I wish I never met you.
The kids on TV have a different life in America—more independent, so unlike the life I am used to. Children walk to and from school, they decide on a whim to meet up with friends on weekdays, and they talk to their neighbors.
The tall brick walls that divide the houses along my street mean that I don’t know the people I have lived beside for ten years. For my safety, the streets where I can walk alone are limited. So is my freedom.
I wish I were like them.
I wish I never met you, Indonesia. I want to erase you from my mouth, my skin, my eyes.
Your roads are too crowded, your air is too murky, your sidewalks too crooked and cracked. I am scared when I walk your streets alone.
Your words are too rough, your humor too brazen. I am ashamed of you.
Let me forget you.
My accent does not sound American enough because of your words, forever engraved in my tongue. You have mutilated me.
I can’t wash you out of my hands. No matter how much I scrub, you cling to me like dirt under my fingernails.
I don’t belong anywhere. Your people hate me for learning the language of foreigners while living on your land. I have wanted to leave you behind for so long, and the process has finally started. I don’t go to a school where Bahasa Indonesia is widely used anymore. Now, my friends are foreign too. My English is better—I think of “butterflies” rather than “kupu-kupu.”
There is a revolution happening. I read the words of others who have the same dissonance within their identity as I do. They question why ‘American’ should be the default.
Progress is flowing but I feel stuck. I have branded my tongue with English, I have peeled my culture off of my body, scrubbed it clean of any trace of my heritage.
When I was younger, English was the alien language in my household. Now, Indonesian is. My mother winces when I speak it—my accent is nearly gone.
I am on a remote island between two lands. I am a drifter, a voyager, between two traditions. Which will I venture towards?
Come back, I need you.
With your loss, there is a void within my identity. Each word of yours that fades from my memory severs me from my heritage, my sense of belonging. It is impossible to reject you without rejecting myself. I’m sorry for hating your crowded night markets, the rolled r’s of your speech, your colourful, brown sugar- and coconut-cream-filled desserts.
I am tied to you. I know your history, and you know mine.
I know the colours of your beaches as the sky bursts into flames. I love the kindness of your people, the warmth that is steeped into your ancestral roots. I adore your distinct art, your precise lines organized into patterned flora.
My whole life, we have been two friends loving, hating, and accepting. Please forgive me.
Are you still there?
I need you.
Do you still recognize me?
I’m glad I met you.