If I Told You

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2 3

<strong>If</strong> I<br />

<strong>Told</strong><br />

Yo u<br />

S p r i n g 2 0 1 7<br />

4 5

Table of Contents<br />

18<br />

24<br />

27<br />

30<br />

32<br />

36<br />

40<br />

42<br />

44<br />

46<br />

48<br />

54<br />

56<br />

We are on the outskirts of the jungle<br />

Our land is alive, Esperanza<br />

I can’t fall asleep<br />

Most nights, the room smells like kimchi<br />

Yellow is a colour<br />

A border separates between distinct things<br />

I am anonymous<br />

I feel around the rim of my pill bottle<br />

i am 22 years old<br />

When I was a sophomore I took Modern Genetics<br />

Fifth grade’s a week away<br />

A little girl ran to the doors of the church<br />

Shahad left his brother and his watermelon patch<br />

6 7<br />

59<br />


<strong>If</strong> I <strong>Told</strong> <strong>You</strong> is a Gordon publication that collects<br />

anonymous stories from students and alumni regarding their<br />

experiences with issues that are difficult to discuss within<br />

the church. To provide a space for students and alumni to<br />

share personal stories about topics that are often difficult<br />

to openly discuss within the Church due to fear of shame or<br />

judgment; To combat a sense of isolation these individuals<br />

experience through stories and dialogue; To assist the Gordon<br />

community in thoughtfully and compassionately engaging<br />

with these topics.<br />

Note from the Editor:<br />

We share narratives that find themselves within the borders of identities. We are learning to discover and learn about ourselves<br />

within the margins of the names we grew up knowing. This year, <strong>If</strong> I <strong>Told</strong> <strong>You</strong> chose the topic of Borderlands as a means to<br />

collectively reflect upon the diversity of identities and stories that perplexes us, that enables us to find ways to grow. We ask that<br />

you hold this publication with openness, openness to yourself, to wonder what those spaces within yourself are that have been<br />

left unnamed. James Baldwin notes, “you think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world,<br />

but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me<br />

with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive”And it is also us—our community, that teach us that the things that<br />

most torment and inspire us are the very things that connect us. May we continue to be open to building those bridges within<br />

ourselves that we were told were unnecessary.<br />

8 9

Resources:<br />

Published By:<br />

Gordon College Student Association<br />

Edited By:<br />

Rachel Dale<br />

Ember Hayden<br />

Willens Jean-Jules<br />

Marianthy Posadas-Nava<br />

Events Coordinator and Publication Manager:<br />

Winnie Penketham<br />

Designer:<br />

Taylor Axtmann<br />

Logo By:<br />

Grant Hanna ‘06<br />

Special Thanks to:<br />

Dr. Rowe<br />

Katie Knudsen<br />

MIO<br />

ALANA<br />

Jennifer Jukanovich<br />

Faculty Advisor:<br />

Irv Levy<br />

Gordon College Counseling Center:<br />

P: 978-867-4301<br />

E. counseling.center@gordon.edu<br />

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:<br />

1-800-273-TALK (1-800-237-8255)<br />

The Trevor Lifeline<br />

(Suicide Prevention for LGBT <strong>You</strong>th):<br />

866-4-U-TREVOR (1-866-488-7386)<br />

CDC-INFO (formerly known as the<br />

CDC National STD and AIDS Hotline):<br />

1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636)<br />

Veterans’ Suicide Prevention Lifeline:<br />

1-800-273-TALK (1-800-662-8255), press 1<br />

Treatment Referral Hotline (Substance Abuse):<br />

1-800-HELP (1-800-622-4357)<br />

National Sexual Assault Hotline:<br />

24-hour online hotline: http://online.rainn.org<br />

1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673)<br />

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline:<br />

1-866-331-9474<br />

National Eating Disorders Association Hotline:<br />

1-800-931-2237<br />

Lead Them Home<br />

(Loving LGBTQ People In The Church):<br />

http://leadthemhome.org/what-we-offer/talktosomeone<br />

10 11

12 13

1. Find a pair of scissors<br />

2. Cut along the dotted lines<br />

3. Fold along the straight lines<br />

4. Stick tab through slit<br />

5. Build your bridge<br />

14 15

16 17

1<br />

5<br />

asap /a·sap/ n.<br />

The thing with cigarettes is that they don’t kill you all at once.<br />

1. uap yang dapat terlihat yang dihasilkan dari pembakaran<br />

2<br />

Each time you inhale, a little more tar slips into your lungs. Every puff, every cigarette, every pack is a little step to the point where<br />

