July 19, 2016 § Leave a comment
Barack Obama in Americanah: A Novel. A chapter of it is a dedication, like to a lover in the middle of a serious novel. I wasn’t really a part of that campaign trail his first run for the presidency in 2008. But I lapped it up nonetheless. I couldn’t stop the tears welling up inside and dripping down my face. It was a sting, a familiar and dangerous ache. I pictured my campaign headquarter where an army of true believers like Ifem and Blaine and all his friends holding their breaths: their eyes glued to the TV screen showing an impossible race of reds and blues; their personal smartphones ablaze with Tweets and Instagram and Facebook status updates; their headsets for phone-banking still on or maybe quietly set aside, markers and butcher papers and Post Its everywhere, half drunk coffee and stale chips and leftover snacks also everywhere. I could picture it all, the horrors and the sense of belonging in any campaign. I craved it in my bones and I knew all too well that I couldn’t have it, at least not in my foreseeable future. I gave that life up.
And maybe that was part of the tears, mourning for what could’ve been. But there was something else: the person of Barack, the man to whom I had not paid close attention until the trail became hot, to be honest. It came back to me, the conversation I had with my parents the first time I gave them a proper tour of the UC Berkeley campus. It would be a different thing altogether, my dad said, for Barack to win because I do want to be able to say that America is not just for a white man.
How could we know, Korean immigrants–only exposed to the sins of racism in the context of Rodney King beating, the ’92 Los Angeles riot–the fullness of what a black president could mean in 2008? But he did win, and the passage describing the main character’s wonder at what America could be was also my wonder: the possibility of hope, of change, of somehow this one man who should never have made it were it any other time in history, carrying the hopes of a continent, a people group, a history owing lives that cannot be given back for four hundred plus years. We were both wondering, Ifem and I, in that moment of jubilee and elation and an abandon to celebrate what none of us would dare to speak of, even though everyone knew–all of us knew–that it would not last. Of course it couldn’t last. Things could not become that easy that soon.
I sat reading and aching and praying for this last year of the man’s presidency. I ached for his two terms of heavy debt fiscally and historically–the debt of human brokenness multiplied a million times that America cannot afford but has been borrowing forever–how this weight must have aged him, crushed him, made him less human maybe. I prayed that at the end of it all he would walk away with something. I was, and am, thankful that he was not assassinated on the job. Hurl your insults at how calculating and political he’s become, the policies and stances he adopted, the way he spoke or didn’t speak for Black & Brown people. I would not be so quick to be cynical this time though.
I can’t get over the image of this man, this skinny and tired looking and much aged man after eight years of the weight of the world on his shoulder, not trying to start another world war, not trying to let down the hopes of his people–I know he thinks about that, his people. How can you not? When your skin is black? I can’t get over how much a person like me who has nothing in common with him physiologically speaking, has benefited. I have been touched; I have been made to feel connected to this land because of his life. There’s a sense of gratefulness still there. I can’t quite name it. There is not a United League of the Oppressed, though maybe there ought to be one. I can’t get over it, as I now sit here feeling the ache of all the Black lives lost, as we witness the election day drawing ever closer. And I wonder.
Do you believe still?
November 7, 2015 § Leave a comment
Last night didn’t have the end the way it did. But even as I was awfully, impolitely quiet in the ride back to Berkeley with my friends I love, I thought of how much it hurt to not feel intimate with those you want to find out. That’s what I want, to find you out, to be found out by you. And that you has yet to materialize. It took me a short moment to distinguish the unnamed desires from the ones I think I know. But the love that’s to be fanned into flame is not in the room. He was not in the room. Nonetheless I would have liked to seek out depth of a person, two people, three friends.
You shouldn’t say stuff like that anymore, I thought about telling him. You know he’ll say whatever is true at the moment though, which is why I love him.
I know you, he says.
And he does. It’s nice to hear another’s words & voice carry your heart out loud. Slightly foreign, but mostly familiar.
You’re not fully satiated, I caught those words, I bet he learned them from me.
I’m hypersensitive, he says again.
