The Half and Half-Nots

Puerto Rican.
Burmese. (“She could look Myanmar.”)
Peruvian. (“Lots of Japanese migrated there.”)
Brazilian. (“Look at your ass!”)
Trini. (“Because of the way you dance!”)
Wait, what are you?

“A human.” (12 year-olds have a sense of humour, too.)

Sheepish grin. “Yeah, I know, but, like, what ethnicity?”

Ethnicity, hm. Like, akin to what race? Hailing from just one country? Part of a centuries-old diaspora? A phenotypic religious identity? A regional origin? …Convoluted misperceptions.

Do you even know what you’re asking?

“I know,” My chuckle-less chuckle responds. “I’m kidding. I’m mixed.”

“Oh, so you’re half black.”


Oh, right. Being mixed is simply binary. Only black and white exist, apparently. With white being the default. Not many options of boxes to tick off on the census.

So over its multiple-choice question, thick angry words scribble: Does it even matter?! (10 year-olds have a sense of awareness, too.)

“Can Christine come play at my house?” “Sure.”

Her mom comes to pick her up and meets my mom for the first time.

“I can’t have any more people at my birthday party, so I couldn’t invite you,” Christine says some weeks later.

“Oh, that’s ok.” (7 year-olds have a sense of understanding, too.)

We play that day, consistent with our daily ritual of the last two years. Our playground days were numbered after that. She soon finds another group of girls to play with. You can guess the color.

Cheryl’s older sister’s birthday party. “I love how we’re all only black girls here! Oh, except for you…sorry,” the birthday girl adds. Cheryl got flack after that for not having “more friends like her”. And she soon parted ways, too.

Nobody ever sticks.

We receive Christmas money from a set of grandparents. $20 for each of my sisters and me to the $50 for my “full” cousins. “That’s for my good half,” sister says.

On the other side, the other full cousin is showered with gifts and love and language on the daily by our auntie. We get a box of Pretz sticks.

You should have black hair.
You have ‘Hispanic hair’.
Don’t you know how to make dumplings?
You’re so fair. You look better tanned.
You’re so tanned. You should stay out of the sun.
We’ll get you a boob job. Korean girls do it all the time.
But you have thick thighs and a big butt?
But Chinese are usually pencil-thin and you’re round.
Look at your thick lips! Where does that come from?

Me: What does it mean to be the all-American anyway?

“I used to feel defensive and angry, too,” Dad would say. “But you have to realize, everybody’s just curious…

“Plus, you’re not half. You’re double.”

Half the ignorance, double the consciousness. This cheers me.

And although every side expects something, no “side” wants you. (30 year-olds have a sense of sensitivity, too.)

But fuck sides. Redefining and defying the mold is your mantra.

You’re strong in your own category…whatever that is.


Little Hands

At 8 weeks, a fetus ceases to be an embryo. At 8 weeks, a baby already has hands.

Why is it always little hands that they talk about first?

We hadn’t spoken in ages. It had been some petty argument or one-sided flair that started it. Then pride and stubbornness prolonged it…pride really makes people ridiculous. I was ridiculous. So it is more a gesture of maturity than anything else that makes me call her up again, 3 years later.

It is like old times when we were kids. Things aren’t different. They aren’t that different. We still joke the same jokes, discuss the same global issues from the safety of shelter, share stories of our personal evils surmounted as well as of those yet to be.

She’s more righteous now—maybe a bit too much for my taste. But I am also more a listener, so I open up to her diatribes, patiently.

I don’t expect her to keep me so deep in her confidence, so it strikes me suddenly when she reveals that she will be aborting her child.

“A girl,” she said. “I just know she’s a girl.”

As always, I recover quickly from shock. And even as I am still registering information, the side of me that, as always, wants to help people, springs up like a dumb-fuck jack-in-the-box.

“As always, I support you. You know what’s best for your family. And for the kid. You’ll do what you feel is right.”

The words come out warmly and confidently. So…why am I crumbling inside?

It’s not like we ever thought of having children. We are like children ourselves. And our relationship is a handful on its own—how on earth could I share enough care for another little human? Why should I feel so affected by my friend’s choice? Her life, not mine.

“It’s done,” she announced a few days later, when I asked her how she was holding up.

The enormity of her circumstance settled around me as if her choice had been my own. It was like a dark, oppressive cloud suffocating me from all angles, compressing my chest, restricting the flow of my breath.

“It’s hard. Some bleeding and pain, and the intermittent crying between shifts. But it’ll be ok.” It was a text message, yet I could practically hear the sigh in her voice and the undertones of resignation through the typed text.

I mean, it’s not like I thought of having children. Why should I feel so affected? Her life, not mine.

But all I could think about—the image plaguing, haunting my waking dreams—was the little life that was no one’s and the little hands that no longer were.

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