until now for the rest of us to get ourselves together and congregate to fight for them.
For our own grandmothers and our grandfathers, and our parents, and our children and grandchildren, every single Asian American who too faces each day with the burden of bat-eater and chink, you will not be silenced. We will not be silenced.
My Los Angeles, my precious city, hear us.
Hear us roar against the injustice, against the insolence and the ignorance.
We’ll bring fire to the waves, in the form of solidarity and frustration and compassion.
The virus that has spread like wildfire, through horrendous violence and afterwards, absolute silence, has surpassed COVID in deadliness.
Hate is a virus, and we can no longer afford more infections.
Child of the Republic
The tipping Queen Anne stood, against the field of identical concrete houses with shingled asphalt tiles for roofs and two windows on either side of the front door, it stood out like a sore thumb drawing the eye to it whenever one was near.
The mansion was visibly old, older than the other houses, and its walls were a dark ruby red, although chipped in some spaces, revealing eroding limestone underneath. broad leaves and thin creepers.