You mean intuitive? I asked.
No, sensitive around you. Not everyone, just you.
I want that knowing. because I realized that I didn’t have that with my friends I loved. There really are very few people whom I’ve allowed to know me, to stick around long enough to find me out, to be patient and persistent through the dry periods when I don’t know how to be vulnerable, to poke and probe me. I must not believe the lie that I am a difficult child, that I’m hard to love. This is not true, but I also know myself to not give away easily. There’s just so much in me, too much, for words. One hour? Two hours? Maybe a couple weeks? How long will it take? Sometimes they don’t come for months at end. Half a year is usually how long I process one idea. And they build on top of each other. I’m still fleshing out what I’ve envisioned for community in Oakland, April 2010. Longevity matters in a friendship with me.
So, a room full of friends: I love them; I really want to pursue many of them. I want to find out, and in the process I’m hoping that I’ll be found out too, that those I seek out will not only open up to me but expect me to do the same. As I listen patiently and ask good questions–because I’m a pro at this–I’m hoping they will know how to unlock the maze, because I need them to open me up, I don’t know how. When I will myself to say things inside me, I have not the words. They always feel forced; I get flustered and say the third closest thing to what’s actually on my mind. There’s no way of knowing what is actually in me unless you ask. I need others to open me up. That’s the knowing I want. That’s the question I need asked. That’s the depth I find myself staring into, longingly, every time.
Come find me, I thought, wherever you are. Whatever you’re doing right now, come find me. There’s a chasm I have never looked into closely enough, not necessarily for the fear of finding out what’s there, but because it requires more than one person looking. There are things inside me I’ve not experienced or named. I have an inkling of who that woman may be, what she’s like, where she treads, how she prays. You with the right words will unlock her, I know it.
June 13, 2015 § Leave a comment
May 1, 2015 § Leave a comment
after reading this—
out of the way!
inhumane hands have tried for so long
to keep you tamed inside.
and here i watch,
if the universe is kind enough
to grace our puny existence
we’ve never laid our eyes upon the likes.
couldn’t have dreamt of
you, if you want to fly,
fly! free! who cares who gets hurt?
your heart beating inside,
frantic running, away
from the laboratory
the inhumane hands; that unquenchable desire
suddenly you realize,
spread the wings; they carry you
above the wind, upwards,
taking off from us pitiful
humans and our crafts our fears. i’m in tears,
the freedom so elusive from the beginning
into a hole that’s remained empty
for so long! the thing
that has not been named.
only do we realize
how much we were missing it
until the object of our full satiation
materializes; i would never have known
what satisfy could mean
had you not wings. thank you.
you will not go back in the cage.
and by the depth of that desire do i know
that i too have wings with a purpose
other than to slow me down
in our flight. stop running child.
March 31, 2015 § Leave a comment
but you will first begin by speaking at a pizzeria full of church people and happy drunk folks.
how the story would have unfolded had i prepared/actually read my notes:
hong kong, may 2010. i was in kowloon, walking along the enormous expansion of sky & water, carrying a monologue, asking this question to myself: what is life worth? what difference does one’s life make? it felt so easy to forget about the people and community i had built in the east bay, to be erased from & erase relationships, to live anonymously in a city half way across the globe where no one knows you. what lasting impact was i capable of having on the earth?
no answers then. all i remember is a vague sense of how lonely life can be, not because no one loves you, but because you can’t find the one to love. lonely because you don’t know the object of your all-consuming desire. the entire time that God was pouring his love into me, wastefully and extravagantly, he was moving me to ask the question of how i could ever relate to another being in the way he had related to me.
fast forward four years & seven months. here i was. kolkata region one. past 10pm or so. on our way back to lee memorial mission school in the back of an auto. kolkata was one giant hot mess of people urinating and yelling, cars honking and zigzaging through bumper to bumper traffic with every color and light and decibel and scent imaginable. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 30, 2015 § Leave a comment
most of my adult life i’ve returned time and time again to memories of goodbyes. goodbyes to memories too. on christmas eve this past year, i wrote something for the billionth time. and a few days ago, cleaning out my purse post kolkata, i read it again–like childish scribbles on sand, we repeat words others have used over and over across time, washed away and forgotten, only to be written again by familiar hands. i know this all too well. yet the words read differently this time. i felt a close. they looped into a circle of sort; every other writing in the past about this goodbye finally ended. and by the last sentence it wasn’t about those people at all but one man. it’s always been about that man, the one i fell in love with ever since i laid my eyes on him, the one i saw again in india in a whole new light, this beautiful man.
