July 9, 2021—“Let’s pretend I don’t know what beauty is” (Matthew Siegel). Let’s pretend the poem is not about your face. Just kidding. Of course it is.
I am the seasonal allergies type, the forgetful type, the tick-bitten type. Your name shows up on my screen. Certainly I feel an itch. If it weren’t for Pennsylvania between us I’d fall into you, you wouldn’t catch me, you’d fall too. My floor at home is carpet with all sorts of spots from tea and soup I’ve spilled, but yours is hardwood. Ouch. We’re laughing though and still haven’t wiped the melted ice cream at the corners of our mouths.
But it’s not really like that: the Airbnb only has a few windows and I’m staring at my screen all day. I’m not good at friendship because I learned unrequited love before god’s. And both have lost their relevance so I bake some frozen sweet potato fries and enjoy the smell of it. Warm orange surrounds me; I become it. My Claritin D stares back at me. I love my Claritin D so much that I obey it. As they say, love and fear are hard to tell apart.
My Claritin D keeps staring. It’s not really the wanting I think of, but feeding myself…very little sunlight will do that to you…nibbling on my tail…
I crave my deepest self. I crave all my selves.
July 22, 2021—I feel completely ungrounded. Walking down several blocks, I think everyone in Bushwick hates me. I know this is untrue yet my body believes it. The body asks, why do my skin cells die? Why me? Like I am a soft mass accidentally sorted into the wrong world, the one with hardness.
In the bookstore, things I don’t know surround me on all sides. I start wondering why we go, if only to be reminded of all that we will never know. Why my period comes when it does. Why my mom has high blood pressure and your dad is in the hospital. At least I have my ugly handwriting.
July 29, 2021—I’m sorry, mostly because I want an apology. My body was here before you and it will be here after.
A mosquito was trapped in the apartment last night. Itchy itchy itchy itchy
August 7, 2021—Home again. A small photo of you means I snatched your face in that moment, and in your smaller 2D form you lean against my tissue box.
Means my happiness. Means I was once safe. Means this existed and exists. Means I was enough for someone. Means you smiled like this. Means I kissed you later, in the car. After the pancakes and the beet salad tucked into a brown bag. Before I passed through all of your state on a bus to New York. Before I took the plane back to California and the sun stayed in the sky three extra hours and I called you to tell you about it.
August 9, 2021—If you smell closely, you can smell the kitchen garlic. Something I love so dearly…
Likes: not fighting, countertops, pungent things, me as I am a pungent thing.
August 14, 2021—We are one of many Asian families with a small white dog. Skippy’s white fur is white as my grandpa’s tufts. Like my grandpa’s combover, Skippy is delicate—you should see his body glowing under the skylight’s patch on the kitchen floor. He’s loud and yappy, though; I mean, if you can’t be loved, you can at least try to be understood. He’s neutered and bitter. I mean, how does one heal from that.
I was five the night we took Skippy home for the first time. Skippy was named not after the peanut butter brand, but for being a Kim; all of our names start with the letter S. Or for the way, years later, I’d skip through Chinatown linking elbows with a friend. Or for the way the sunrise skipped our house and I never saw it creeping up behind Sunnyvale like a fingernail. The night we took him home, he was more piglet than puppy, with a wet nose and beady eyes. A body shaped like a pill. He didn’t cry, just stared at me from over my dad’s shoulder in the passenger seat.
When we got home, he peed on a red blanket. We have a photo of it somewhere.
August 16, 2021—These days, he walks like a question with his head cocked to the right. It’s because he had a stroke this summer. When he sleeps, I put my hand on his side and feel it go up and down. I do that too. So do sine and cosine graphs. So does the ocean.
August 20, 2021—Maybe We Can Do This. Maybe We Aren’t Ruined.
September 5, 2021—Turning 19 in 11 days. A year ago I was so heartbroken. The year before that, too…
I am a series of sentience. All softness. Your favorite part of me is my belly. Holding it the way I hold bread before it’s baked. That’s where I crave music. It’s where I crave the guitarist nodding in agreement with herself and curls of light reflected on a sculpture we like. My belly is deep and endless. My body a body of giving—forgiving?
I am one of many Asian girls with a white boyfriend. I am still learning how to forgive myself for this. And how to forgive myself for asking for forgiveness.
Let’s try this again. I am one of many people in love. I am a human of being human. Skin like everyone else and lots of heart. Too much music might kill me. Too little too.
September 7, 2021—I’m holding onto you for dear life. I know this because I send you a photo of an Alfred Lord Tennyson quote: “Stay with me, I am sick; my love is more / Than many diamonds.”
“Perhaps needing is the most whole, beautiful thing we can do,” I text you. There is no question mark, but it is definitely a question: perhaps needing is the most whole, beautiful thing we can do? You are in agreement. Our hearts are wet on the floor. They are so small but still bigger than we’d anticipate. We stare for a bit and then collect them.
September 8, 2021—Reading Elaine Kahn Romance or the End. She says, “I look up your nose / as you tell me all your secrets.” Also: “You big dumbbell! Bring me to life!” Also: “The warmth of my heart is hard / and unending.”
September 9, 2021—You eat my crackers and pistachios and tell me about your day. You’re angry and I’m sleepy. I am thinking you will never know what it’s like to be in my body. I am thinking you are something I studied in geometry, you are something made of hard edges. My favorite part of you is your eyebrows. (Because I like petting them like caterpillars, but mostly because you like them.)
September 10, 2021—We broke up this morning. Feels like having a baby. Or my birthday. People are being so nice to me.
I’m made of goodness and I swim in it too. You are made of/swim in something beautiful that I don’t understand because you’ve cried like five times in your life but mm yes very beautiful. Maybe we can do this. Maybe we aren’t ruined.
October 17, 2021—Home again…chasing my tail…
October 22, 2021—Last night I made hot pot. I felt like a witch as I stirred the base—miso, dashi, cooking sake, soy sauce. What a lovely garlicky bath for the shrimp and veggies. And that felt like enough life/love right there. Especially with the white rice.
Living without you. It’s so strange. Feels like an accident. I want to tell you about all the immigrants in the town I grew up, all the husbands in the Korean market. I place you in a place you’ll never be. Wish you felt as foreign as I did in your whiteness. How that was every day, like the aunties rolling kimbap to sell in the back. Wish you marveled at the supermarket. How I swam in it. How you looked for a word to describe it. When you found it, you wrote it on your hand. You didn’t want to not know it again.
November 5, 2021—Love brought me here and love will carry me home. Love brought me here and love will carry me home. Love brought me here and love will carry me home. We are ignorant of the ways we hurt. We are ignorant of the ways we hurt. I am trying not to be. I am trying not to be.
I understand that the way home requires first believing in it. Moving the body requires believing it is safe to move the body. Even if it’s a lie.
So I trust the garlic steam rising from the pot. I trust the bodies that hold me before and after today—the lovers, mothers, sisters. The way I pointed to a friend’s window last October—she’d strung lights up in her grandma’s room—and said, It’s not just the lights, it’s also the leaves falling from the trees like snow. Not right now, but the idea of it. The way she wrote a poem about it a year later and sent it to me, tonight when I needed it, when I needed to be remembered for the way I loved future leaves.
When the world is ending, I rest with the knowledge that it has more ending to do. Apocalyptic love is deep and sweet. How scared I am to go another day, another minute without saying I love you. I am saying it loud enough for anyone close by to hear.