Chinese Girl
Caroline M. Mar
  Bing bing. In the mouths of my Black students
  my ethnicity is the sound of an elevator rising
  past the floors of some anonymous downtown building
  they will never set foot in. Our security guard,

  also Black, uses Chinaman instead,
  which I’m busily un-teaching
  alongside the elevator’s ring.
  My aunt was a teacher, too, called her boys

  hak guai, as my grandmother called my mother
  bok guai. Devils of two colors, but devils
  nonetheless. And I was simply quai.
  No Chinese family praises

  too much its favored child, old fear
  of covetous demons. My students now,
  likewise naughty, troublesome, trembling
  not with fear but laughter

  at racial terms thrown about our room.
  To them I am something else entirely—
  a teacher by any other name
  is still fucking white-acting.

  My kids want to know what kinds of women
  I have loved. If I’ve ever dated
  a Black woman. They don’t know the word butch,
  but they know stud.

  I suppose I could tell them about the woman
  I wanted to go home with, spring break
  in Jamaica, the fear afterward.
  The young men hosting me imagining

  I had talked to another boy
  (apparently, they didn’t know the words
  butch or stud). And considering the way,
  the night before, the brother of my assigned fling

  flashed me the gun he packed
  into his waistband, nothing like
  the strapped-on packages I’d wanted to touch
  on butches and bois back at school

  who thought I was too straight-looking, I knew
  if they found out the truth we might get hurt, really hurt
  by these boys who called me Chinese Girl.
  But on second thought

  flings and bars probably aren’t what I should disclose
  to my kids. Happy marriage. Safely gay.
  When the driver’s buddy in our Beijing black car
  started asking me, tong zhi, tong zhi? I didn’t know

  where we were, or what time it was, so I gave my girlfriend
  a look that said silent, and I said, ting bu dong,
  ting bu dong, no, I do not understand you. Waiting
  for the safe escape into the hotel’s glass doors

  and swift, silent elevator up to a quiet room
  that held one double bed. Not telling them
  about spending years as the sweet roommate
  to my future wife, chatting politely about the Virgin Mary

  or the patience of being a Special Educator
  with my future father-in-law, who tells me
  I’ve been watching this minister on TV, last name Kim,
  I think he is Asian, and Do you know him?

  The way that closet collapsed, and suddenly
  we were both on an express elevator to hell,
  e-mails full of hate and anger, and me
  no longer anything even human to him.

  Everyone wondering how he could have missed it,
  his butch daughter who for years
  never brought anyone but a woman home,
  his deluded hope that I might wield

  a feminizing influence, before I became nothing
  but race, sex, sin.
  It’s a pretty good day, if the kids are just asking
  what kinds of women I’ve loved.

  They just want to know who it is
  I really am. What shape my name should take
  in their mouths. When I finally get home
  I will look my wife in her eyes unlike mine,

  and will wonder but will not ask,
  When you look at me, what do you see?


Caroline M. Mar is high school Special Educator who lives, writes, and teaches in her hometown of San Francisco. A member of Rabble Collective, Carrie is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and an alumna of VONA. Her writing has appeared in Nimrod, Four Way Review, New England Review, and elsewhere.


More by Caroline M. Mar:
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