[…] i’m having a moment with this rosencran guy and his wife’s story of moving away from paris.
maybe it’s because i haven’t had to say goodbye to anything or anyone in a while. and saying goodbye always sucks. always. right now i’m mourning every little and past goodbyes i ever had to do. and it’s not fair. i know it’s not fair. there’s no way that i’ll ever get over saying it. no matter how many times i say it, no matter how far the past has passed. it is absolutely the worst.
i can’t seem to get desensitized. every time i said goodbye to someone, even if nothing has changed for that person, i can’t help it. i mourn. my heart feels too frantic to stay put and i can’t stop those damn emotions running 500 mph.
when aaron took off to aussieland, when i left sam in hohenfels, when steve quit, when christina moved out, when hosea got married, when dumbledore died. every fcking single time. and now the baldwins clear out of their paris life without actually saying goodbye to anyone, not even to bruno!–because they simply can’t bear it.
but what i have come to believe and experience slowly is that when we say goodbye to the good, we get to see the better. it’s always been true.
i loved each and every person i mourned. i really did. and that love doesn’t go away. it doesn’t disappear. and those people don’t become any less important just because things change and life moves us in different directions. they don’t. my love for them makes me who i am now, able to love fiercely and without regret.
when push comes to shove and everything is said and done, if i had to do all this again. i would in a heartbeat. i would love all these people all over again. i would make those mistakes all over again (maybe not every single one…) if i were given a do-over, even if nothing were to change, if all still ended in heartbreaks. i would. again. knowing what i know now. i will love again. no regrets.
on the plane back to stateside, in a half dazed, half awake reflection, i knew i had done well the past three weeks of kolkata because i gave all my heart to each person i had met. Jesus told me clearly i would receive a new level of fearlessness when parting ways. i wouldn’t have to keep myself at 99% with some small and subtle dread of having to say goodbye at some point. so i took him at his words and recklessly poured out, nothing held back. the last day, up until the very last minute we got into the cab to head to the airport we blessed and prayed and spent ourselves for the people in india. i lost nothing, i mourned nothing, i regretted nothing. and in my heart i know i’ve conquered: i know how to love fully, without regret. there’s no fear in love. it’s not something new i’ve learned, i’m just made for it. everything about me has been fashioned for giving away 110%.
it’s the only way to live.
January 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
there’s a reason why i’m starting on this side of the page on my journal. this may or may not turn into a letter
sometimes i sit at a cafe and watch people watch me. they don’t always actually watch, and if they do, never for more than a new york minute, mostly because in so cal people don’t walk. they sit in a car, and as they drive by i catch their eyes in the reflection of cafe windows. strange, their eyes say. because many a time i’m way too dressed up for just coffee and many a time an asian girl don’t sit by herself at cafes in areas like this. right now that’ll be coffee beans and teas on the corner of 9th and grand, part of the “revitalized,” gentrifying downtown los angeles. i always seek out places that make me feel less homesick, less out of place, but i realize i’ve always felt homesick and out of place, no matter where i go
maybe it’s the travel talk i read in your letter (hah! now im addressing this writing to someone. presumably the writer of the letter mentioned just now, which could only be you, reese). maybe it’s the journal entry from two days ago, full of some complaint or another to God. i’ve been writing about how tired i am trying to keep up with everything, excel at everything, let nothing drop on my watch but obviously failing (but by whose standards?) miserably
i just saw a girl driving away by herself, eyes red and wiping her face. must have been crying about/for something. i know what it’s like to cry in transit. mostly in the public eye but in the comfort of one’s car too. you sometimes wonder if anybody, even if a stranger, cares that you’re crying. but to this day i haven’t come across any prince charming offing me kleenex on bart asking if everything is ok. the last time i cried on bart was on christmas day. it sounds #kdrama (but who doesn’t think her life is a korean drama?!)–i was coming back early from the city after a movie with some friends. actually, one friend and a bunch of his friends. normally i would’ve loitered with the rest of the group and either suggested it myself or accepted their offer of dinner. i like to think i’m a sociable person. but something about the movie (we watched american hustle. superb acting. though i never like amy adams. i don’t know why), actually something about the fact that i was watching this movie with my friend and his friends, none of them particularly the people i wanted to spend christmas day with, it just made me sad and told me to retreat. against my better judgment i pulled the party popper grandma card and left before anybody could ask me to chinese food. but it wasn’t until i got on bart and saw that my friend texted me that i started crying–“thanks for coming out. hope you don’t feel horribly sad on christmas day cuz of a flick.”