you’re bedridden and cancerous and wondering why you made the choices that you did. At least smoking gives you the luxury of a<br />

contemplative death. Some things kill quicker.<br />

We are on the outskirts of the jungle, balanced precariously on the edge of an abandoned reservoir. It’s a sunny Malaysian day, and I am<br />

puffing carcinogens into the atmosphere. I watch as the grey smoke curls up into the air, for a moment imperious. Danny* says a funny<br />

thing and I am distracted from my observations as I laugh. By the time my smile has faded, so has the smoke.<br />

This ritual is a regular one. Every weekend, or every other. We smoke and carry conversation that resembles the suspect crop in our<br />

cigarettes: scattered strains, unfiltered, smushed messily together. But it is good. We talk Kafka and the girl he’s kind of dating and<br />

Nietzsche and the faith that I’m unsure of and Vonnegut and how fucked up America is from what we hear on the news, how lucky<br />

we are to be on an island on the other side of the world. And when the substance of our conversation is burnt out and all that’s left are<br />

cigarette stubs held loosely between fingers, we let the last bits of smoke seep out of our mouths and take our cue.<br />

6<br />

For all the millions of my kretek-puffing countrymen who experience those drawn-out deaths, with time for reflection, there are others<br />

that meet their end quickly. In the May of ‘98, many in my city did.<br />

What began as a series of student demonstrations against the government devolved into violence when law enforcement shot and<br />

killed protestors. Indonesians in the city and across the nation lashed out, the smoke of fury and unrest obscuring common sense.<br />

The government was too protected to attack directly. There had to be a scapegoat. So rioters targeted the ethnic Chinese, my family<br />

included, who were perceived to be corrupt and ever-wealthy and in league with those in power. The situation fanned into flame.<br />

We wisp away on our bicycles for home, and it is as if we have never been.<br />

7<br />

3<br />

I was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia. City of smoke.<br />

I am a child, gazing out the car window. We’re stuck in traffic and it is normal. My small eyes scan the sidewalks and I see Indonesians<br />

of all sorts—bankers and peddlers, chauffeurs and their employers. They are all the same, gripping their cigarettes loosely, smoke<br />

trickling from the smoldering ends. We pass, and I see office buildings that hide banks and businesses inside them. Somewhere within<br />

their tinted windows and concrete walls are smoker’s rooms, where workers can go on break to take a puff. We turn a corner and find<br />

ourselves on a larger road, where every divider billboard is an advertisement promoting one cigarette brand or another.<br />

It’s a smoky recollection. I suspect that it is many memories fused together, shifty and indistinguishable. It’s better that way, I think. It’s<br />

true to the spirit of the city.<br />

II looked up a video from that time on <strong>You</strong>Tube. I wanted to see what it was like. Here’s what it showed me:<br />

A rioting crowd surging forth, shouting incoherently. <strong>You</strong> can’t see fire, but you know it’s there. Somewhere behind buildings are<br />

burning. <strong>You</strong> know because of the smoke. It is instead black and dangerous, thick with evil. A far cry from the wispy grey trickles that<br />

sprout from the tip of kretek cigarettes.<br />

It is one of many fires that break out across the city at the time, as rioters loot and burn down Chinese-run stores, reasoning that the<br />

rich can afford the loss. They don’t stop to think about how ridiculous that sounds, how irrational it is to assume financial status from<br />

ethnic heritage, how the real enemy is a corrupt government that is largely native Indonesian. Blinded by smoke, black and thick, they<br />

rage and there is gang-rape and destruction and the lighting of mad flames. Ironically and tragically, most of the people killed by the<br />

fires are the looters themselves, trapped in the buildings they aimed to destroy.<br />

8<br />

4<br />

A statistic: seventy-two percent of Indonesian men are smokers, the highest proportion in the world. That’s according to the World<br />

Health Organization. Smoking is part of the culture. That’s just how it is. To be an Indonesian man is to smoke. I’ve seen it. The people<br />

in my city puff on their A Milds and L.A. Lights and Djarums, just like my father did a generation ago.<br />

