Like Flavor Flav taking Sweetie to Red Lobster on their first date, during the first season of Flavor of Love.
I forget his order. But I learned how happiness comes in small things. I think about seafood tanks in Hong Kong restaurants. How summers ago, at Dim Sum, my grandpa and I watched the tanks together. How the abalone and inches of prawns and lobsters with whiskers and big-lipped-injected fish floated. How summers ago, Grandpa told me he wanted more poems about eels. How he predicted the future. What Chinese Grandpa isn’t magical. As a three-year-old in Kowloon, I dreaded seafood market trips—the eels jutting their heads out, their midnight tails wrapping around each other, their tiny teeth sticking out the tank. How I knew one would slip out and eat three-year-old me holding a mango soft serve. Their orgy. How the eel is the sexier, electric version of the femme born in the Year of the Snake. Fate. How Grandpa predicted the future. What Chinese Grandpa isn’t magical. I think about snake patched jackets walking down Gucci runways. I think about how twenty-three-year-old me once dated a twice-my-age-you-do-the-math-Singaporean-fashion-designer-who-once-dressed-presidents-past-his-prime. How summers ago, he gifted me a pink snakeskin handbag. How summers ago, his older sister forbade me from ever seeing him again. You do the math. It’s still fashion. I think about seafood tanks in Hong Kong restaurants—how my grandpa is waiting for me, ordering the abalone.
Because I write about joy and sex.
I’m no doctor, but I’d prescribe her a good fucking
to get over my resilience. Call it centuries of Chinese
strength raining down on me every day, a message
from my ancestors to pack an umbrella—pack up
any minute because no one ever took over the world
by standing still. I know they’re proud of me for
cussing her boring-ass lifestyle of bird poems and daddy
issues out, and yes, yes, yes, to the middle finger—flip
the bird on her bird poems, and it’s unladylike, but
the loophole is I’m non-binary, so I threw gender roles
out the window eons ago. Call it Year of the Snake
revenge. According to the Eastern Zodiac, the Snake
was born to get everything they want in life and destroy
all their enemies. Antony asks me if my haters are
playing chess or checkers. You and I are playing chess,
though. In Chicago, Rita buys oranges, arranging them
on her mantle, reminding me of my grandfather, an ocean
away in Kowloon, waking up to shrines and golden
zodiac animals he collected since my mother was a girl.
Call it centuries of Chinese love. That ocean used to
barricade me from all my problems with love. Call it
immigrant child resistance or how my parents didn’t
fall in love in Hong Kong, then move to America to
watch me fail. I think about my father, as a child, thrown
from boarding school to boarding school across Asia,
because of a word called concubinage—how his mother,
my grandmother, was the “extra” wife to a terrible man.
At boarding school, my father watched his teacher, a priest,
slap a cross guard. He was taught masculinity early on.
My grandmother never visited him. He waited and waited.
At five, I watched her die on our green sofa in Allentown,
PA, while a priest sat by her side, saying a prayer, taking
her into the afterlife. I have never told anyone this. I had
never seen my father so white, so quiet. He built that house
on a hill—feng shui, or the belief that your neighbors
bow down to you. It stormed that night. We grew.