by Sennah Yee
Fourth grade lunch. Noisy cafeteria. I’m eating a sandwich cut into squares instead of triangles, because my dad made it that day instead of my mum. You’re sitting across from me, chewing with your mouth open. You ask me to help translate a phrase from a Digimon episode. I don’t know what you mean—but I clarify that Pokémon’s superior. Airborne crumbs as you exclaim a string of foreign words, then look at me expectantly. I blink back.
“I still don’t know what that means.”
Disappointment on your chewy face. “Oh. I just thought you’d know ‘cause you’re Chinese… right?”
I pause, then nod. Right. “Isn’t Digimon Japanese, though?”
Pause. You move onto slurping loudly from your juicebox.
“I dunno. Whatever.”
I leave my crusts behind, brush your crumbs off the table.
We’re in your bedroom, listening to the Garden State movie soundtrack. You’re helping me put on makeup for the very first time. You have a Youtube eyeliner tutorial open on your computer that you keep pausing and replaying as your hand trembles on my eyelid, sometimes grazing my cheek. I’m trying to keep my eyes open and still, but I don’t know where to look.
You sigh, lower your hand.
You cap your eyeliner, exit Youtube, log onto Facebook.
“Sorry, I can’t do it,” you mutter. “It’s too hard to do with your eyeshape.”
“Can I see in the mirror, anyway?”
Outdoor Frosh Week dance. Mediocre Top 40 pop earwig of the hour. Not enough space to put our hands up in the air as the song tells us to. A lot of girls have snipped up their oversized frosh shirts to look sexy. Now I regret being too lazy to unpack my things in my dorm earlier. Things like scissors. I feebly try to bunch up my T-shirt and knot it off to the side. You can kind of see my hipbone, maybe, sort of. I try to put my hands up in the air. I elbow someone’s head next to me, but my hipbone’s showing. That’ll do.
Enter you dancing next to me. I’m endeared by your blond hair, and how I can see all your freckles even in the dark. We go through the usual questions of the week, and their usual answers: name, area of study, hometown, and a quip about the shit music they’re playing or something to round the whole intro off. You’re cynical but not a know-it-all. You play guitar and want to master drums. You stay for the credits of the movie. We’re hitting it off.
Then you tell me that my English is really good.
“What?!” I shout, partially because we’re right by the blaring speakers, but mostly because I can’t believe my ears—or what’s left of them.
“I said your English is really good!” you shout back, with a big thumbs-up.
I stare, petrified. Then I dance my way outta there.
You walk into the not-really-fast food restaurant I work at. You’re old, elephant-skinned, wearing a generic baseball cap and a neon windbreaker that I can only assume you’ve kept from your 80’s prime. You place your order and talk to me as you wait. The usual. It’s getting darker earlier now. At least Christmas is soon. I like the music you’re playing here. Can I guess your background?
My toothy customer service smile flickers at the last one.
“Hm… Japanese…?” you ask, even though I never answered your original question.
“But your paren—”
“Born in Toronto, too.”
“And your grandparents?”
Finally, I’ve said the magic word.
“Ah! Yes, I just thought I’d ask, since you have Oriental features.”
I am a pack of noodles, a porcelain doll. You’re still smiling warmly at me, and it almost makes it worse that I know you mean no harm. Order up—you thank me for helping pass the time.
“You’re welcome,” I say, toothy customer service smile switched back on.
“Domo arigato,” you reply, before leaving with your burger. The door swings shut.
Summertime, FIFA World Cup 2014. My family and I have been diehard fans of the German National team since 2006. During the final match between Germany and Argentina, my family and I are decked out in German soccer jerseys, flowery leis, and huge flags draped on our shoulders. We’re curled on our living room couch in fetal position as our beloved team goes into overtime. When Mario Götze scores that gorgeous winning goal, we hop around, shedding tears out of delight and relief that it’s finally over, and we won.
My older sister and I scramble outside to walk along Bloor street and celebrate. We get a few happy honks here and there from cars passing by, German flags fluttering from their windows.
From a bench you spot us on the sidewalk and smile, somewhat amused.
“Thanks!” My sister and I reply brightly, waving our flags around. My face hurts from smiling so much.
That air of amusement’s still on your face, and mine and my sisters’ smiles start fading. You’re almost staring at us now.
“Why Germany…?” you finally say. “What’s your affiliation with it?”
“We just love the team,” we say. Would you ever ask a guy with zero Italian in him why he’s rooting for team Italy?
You raise an eyebrow, nod. “Alright, then!”
The sun scorches our black hair and makes us squint our eyes even smaller. We tuck our hair under baseball caps and put on our sunglasses. We march on.