He got into smoking at thirteen. Typical, for an Indonesian kid. He worked odd jobs to earn money, most of which he passed on to his<br />

parents. He spent them on kretek, clove cigarettes. He smoked with all his friends, smoked like all the adults. He smoked like his middle<br />

school history teacher, who couldn’t teach without a cigarette in his mouth. He smoked with the advisor for his high school newspaper,<br />

who passed out cigarettes to his students with a conspirational wink and smile, saying Don’t smoke these, they’re bad for you.<br />

We live on the east side of the city when the riots rage, away from the center of the violence. Wealthy areas with a known concentration<br />

of Chinese are the go-to targets. We’re a little safer. We aren’t wealthy, and we live in a mixed-race neighborhood. We leave early in the<br />

morning, and we’re fortunate to still be able to catch a taxi, fortunate the airport is still running so we can board a plane to fly away<br />

from everything. I’m not yet a year old. We land on another island to stay with my grandmother, who is Chinese too. Except she’s lived<br />

here all her life. Like her husband did, before he passed. Like my father and all his siblings, who don’t speak Hokkien or Mandarin or<br />

any other Chinese dialect. They speak only Bahasa Indonesia, and sing the anthem, and struggle to make ends meet like everyone else<br />

in their country. In spite of all of that, all the progress they’ve made—my father and uncle changing our surname to make us seem less<br />

Chinese, my grandparents accepting the assimilation policies that stifled their language and traditions, my father enduring the jeers of<br />

fellow schoolchildren and their cries of Chinese pig-eater! When you die you’ll be crucified!—can go up in smoke.<br />

My father quit smoking at seventeen when he became serious about church.<br />

18 19

9<br />

We fly back a couple weeks later, and things are okay. The government has changed hands by the time we arrive. The economy<br />

improves, protests taper out. As a child growing up in my city, I am okay. I attend school alongside other Chinese and native<br />

Indonesians, experiencing no prejudice that I can recall. After sixth grade, we move to Malaysia, to an island called Penang. I go to an<br />

American school there, and I become friends with Danny. Three years later, we’re smoking on the edge of a reservoir on the outskirts of<br />

the jungle. Three years after that I’m in America, far away from the city with the smoking rooms and cigarette billboards, far away from<br />

the place where men lit angry fires, blackening the air with the smoke of their misplaced hate.<br />

I don’t blame the angry rioters. Then again, I don’t have the right to accuse or absolve. My father, growing up with discrimination in<br />

our smoky country, has that right. As a Christian, he forgives. He understands why the looters did what they did. He grew up poor, like<br />

them. He looks down on the inept government for letting the situation grow out of control.<br />

10<br />

When I talk to my father, I appreciate the things that he’s been through, being Chinese, being Indonesian. But I know it’s nothing that<br />

I’ve lived, nothing I can relate to. It’s been decades since those childhood days when my father smoked, when children called him<br />

pig-eater. The riots that happened in my lifetime are too long ago for me to remember. So I feel like thin smoke, the last curling wisp<br />

of a transgenerational memory, only a little Chinese, only a little Indonesian. From the first flame, the culture stoked by my Chinese-<br />

Indonesian forefathers, comes the thick smoke of my father’s experience, of his father’s experience. I am but an afterthought: a trickling<br />

vapor, insubstantial and barely visible, a shamelessly Westernized wisp whose Indonesian identity amounts to a brokenly spoken<br />

language and dubious memories of cigarette billboards between city roads.<br />

11<br />

Even the memories of my childhood and my city are smoke. Psychology teaches that all memory is reconstruction, a never-perfect<br />

piecing together of things that once were. Every recollection is just a thin reflection of the original event, fading with the passage of<br />

time. That’s why what I remember about the city of my childhood lacks detail. That’s why I had to contact Danny again to see if our<br />

memories matched up. That’s why my father had to repeat the stories he told me when I was younger of his own childhood and of our<br />

escape from the riots. His memories, too, must be smoky after all these years.<br />

Smoke is still something, though. It’s not a thing you can fully grasp, or hold in your hands. But it’s substance of a sort, however<br />

insubstantial it may seem. <strong>If</strong> we squint hard enough, we can see that there is a form to smoke, and it is beautiful. Memories are a little<br />

bit like that. It’s a beautiful thing to recall an experience, to put structure to smoke.<br />

12<br />

Danny’s driving up from Arkansas to visit for spring break. It’ll be good to see him again. I think we’ll have a smoke, for old time’s sake.<br />

