Bright, fluorescent lights, blinking
on and off. Disinfectant so strong,
its punching acidity, too clean.
Sirens wail in and out, and somewhere
to my right is a hysterical mom.
Her child was attacked by a dog.
Dad brings over a plate of
cafeteria fries, side of ketchup
dripping down the side. Blood,
dripping down Mom’s forehead.
Shattering glass, shattered trust.
Echoing of the knife on tile
as it slipped from her hand
as she slipped down, sinking.
Dad’s heavy hand on my shoulder,
weight in his words of empty
promises of never going back
to Grandma’s. Words that can’t heal.
But this is a
pain I enjoy:
first my right foot,
then my legs as
around my belly
and my chest,
a hand around
my throat as
I sink. I think
about the irony
of me in this
soaking in artificial
as real, live
char to ash,
their oils igniting
waves of fire.
And if I really
tried hard and
I blocked out
of the many
as a child
and the fires
I put out
as a teen,
I would maybe
I just drop
silence of the
To Miss Tranquist
I wonder what you might be thinking, looking at the little Asian girl with dark hair and darker eyes in a sea of blonde hair and blue eyes. Your head does a 30 degree tilt as you pause at what I am sure must be my name.
“Uhhhh, Hai-o een?”
“It’s H-yo In.”
“Ah, okay, thank you.”
Your face relaxes, mouth slackening as you move down the roster and see other names you can pronounce.
And throughout the school year, you somehow always seem to find someone else to call on even when I shoot my hand up before anyone else in the class, and maybe you don’t think I notice, but I’m the only student you never say “Hello” to by name.
I wish you’d try.
You were the reason behind my many fights with my parents who kept insisting “Hyo In” was a beautiful name, but I didn’t care that it meant “wisdom from dawn” or that it represented my family, my heritage, my culture, my language. All I ever wanted was to be called on without hesitation and be greeted every day by name.
It’s been over fifteen years since I started going by “Melanie,” a name that means “dark,” because that’s what I am to you. You can finally say it without feeling embarrassed; I hear it often and from the lips of many people, and I guess I like it.
But at what cost?
Houses and Homes
You had spent your entire life in one home:
your mom’s slightly run-down condo in a sleepy town in New Hampshire where you grew up eating inauthentic General Tso’s chicken at Ginger House and picking up sesame bagels with cream cheese at Audrey’s,
about your town,
your home, which step
in your staircase creaked,
the exact shape of the burn
mark on the left side of your fridge.
Every space, every item in your home had a memory attached to it. The mahogany closet in your basement where you used to curl up at age 4 to play hide-and-seek with your three sisters, the bookshelf you broke then repaired at age 10, the ugly green quilt you received from your grandma at age 14 that covers the bed in your room, in your home, in your town.
And I was envious of you because by the time I met you
I had lived in over 25 places in 8 different countries.
I couldn’t remember which of these were homes and which of these were houses,
the houses, the towns,
the countries I lived in since
I was busy packing and unpacking,
adjusting and readjusting to new places.
Every move, every change had an emotion attached to it. The very long
awaited thrill of leaving the Cockroach House, the bittersweet sadness of saying goodbye to the Mango Tree House, the sheer joy of moving into the picturesque Jacaranda House, the comings and goings and formings of new memories, but never with feelings of rootedness or permanence.
So maybe that’s what the biggest difference between you and me was:
You felt a home in me but I only felt a house in you.