everything is right here.
i repeat this to myself on the back of your motorcycle
as we fly at 60 miles an hour
over the illuminated highways and quiet evening streets of Oakland,
the city edging the familiar waters
where my family’s american story began.
i repeat this mantra silently, hopefully.
for as the seconds melt away,
its all i can do to keep from feeling
like i’m going to slip off the edge
precarious, but recognizable.
we used to tell each other motorcycle stories from KL,
the pulsating and muddy childhood city we left behind a decade ago,
where the smell of sweat mixed with incense and the humidity of the next rain.
where, for years, we drank milo from bags with straws,
listened to the chorus of bahasa melayu mix
with the rhythms of hokkien and tamil and manglish,
and watched mangoes the color of sunsets
weigh down ancient trees as they grew.
i remind you
that back then,
i was a shy girl who shed a spotless uniform to play in dirty slippers afterschool,
learned about america through MTV,
watched my petite-but-energetic mother shuttle back and forth to the embassy
and believed that a face like mine was not so unusual.
believed that there could be such a thing as abstract as ‘home.’
when i now catch sight of our shadows racing across the land,
my heart catches on these memories of faraway places
but i am here now.
and suddenly, i no longer feel fear.
no longer feel anything.
because at a certain velocity
something forces my trust;
and when you motion towards the sunset to the west
i glance up at whips of violet and vermillion velvet that still catch me off guard.
almost but never quite the skies of Hawai’i
yet still my favorite tones of Bay Area mood lighting
that for 5 years have brought me closer to all the ‘homes’
all the versions of myself
i have left behind.
you asked me about Manzanar
a couple of hours earlier at the pier.
about how something impenetrable is forged,
when you have no choice but to go on.
when ‘home’ is a place that is swiftly and silently disappearing
in the cracks of a train-car window.
people like Haru and Kaz used to say
people like your steel-nerved grandfather
who defended his side of the river with an improvised gun during that same implacable war,
became permanently scarred by his resistance,
and his understanding of the weight of survival.
i start to understand.
we have inherited their stories,
their resilience, stretched thin by so much sacrifice.
these ‘homes,’ these histories, and these burdens
belong to us now.
between us on your motorcycle,
tracing the Bay
where many stories began
And have yet to begin,
I can be grateful, knowing that
everything is right here.