lit issue 2020

An Elegy to All the Slightly Overweight, Middle-Aged Immigrants

I was sweating on an overly warm October day when I passed an empty baseball stadium. I want to go to a baseball game, I thought. I’m a lucky charm for underdogs. A few years ago, my dad told me that the Rangers had been on a losing streak until I showed up to their game against the Calgarys. It was the only sporting event I’ve attended that wasn’t a mandatory class trip to see the Mets. When we went, I remember he wore a Calvin Klein leather bomber jacket from Macy’s. I don’t remember much else.

Suddenly I began to cry. There was no one to hide the tears from but I still wiped them away, pretending there was something in my eye.

I think kindness is meaningful.

These words are a memory minefield laced with the lost details of what constitutes me. My dad, one of numerous blue-collar Chinese immigrants in New York. You know, the ones with the Banana Republic dress shirt, black slacks two inches too long, the brown Clarks dress shoes. Usually I go about life in a haze, but some days I look at my parents and it occurs to me that I know nothing about them. I’ll then try to change that by asking them things like, “What’s your favorite color?” or “Can we have a dog?”, but that’s not what I really want to ask. I’m not even a dog person. 

What I want to know is, what did it cost my parents to have me?  How did my dad get those hockey tickets?

Was he happy?

I regret having been so bitter. It hurts when I remember how I used to tell him off for not dressing better, for dropping out of college, for being an embarrassing father. I wonder how that made him feel on the day we went to see the Rangers.

I wonder how he felt in a world I imagine he found lonely. I think of the time he and my mom fought over something trivial and maybe it was the last straw on the camel’s back or something because when I woke up the day after, there was a note on our rickety dinner table and he was gone. He wrote that he felt unloved. That he wanted to die. 

Yet, he also wrote that he’d try to hold it together until he could drive me and my stuff to campus in about a week. Being our only source of income, he was intimately aware that we couldn’t afford last minute Amtrak tickets.

I know I’m a truebred New York son of a bitch because my first thought was, “So depression really is genetic.” My second was, “I’ll transfer to Columbia to save money, help out at home, and take care of my baby sister.” Like, what the fuck? Where did my dad go?

Some things are unspeakable to me. Not because they’re horrific or something, but because I don’t know how to shape these bits of my life into words. I was told once that writers are the only people who try to recreate the world using things that aren’t a real part of the world we live in. No trees or skies or emotions are made of words. Humans made words. We made them to mold them into ideas that allow us to think of trees and skies and emotions in a way that’s both further and closer to us.

But there are times I just can’t think at all. I feel like I’m falling and falling, simultaneously light as a feather and crushed by the atmosphere’s pressure. Was this how he fell? Dad, dad. I’m sorry. 對唔住.