3 tagged with #twp

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we moved to a housing development called "water's edge", an aspirationally evocative name even though the water that we were on the edge of was a rainfall retention pond. there were lots of those in our town, a suburb built on a coastal plain over historical swampland. our basement walls always trickled. whose basement walls don't?

my age fell in an awkward gap between kids too young for me to care about and kids too old to care about me, but one of our neighbors decided we could hang out when he realized i'd stereotypically help him with his math homework. his parents wouldn't let him out until the homework was done, so i was motivated to walk him through carrying x's from one side of the equality to the other until we were released to roam the streets.

sometimes, it would be dusk by the time i managed to spring him, the sky too dim for us to creep through the undergrowth of everyone's backyards without getting tangled in thornbushes or accidentally stepping in dog poop. we'd sit on the stormdrain overlooking the pond and throw rocks into the sky, where bats circled overhead looking for food. they'd catch the rocks with their screeches, chasing parabolas until the splash into the pond signaled that they'd been tricked. i'd draw parabolas on a graphing calculator, later, just often enough for my teacher to stop looking at what i was furiously typing, before going back to writing games on the clumsy keyboard of my ti-89.


10 April 2018 22:18

the endless cycle

as i walked past the barricades set up for the street festival, i overhear the police asking each other, 'hey, what's the difference between chinese and japanese anyway?' and i didn't let myself stop, or turn my head to see them. further down the block, the local lion dance troupe lifted each other up above the heads of the crowd between an old record store and a sushi shop. maybe i should have been grateful that the question was being asked so innocently to begin with.

but i remember chasing the other kids on the playground in anger, throwing rocks and sticks and screaming because they wouldn't stop chanting 'chinese-tokyo girl chinese-tokyo girl'. i'd find out later that my fifth grade teacher waited until i took a hall pass to go to the bathroom before telling the class of suburban white new jersey kids that i must be so lonely and scared for having moved there from china. no amount of my protests in perfect english that i moved there from iowa could undo that impression; as far as they were concerned, my face was yellow, i was born in tokyo, so i was chinese.

it was only a year and change ago that a taxi driver complimented my english when i was helping my cousin deplane at the airport. she looked embarrassed when i asked her why my english wouldn't be good. sometimes, people make these innocent assumptions; sometimes, people ask questions out of genuine ignorance. i have a hard time tempering my response to those situations nonetheless, knowing that there are still children who will pull up the corners of their eyelids on the playground and chase each other around while shouting 'go back to china, go back to mexico, go back to africa'. they learn these games from older siblings, who learn their parents' ignorance.

whose job is it to teach them otherwise?

04 March 2018 20:55


in the fifth grade, we had to fill out a page in a daily assignment book by copying down the notes from the morning chalkboard. part of our class check-in was a spot examination from the teacher that a parent had signed off each page the night before; my mother didn't understand the point of this exercise, and my father often ignored it, and i couldn't adequately explain it. we'd forget some nights, and if someone was home in the morning they'd scrawl a name on their way to work, while i was still asleep. some days, i'd just be docked points for failing to complete the assignment.

once, i didn't want to bother my parents anymore, so i folded a page from an earlier day and slipped some scratch paper under it, running the letters over and over again until the hand felt embedded in my own. i rubbed graphite over the backside of a sheet with their signature and make an impression by firmly tracing over the ink, leaving a light mark on a blank sheet, which i would ink over, then erase the graphite.

'just sign it for me,' my mother started telling me, too tired from her new job to lift a pen. so i did, and sweated the first time i passed inspection at school.

one day, my teacher noticed these strange graphite scribbles on the back of an assignment, and frowned. 'what's this?' she asked accusingly; i shook my head with my mouth shut. i knew enough from previous disciplinary run-ins with her that when she had that tone of voice, everything i did was bad and nothing i could say would redeem myself, 'okay, be that way,' she growled; in that day's signature block, she left a note for my parents: SEE PREVIOUS DAY.

the intention was for my parents to see her note while signing my page, flip to the previous day, see evidence of my forgery, and they would have the conversation with me that she wanted to avoid. i took my book home, forged my parents' signature next to her note, and wrote 'OKAY' under it.

the way i sign my surname now still looks like my father's hand.

13 February 2018 21:27

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