Lotus Flower

I did not choose to grow here.

I see myself as a displaced flower, uprooted before she was planted, a seed placed miles and miles away. I am, let’s say, a lotus flower. From a country far away. One day, I sprouted. Maybe under the sunny bright skies of California. Somewhere Western. And all I knew were the soil and skies and trees of a Western world.

And there were Western songs. And Western values. And Western foods that made people balloon and swell and topple over from heart disease. There were color coded hierarchies. And color embracing schools. There were plastered banners of ideals, never obtained, of bars that will never be reached. And there was money. Lots of money. Unevenly divided, but money, still. Oh, and shit-talking. Lots and lots of shit-talking. Because shit-talking was her prized possession baby.

She was theoretically free. She was chained by things that half of her would screech about.

This is Western air I breath. And Western words I write. My mind scrambles to translate to my mother tongue. I feel irritated when quizzed, scrutinized, over my minute vocabulary. I comprehend the way I read–vertically, in chunks, taking in the entire scene.

I did not choose to grow here. But I do so, begrudgingly, albeit mostly contentedly, because with physical comfort comes mental comfort. There is food to eat. And water to drink. And clean carpeted homes. And space, and clear blue skies.

But it is a hollow step-mother, a cutout adopted family, and this is Cinderella, couched in her stepmother’s magnificent home. It is lacking in significant ways. In this tiled gated home, ripe with waste and excess, I have no desire to engorge myself in deep fried meats. I have no desire to shoot a rifle. I have no desire to make silly clownish political statements, or yell, or scream. Where is everybody else? Where is the real food? Where is the real music? The real dancing? The culture, the culture?

And when I return to this home, a home I had never been, I feel the deepest, most explicable sense of home. How do you return home when you’ve never been? This, I realize, is biological. It’s deeper than simply sprouting where you are planted. It goes back seasons, centuries, for an environment to be just right for that particular plant–but I was uprooted, like so many others.

And I never assume that I am like them. Plants in the new environment, I mean. I can feign it–I speak it, and I most likely seem it, but it’s a facade. You can take an alligator out of a swamp, raise it in the desert, but it will always have been from a swamp, no matter what you tell it. You can brainwash it. You can tell her to participate in rituals of the patriotic. You can make her place her hand on this part of her chest, memorize poems about fabric, worship strangers of the dead. But it is all surface level, environmental. External. As internal as socialization can be.

No matter what anyone tells me, no matters what is shushed or socially right, nobody can convince me otherwise. She is a queen, a sleeping dragon. And I am convinced of it. I hope she breaths and flies and wakes soon. I have been planted alongside the fat rich happy little Western boar, who snores and powerfully kicks up mud when angered. There is not much that I can do. Because I did not choose to grow here.

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Meandering

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We’re listening to music. We’re contemplating sell-outs and non-sell-outs. We’re letting ourselves be moved by tunes, present and past.

Kendrick didn’t sell out. Chance didn’t. Childish didn’t. Arctic Monkeys did. But did the Arctic Monkeys? I don’t think they did–their last album was subpar. Then I chirp that Taylor Swift did. Oh, yes, obviously. But none of the artists we really listen to–they didn’t sell out, right?

I wish I knew how they came up with their music. Their albums, their lyrics, their songs, the story. Lil Wayne! He threw in four or five other artists, too. How do they create music? And what sparks it? Is it emotion? Driven by emotions. I knew people who would be sparked by emotion. But then how’d they go from there?

Silence. I don’t think I appreciate music as much as my boyfriend does–not in the same way, at least. I couch myself in music, and when I feel moved, I play it. It’s beautiful but formulaic–playable, doable, not a beast to be analyzed, just one to experience. And even then, tunes are a dime a dozen, a synchronized pattern of followable tunes.

What’s their process? How do they go from there? A thought? A tune? A feeling? A breakup?

I chew on the thoughts. I’m on the train of thoughts with him, meandering away.

A Letter “On Kindness”

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Do you remember the time you were at Chipotle and you saw the lady with four children in tow and after ordering the food, four bowls total, she realized she didn’t have any money? And so you paid it for her?

And that was your kindness.

Obviously kindness, clearly kindness, without-a-doubt-kindness. As I read the poem by Aracelis Girmay titled “On Kindness”, I wondered about subtle forms of it, like when it isn’t just a hug or a peck or buying someone’s burrito bowls, but is, instead, your telling a wailing women you love her because she is yelling I want to kill myself I want to kill myself.

