the whole thing
I came to Detroit seeking some sense of home I’d lost. Looking for proof I existed, was from somewhere. I came here to sit still. Put down roots. It was the first place I ever decided to be.
I thought I might grow here, figure out how to say something worth saying. And I did. Saw the sun of spring on my hardwood floors, re-learned the seasons and that darkness makes light feel like exploding. woke up 100 mornings and smiled, sipped a coffee in slow porch sun. Biked home at dusk and fell in love over and over again.
I came in search of some midwestern something, some piece of me forged in a little house in Kansas that slowly learned to love me. something I caught a glimpse of on the interstate between Gardner and Stillwater a long time ago. I came to find out what it might mean to be American, after all these years.
I thought I would be here forever. And maybe, I will be. but I will say this out loud first:
This skin is an education, covered in badges I collected to prove I am one of you, too. Proof I am asian, enough, american, enough. I am still learning which ones to peel off.
Sacrifice and endurance mean something different to me. They land somewhere between mom filling a Kroger-brand coffee tin with MSG and tucking her mother’s jade ring into the bottom zipper pocket of my suitcase. Somewhere between Dad’s lonely Shanghai subway ride and lifting his brother’s file cabinet into a UHaul in Tarkio, Missouri.
The stretch of my skin has changed,
my ability to look someone in the eye.
I am learning to show up and be seen, to stand on a soapbox and yell when I need to. Not in performance, but because I am twice the whole in a way I was taught to smooth over and tuck away. I shout for myself, and whisper for every time I have stood in my mother’s garlic kitchen and been engulfed by her force, her “repeat it back to me.” This cannot be lost.
This young resolve heartens, and hardens.
I, see, you — see me too.