sweet of him, but he doesn’t know it’s not necessarily the movie. i don’t know quite well either. the closest thing to a realization is that i’m seeing these little ways that i seek out comfort for myself, and they never satisfy. they aren’t meant for my comfort anyway. if what i want really is intimacy and being fulling known, these hangouts won’t do. “going home” won’t do. catching up with old friends, reading good books, consuming any kind of media or food or culture, even spending time with family just won’t do. i must have what my heart was truly meant to have. and the scary thing is that it’s not up to me. the satisfaction of my soul i cannot provide for. i’m actually incapable of truly satisfying my own desires. and not being in control of that which matters the most and is dearest to your heart is not a matter of little consequence. i think i just hit something
all those times i thought i was only stirring up the water, otherwise clear but for the fact that im mucking it up; things that should’ve stayed buried; disappointments big and small that have been forgotten; wishes unfulfilled (whether because they didn’t happen the way i wanted/thought them to or because i simply didn’t recognize they were granted). they had to rise to the surface. not for the sake of psychotherapy or my own neurotic analysis. but because the more i realize how and why i am dissatisfied (or unsatisfied? which is correct?) the more i have to decide and seek what does satisfy. higher passion, deeper root and what lasts. it’s a lesson i learn over and over again
i don’t quite remember last year’s new year resolution type of conversation with the Lord. but the year before that (must have been 2012) i remember very clearly: i was yet at another cafe–God my yelping and getting lost while driving skills that lead to discoveries of great coffee shops in the most random neighborhoods/cities should win an award!–in silverlake. this was right after i had crashed linds car. i hope i told you the story. all kinds of money and paperwork issues to deal with once i head back to the bay area, i was dreading it. and i made a promise with God that i shall become an adult now. a real legit grown up. no more whining, no more shifting the blame. no more victim/orphan mentality. no more confusing spontaneity with irresponsibility at the expense of others safety and concerns. He said alright let’s do it. i think that panned out pretty well. i feel pretty grown up now (though i did manage to get my car towed last night. will explain alter… #storyofmylife)
maybe this is my 2014 new year resolution moment. i want to be uber serious about pursuing the higher passion. no more little distractions and games that don’t cut it. and no more passivity and staying resigned with unfulfilled promises
ah! sorry that sounds super cheesy. i don’t meant to sound like all is neatly wrapped up now with a bow on top because it’s not that simple. i know. i feel it
maybe you’ll help me figure out what it is that i’m actually trying to say. how do you purse something you can’t control? or ever have any hope of controlling?
time for me to go now i think. tea is drunk. gotta use the toilet. will have to find a lunch spot and a pedicure place for my cousin. people watching is great though. i’m totally judging everyone walking by with the grossest stereotypes: white hipsters, chola girls and skater boys. nine to five types getting caffeinated, soccer moms, black security dudes. hah. and i just realized i’d been actually on the corner of 9th and hope. wish i had a polaroid to go with this letter. you’ll just have to imagine it