I meet you when I’m alone. When I believe that yellow is sickly. Like the edge of a bruise. Like a thick lump of phlegm. Like the waxy paste of fat under the goosebump skin of supermarket chicken. I believe I am ugly because I am yellow.
When we meet, you lift my chin up to look at the stars and all the things I could do.
I stare at a fire a hundred feet high. The heat is a solid wall. A river of people flows around it, faster and faster, breaking around a man who stands so still, he is an island. I understand how he feels.
I swim across to reach him. When he crumbles and cries, I am there to hold him. We are in a swell of time where what he needs and what I yearn to give are the same. We connect.
We watch sparks snap off the flames to become stars in the sky.
I watch a screen in the dark. The actors all look like me and you are translated. I revert to a child when my mom would sing to me. She swayed and hummed and brushed her fingers through my hair, and made me the melody.
Now, here you are. A song I know, turned into something she could sing. My separate life, turned into something we could share. Our skin and bones, turned into something beautiful.
Shirley Chan is writing a memoir about growing up in a Chinese restaurant. She is an alum of Tin House and Writing by Writers Tomales Bay, a Rooted & Written fellow, and assistant prose editor for The ASP Bulletin. Her work has been published in HAD, Longleaf Review, Paranoid Tree, Roi Fainéant, NYC Midnight, and other publications. When the words part of her brain needs a break, Shirley embroiders. Learn more at irleywrites.com and hang out on socials @irleywrites.