Perhaps we’ll talk about Kundera and the girl he’s engaged to and Tolstoy and the faith I’m sure I have and Vonnegut and how America<br />

isn’t as bad as we thought, that it’s just as screwed up as the rest of a humanity that sends smoke out of the broken windows of Chinese<br />

stores in Indonesian cities. That it’s just as messed up as the rest of a world that produces kids like us, like my father, who happily<br />

breathed the fumes of a slow-killing poison.<br />

And then, when the substance of our conversation is burnt out, we’ll stomp our cigarette butts out on some Massachusetts sidewalk, a<br />

far cry from the reservoir we frequented in the twilight of our tenth grade year, and laugh at how thinly we resemble the people we once<br />

were. We’ll find it funny that all of life, that childhood and violence and memory and culture, is really just smoke curling up into air,<br />

fading away.<br />

20 21

The Gall-Peters Projection (1974)<br />

22 23

Borders<br />

“’Our land is alive, Esperanza,’ said Papa, taking her small hands as they walked through the gentle slopes of the vineyard….<br />

‘This whole valley breathes and lives… It gives us the grapes and then they welcome us,’”<br />

<strong>You</strong> were crossing into Tejas. <strong>You</strong> remember your mother crying when you came home after school, as a five-yearold<br />

to, ask her why our people had killed so many gringos at the Alamo. She never answered me, but I understood her tears<br />

the day we crossed the border to spend Christmas with friends in North Carolina.<br />

“Mami, I need bathroom. Why is officer angry with us? Mami, my pee wants to come out!” <strong>If</strong> we had still been in the<br />

ashamed of my blue passport that my father kept in his pocket for me. The blue passport that brought us here; anyways we<br />

were only driving through the border because I missed the love that my young hands had received in North Carolina. Now<br />

I wanted to peel my skin off and let it run down the Rio Grande. The officer never looked at my brother or me, because we<br />

had blue passports, said my mother. She whispered this under her exhausted breathing after my father had pulled over so he<br />

could hold her hair back as she puked all over the Texan dirt, and her shoes, and dress, and all over my father’s white skin.<br />

Today I understand that the officer was ashamed because he could not respond to her in the same language that had<br />

loved and given birth to them. He wanted her skin to hate him and keep the border intact: los gringos aquí, y los mexicanos<br />

allá. <strong>If</strong> he could have, he would have taken my mother’s white skin into his hands to make it his own.<br />

car, we would have all laughed, because Bebé made funny sentences with his three years of age. But Mami’s hands trembled,<br />

and her brows pushed the skin between them to form an “N”. “The officer just went to make sure where the bathroom is<br />

so we won’t get lost when he gives us directions to get there,” she said without looking into his eyes. Those were too many<br />

words for Bebé; his little index finger twisted his blond curls, trying to make sense of what she had said. I didn’t understand<br />

why we were here, either. Why would a police officer separate us from Papi? The officer didn’t know Bebé needed to use the<br />

bathroom. Bebé had asked to pee after he left. Why did the officer storm out when Mami only pointed out that we were just<br />

hold this page up to the light<br />

like him? Why did she whisper to us that-- if he’d only been given love as a child, he wouldn’t have to be afraid. What was he<br />

afraid of? My ankles were falling asleep. But I couldn’t move. Because when Mami had moved to uncross her legs, the officer<br />

had yelled at her, and tears made her head look swollen. I didn’t want him to yell at me too. So instead, I played tic-tac-toe<br />

with myself in my head, and swallowed every time I crossed out a square.<br />

I was shifting to get closer to Mami’s chair when he yanked the door open and tortured us by violently jiggling<br />

the loose silver doorknob on his way in. I was just then crossing a square. My sister’s big brown eyes looked small, and it<br />

made me feel like I didn’t know who we were- nor why we had left nuestra Ciudad de México in the first place. The officer<br />

pounced towards my mother, stopping centimeters from her nose. I heard her swallow. Bebé began to cry; his hand was<br />

trapped between the officer’s knee and my mother’s. Bebé will still not tell me to this day what the officer said to our mother.<br />

But maybe it’s because we were both too aware of Bebé’s piss running down my mother’s exposed legs, reaching the officer’s<br />

black military boots in an embrace. I looked up to see my mother’s swollen head decompress as tears streamed down her<br />

face- but she never looked away from the officer, even while he killed her with his eyes.<br />

