It’s hard to believe my baby sister Brie is twenty-three today.
at age ten,
a weasel-faced blonde boy calls you fat
because you consistently get
better grades than him
& insists a brown girl doesn’t belong
at a school with (superior) white kids.
you quip that you live in
a nicer neighborhood than his,
but the real reason you’re better than him
is that he’ll always be a covetous jerk.
at age twelve,
a freckled ginger boy scrubs your arms
with a pool brush after swim practice
& claims that he thought the white splotches
(of sunburn) on your dark skin was dirt.
you shove him into the pool
& watch him sputter,
coughing water in surprise.
your coach’s punishment is that
you have to swim extra (victory) laps.
at age fourteen,
a thin brunette girl snidely snickers,
“you’re not pretty. you’re cute like hello kitty.”
you weren’t allowed to wear makeup
or dress like her eighteen-year-old sister.
after braces straighten your crooked teeth
& your only growth spurt sheds baby fat,
you decline her offer to be friends —
even then, you’d rather be alone than have
catty friends you didn’t like (& vice-versa).
at age sixteen,
(until almost a decade following)
a parade of basic white guys marvel
over the fact that you’re the first Asian girl
they’ve admired who defies stereotypes —
you’ve inherited your mother’s feistiness
& your father’s no bullshit attitude.
though your temperament mellows over the years,
you loudly continue to refuse to be fetishized
& mock white guys who should check their privilege.
at age twenty-three,
your handsome ivorian friend becomes more.
you’ll never look like models in magazines,
but you’ve learned to appreciate that
your black hair is unruly
& your skin’s base tone is deep tan.
the ways that you look different
no longer (solely) define you.
he knows all of you & loves you
because of (not in spite of) it.
A little boy pedaled his rusted red tricycle down the sidewalk toward Venice Beach. The street was deserted. Surfers, vendors, and street performers weren’t awake, much less at the boardwalk at sunrise.
Brakes screeching to a stop beside a No Parking sign, he slipped off his backpack and retrieved a bike lock. A chill ran down his spine. His mother always cautioned him about his overactive imagination. It was impossible to hear an irritated, whispered conversation when he was the only person on the boardwalk.
“This is bullshit.”
“It’s part of initiation –”
“Hazing. It’s part of a hazing ritual.”
“If you can’t handle a simple task, then –”
“– I’m not daring or scary enough to haunt with you. I know the rhetoric.”
“How can I be your mentor if you won’t let me ment?”
“That’s not a verb.”
“Quit stalling, ghoul.”
“What is it with ghosts and puns?”
“You’re also a fool.”
“Whoomp, there is it!”
“The compatibility test was inaccurate. The Head Haunter appointed you as my mentor because we both had the misfortune of being named after terrible American presidents.”
“Can you be serious for one minute?”
“Who assigned our Fright Crew to haunt Venice Beach? These assholes just think their hallucinogens are extremely potent — they never get scared.”
“It’s a weird gig, but someone’s gotta do it.”
Nixon motioned for the younger ghost to follow him. Nixon and Ford hovered behind the suspicious little boy. He locked the back of his tricycle to the No Parking sign. Beaming, he sat on the curb and rummaged through his backpack for his iPad.
“The kid’s got an attention span of a flea.”
“You’re not gonna be able to spook him by rattling the sign or something. Get creative.”
Ford sighed and circled the little boy closely. The boy shuddered, but remained focused on his Candy Crush game. Ford dove and snatched the front wheel from the boy’s tricycle.
The boy gasped. “Hey!” He grabbed fistfuls of air, but Ford evaded him and dangled the wheel above his head.
Nixon smiled at his protégé. He cocked his head toward the hills, where the Haunting Headquarters cave was hidden. Ford flew past, tricycle wheel held above his head triumphantly.
“Kids these days –” Nixon snickered.
“– they should know better than to improperly lock their bikes, lest some ghosts steal their wheels.”
*Note: this story was inspired by this photo I took while in California last week.
someday, you’ll see there’s a (vast) difference between
teaching one’s child how to make good decisions
& insisting your way is the (only) correct path.
someday, you’ll realize that I’m not rebellious,
(adults don’t rebel; they act on their own accord).
someday, you’ll see that you removed yourself from my life
by (constantly) criticizing everything that garnered your disapproval.
someday, you’ll realize that love is (truly) unconditional
(not contingent on being who someone wants you to be).
despite your insistence that I’m nothing without you,
I’ve never been more certain that I’m becoming
the woman I needed as a role model, but got you instead.
you fled the place where
you mastered the art of placating
& shielded siblings from shockwaves
made by emotional warfare.
you cannot miss the place where
you learned that obedience
took priority over your happiness
(independent thought was forbidden)
& you were berated into submission.
you found the place called home
within the people who helped you
discover that despite (years of)
being conditioned to think the contrary,
you deserve love (& support).
“Sometimes, I pretend to be retarded while in public.”
my hands curled to fists
ready to fight
“My little sister is autistic and mentally handicapped.
It’s really offensive for you to do that.”
don’t yell at this ignorant bitch —
you just met her; she’s your friend’s best friend.
surely she has hidden redeeming qualities.
“But I don’t do it to make fun of retards!
I love them — they’re hilarious!”
equally disgusted & incredulous,
i glanced at our mutual friend.
“Just watch — she’s so funny!”
i rolled my eyes & exited the room.
even at fourteen, i had no patience
for antagonistic bullies disguised as “cool kids.”