That love—that’s kindness too.

There are other forms of it that Aracelis Girmay writes about in her poem. The mail lady who says “hi baby” to you, and to the girl beside you, and to her cousin, and to her cousin’s best friend. The window that filters in light on a heady Sunday morning, reminding you have made it another day you’re alive you’re alive. The dog that comes panting up to you, looking overjoyed to see you, you, you—and that is kindness, too.

June Bugs in the Winter

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Saturday morning. I woke up at 5 and we arrived by 6, the wind so cold it bit into us like knives. I wore my frayed red scarf as we boarded the bus, skies were purpley blue. I watched the sunrise through the sketch of back roads, blues and oranges and rocky gravel.

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Countless love triangles zig-zagged their way unrequited among the best friends. Among him, you, her, me. Your best friend. My best friend. My best friend’s friend’s then-best-friend, then his best friend, or your best friend. I was to you as he was to me; she was to him as I was to you as he was to me. Now he’s little to them and we are nothing to each other.

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Cycling through obsessions like a broken washing machine. I am: drawn to the same aesthetic like a film-drunk moth. Film, film, film and light gossamer. And beautiful people in beautiful places.

Disjointed

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In between ceramic tiles, I empathize with Murakami’s characters (disjointed, numb). I’m reminded of how disconnected I’d once felt, as if this was myself but somehow it wasn’t. I tossed and turned, ran through storms, writhed in bed. Wondered: and so how did she, this other self, feel? Because I felt nothing.

Between shallow breaths I remind myself to scale down. So I scale down. In a giant desert, I am box-like. I am a face of a salt crystal on a pink salt mountain. And collectively we are all salt grains tumbling through something vast and strange and inexplicable.

July 2016

Art Hub

I don’t feel much in the summer, not as much as I do in the winter. There’s something about the onslaught of cold—the onslaught of nostalgia, the wave of emotion, of icy blustery wintry reflection.

It’s barely Halloween and I’m ready for Christmas. We’ll have lights, I’ve decided. Rainbow lights. A tree, spindly and green. A tree, plastic evergreen, our first in years.

Cold and rain joined forces today. Yesterday was another story. It was hot and muggy and I greeted an old friend SC with a head glazed in sweat. MT had invited me to an arts festival that reminded me of small alternative spaces in Austin, New York, Philadelphia.

It brimmed with people, people with colored hair dyed bright angry neon. People with nose rings, with tattoos, with large dark eyes under heavy-rimmed glasses. Artwork lined the tables. You are so talented, I tell an artist after skimming through her comic book. Doodles. Paintings. Prints. Bags. Comics. Film. I feel guilty looking at their art and not buying it.

It made think of Philly’s first Fridays, where all galleries opened their doors and artists lined the summery streets, their work on display. And New York, but more likely every day of the week. I didn’t realize how much I missed it, basked in it, until I was surrounded by it again.

City

The city is tired, the city is alive. The city is moving; the city lies still. Stop motion. Slow motion. When the light turns green I cross anyway, counting down the milliseconds, swiveling my sight in circles.

The city, from far away, sparkles and sprinkles and glitters and glows. Juxtapositions sit at every street corner. The homeless slump by the chatty elite, carry cardboard by  fine wine. Angry lights glare. Still lampposts hang. I play the streets by ear, following the crowd, hoping to god that I’m moving southeast.

The city overwhelms. Screams, honks, turns right on red. Showers rain like a garden hose, a childhood treat on summery days. Spinning and laughing in a one-piece, now cold and shuddering.

The city houses nail salon after nail salon. Our nail salon is next to the gas station. Open doors. First breeze of summer wafts in. A woman with acrylic stuck in her nail drifts in, “you can remove this?” You don’t want new nails? A new coat? “Nah, just get rid of this.” Five minutes later she leaves muttering under her breath because she doesn’t want to soak them-she wants to rip them off.

The city is gritty, the city is loud, the city is terrifying, the city is striking, the city is cold. I skip down the steps to the train, slot in my coins, smile at the receiver who seems unusually patient and friendly. I pace my way back and forth as I wait stonily for the trolley.

The city is a million breaths at once, all breathing, breathing, breathing. And I’m afraid–once in love, but now just afraid.

April 2018