Creative Nonfiction/Short Stories
A month after I return from Singapore, my friend Ginene and I are slumped in her car in the rain. We’re lined up to board a ferry that will glide across Puget Sound from Seattle and take us to a very different island. Bainbridge, roughly ten percent the size of Singapore, appears in front of us through silvery mist. The gentle berm of green, sandwiched between the grey palette of water and sky is dark and dense in a way that tells me anything with color will be trapped underground for months.
Better Red Than Blue
Published March 2018 by Chroma Magazine, inaugural RED edition
We hold my mother’s wake in a Chinese restaurant in Roseville, California. Had she been Chinese, this might be less strange.
She died in a prefab home reeking of plastic and cigarettes. Decades earlier, she and my father had proudly shown me around their new double wide in a manicured senior’s park outside Sacramento. I’d wondered if they would ever get rid of that factory smell. Every surface made to look like something it was not, in a town called Roseville where there were no roses.
Our nights were full of cicadas. We called them tree crickets. Their sound like dancing gypsies, arms raised high, castanets rhythmically clicking. While climbing trees, I’d be startled by the nymph skins left behind from their nocturnal molting. I’d grasp onto a hidden part of the tree, crunch down on a brown empty shell, and quickly pull my hand away. Cicadas live mostly underground, emerging in late summer. In living out their insect destiny, they leave a translucent, crackly version of themselves behind, before flying off into the world fully formed.
Two burly Chinese men came to my flat in Singapore and assembled my worldly goods into a large Rubik’s cube. I watched fascinated as they filled in each hole and stepped in only when they attempted to use my prized fabric collection as wrapping paper. Women’s treasures amused them as they packed up my grinding stone from Bali and sword-length cinnamon sticks from Java. They shifted, pushed and fit it all together, while wiping brows on t-shirted shoulders. This block would join those of other expats, streaming across oceans towards points of origin. Mine, 8,000 miles away.
When Tulia and I met, we were both searching for the safety of home. I’d recently moved back to Seattle after working in Southeast Asia and when she heard I had neither husband, pets nor furniture, agreed to a meeting. She’d lost the lease on her rental house and had both a kindly cat and neurotic dog. They’d be miserable in a small apartment. As I was lacking commitment to both my new job and the country as a whole, I wasn’t eager for any acquisitions that might anchor me in place. The pieces seemed to fit. At least for that moment.