According to thoughts
A year of violence against Asians and Americans from Asia forced me to grieve and then act.
April 29, 2021
One gray morning, just before the first lockdown, I bundled up and took a brisk walk in Central Park. When my friend and I were making a curve along the path where tourists ride horse-drawn carriages, a hipster-looking white guy came by on his skateboard. He looked me straight in the eye and clearly pronounced one word – a racist arc so insidious that it doesn’t appear in this essay.
Before I could even register what had happened, he was gone, a racist on wheels.
Spoken as casually as hello, the word landed like a punch in the stomach. I had never spoken that single syllable out loud in my life. My Asian girl, at least the way I wore her, like an expensive designer dress – what you wear to get the job, get the deal, accept the award – set me apart in a good way. At least I believed. Unattended on this bleak morning, my vagina of achievement and acceptance torn away, I felt exposed and vulnerable.
I didn’t tell my parents what happened. Worry is in our DNA, like an Asian family love language. But as much as my overprotective parents in New York worried about me alone, I worried about them 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles, a list of diseases that kept growing in the yard. Five months after that experience, when both my and their homes had become epicentres of the virus and race unrest, I decided to move back in with them. Togetherness seemed better than the alternative.
For the first time in two decades, my parents and I watched each other under the same roof as if we were mice in a laboratory, although it was unclear who ran the laboratory and who the mouse was. My mother monitored my food – always too much or too little. My father carefully watched the fuel gauge on my car.