34 tagged with #family

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i'm down to the last few soft-leaded pencils gifted to me from my late great-uncle, who was the first blood relation that made me believe that i might be a valid human being. the lead has shattered within the core over twenty years of moving, packing, sharpening, angsting. i can feel the wood splinter with a careless turn in the sharpener, and i flinch.

i can still use it like this. i can still hold it tightly enough to keep the last bit of lead from slipping out. i can't even read all the words printed on the side of it anymore, other hand 'hwa', 'drawing', and '6b'.

i remember drawing animals in distress, broken hands, full moons, stretched faces, with this pencil. i remember my great-uncle looking over my shoulder and encouraging me to make more shapes, to look at volumes in the world and think about how falling light creates shadows to define them to our eyes, to adoringly fill my sketchbook with illustrations of my life, my spaces, my dreams.


the rain continues to pour. i watch the radar because i cannot see the clouds from where i am, and i try to guess when the holes will reach me so i can go grocery shopping without getting drenched. whenever i put on my helmet during a break, the rain starts again before i reach the stairs.

welcome to autumn. welcome to days and weeks and months of rain. welcome to waiting for the day when it becomes too cold for the rain to reach the ground.

18 September 2016 19:53


i'm rifling through stacks of notes haphazardly tucked into old manila folders, and here they are. pieces of paper ripped out of a notebook, on which my father frantically scribbled the names of our only remembered ancestors. "you have to remember them," he implored, tapping each name with the tip of my pen while i winced for the nib he was bending. "you have to remember them, and remember what was done to them." i nodded and took them from his hands as i stepped into the line for security screening. we'd see each other again, soon, but in that moment, it felt like we were being ripped apart forever.

i grabbed my cousin's arm; he would escort my father back to the family apartments. "take care of him," i demanded. take care of him, because even i don't know how.


i'm the only one named with the family generational tag. i'm fourth of seven in this generation, and the first one to be born overseas. "i'm guessing your father gave you this name because he wanted to feel more connected to the old home," my oldersister-cousin surmised. "it's a really old-fashioned thing to do, but i like it. it's romantic."


"i'm pretty sure i was always meant to be american," my father proudly declared in chinese, in a context i've already forgotten. "i was just born in the wrong place."

19 January 2015 12:37


the noises i hear at my parents' house at night:

  • security alarms going off for three and a half minutes
  • sports cars overrevving
  • owls hooting

every time i visit, i pack at least one more box of my personal objects. my hope is that this enables my parents to move out of this town sooner. i can't wait until the day when i never have to set foot here again.

18 December 2014 02:31


i learn how to say things that make other people happy, just a few words here and there to remind them that i've paid attention and i know. does it matter how sincere i am? not if the end result is indistinguishable. it only matters to me. no one can see what's in my head.


'but tell me how your name is really pronounced,' someone asks, with good intentions to not offend me.

'it's fine. however you pronounce it is fine.'

'no, it's not! i want to learn how it's actually pronounced. teach me. i can do it. i want to be respectful of your name.'

but can you be respectful of how i want you to pronounce it? or is it not about what i want, but what you perceive is the correct thing to do? i've accepted pronounciations that feel contextually appropriate. you are already looking at an anglizied representation of a word that does not exist in your language or character set.

names are as real as you declare them to be. names are as real as they are used. i have names you don't know, and i have names i could never share with you.

'oh, but you shouldn't have to accept people saying your name wrong, that's such a disservice to your history!'

thank you for trying to be culturally sensitive. but call me what i tell you to call me. don't try to correct me if you don't like the name i give. other people's preferences are not mine. my preferences are not others.

09 October 2014 11:36

Not Sunday

A long, rainy day. There are few days when I do not leave the house. But they are the days when I lock myself inside my head in an attempt to pry out the thoughts I need to put together.

I've managed to separate the need for pleasure from the need of food, such that I can eat for the pure utility of putting nutrients into my body, regardless of what those nutrients are. I used to wonder how my father could stand to eat plain white rice with plain vegetables and lukewarm water; as time goes on, I become my parents.

That thought used to scare me. It doesn't anymore; it almost becomes a note of pride when I observe it.

Hard boiled eggs are to be eaten in one gulp, whole, unseasoned, with the shell casually peeled away. It's okay if it crunches a little. I needed to clear out the weeks-old celery that doesn't even snap with crispness. Empty cans of cheap lager stack up on my desk. I haven't even stood on the porch in hours.

It's summer. I'm flying away, soon.

I'll be back.

15 May 2014 21:17

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