“<strong>You</strong> do not need to lay hands on me,” my mother said in Spanish to him. This made him jump back and stomp out<br />

the door. “When we get to Austin, you can jump on the hotel beds,” she said to us shortly after he slammed door shut; after<br />

I pulled the bitter taste of vomit back down my throat. I wanted us to turn around and go back to Mexico. I didn’t want to<br />

hear anyone hold the rounded syllables of English in their cheeks anymore. I wanted the officer to tell us we could not pass<br />

into the United States, even if he used my mother’s excuse of: because I said so. There is no welcome in shame, and I was<br />

24 25

Liked<br />

I can’t fall asleep. Trying to stop my thoughts is like trying to catch a fish with my bare hands. Not impossible, but definitely not worth<br />

the effort. The main question I’m wrestling with, and I use the word question because it’s more pleasant than the word fear, is this:<br />

Will they like me? My rational side is quite reassuring. <strong>You</strong>’re a great guy, and your friends are really nice. They liked you last year<br />

so why would this year be any different? But of course, why listen to my rational side when I could listen to its loud and obnoxious<br />

counterpart? <strong>You</strong> dumb loser, they’ll probably all hate you and think you’re not funny and I bet your new teachers will think you’re<br />

a kiss-up and the girls will think you’re weird and you’ll probably be single the rest of your life. To be honest, that last sentence is<br />

inaccurate. My real 2 AM thoughts are far less coherent. I wish pleasing people was an easy prospect, rather than a daunting and<br />

confusing endeavor. I take deep breaths. Just as I finally feel relaxed enough to go to sleep, I remember that I haven’t thought of any<br />

jokes to tell tomorrow yet. I spend the next two hours brainstorming.<br />

Tomorrow is the first day of school. How old am I? What grade am I approaching as I sweat in bed, anxiously plagued by how others<br />

might think of me? Third grade I think. Or maybe ninth? Aw heck, who am I kidding? This happens every year.<br />

In my third grade class, there are only three guys. Connor and Josh are best friends, like two peas in a pod. I guess that makes me the<br />

awkward pickle. I never seem to fit in. I try extremely hard to be one of the guys, I really do. I try to act like them, talk like them, even<br />

eat like them.<br />

“But mom, no one uses whole grain bread!”<br />

“It’s healthier than white bread.”<br />

Needless to say, I eat my peanut butter and jellies privately, hoping no one sees the seeds in the dough.<br />

Josh and Connor often come to me for help with homework, but I long for the day when I’m seen as a friend rather than a tutor. When<br />

I’m around them, I always try to downplay my love of school and emphasize my love of sports. I come into school one day with a<br />

glorious T-shirt, emblazoned with a bold message. “FOOTBALL” it declares across the top in all caps. Before our first class starts, I<br />

wander over to Connor to display my new prized possession, shoulders held high.<br />

“Look Connor! I have a football shirt!”<br />

“That’s not a stinking jersey. That just has the word football on it.”<br />

I turn away, crushed. I thought for sure that such a brilliant boy shirt would make him like me, at least for an instant. When I get home<br />

I ask if I can buy a Patriots jersey, but I’m told they’re too expensive.<br />

26 27

A couples weeks later, I sit at my desk during lunch time. I dig through my Trader Joe’s lunch bag and feel a jolt of excitement. Under<br />

the apple sauce and thermos of spaghetti, I see it! A bag of Cheez-its! I grab the pouch and open it, hoping to make a public scene as I<br />

mind and realizes that I’m the one she was made to be with, not Joseph. Valentine’s Day is coming soon and I know just what to do.<br />

First of all, give her Skittles. Any guy can give chocolate but Skittles are<br />

eat this popular snack option. After talking a while with the girls, I decide to try my luck with Josh and Connor again. They’re across<br />

the room making a train of dominoes on the table near the window, hoping to create a fun and exciting chain reaction. Munching<br />

loudly on my cheesy crackers, I walk over to them.<br />

shockingly original. Second of all, write her a romantic note. I choose to write an acrostic of the word BUDDY. Beautiful.<br />

Understanding. Dramatic. Dreamy. <strong>You</strong>. Okay I’m kidding about the dreamy part but it’s definitely some other painfully cheesy word.<br />

“Hey guys how’s it going?”<br />

After school, I leave her the note and candy in her locker, then rush to the bus. As I ride home, I compliment myself on how profound<br />

and personal the note was. Surely I have succeeded in winning her over this time. Later that night I get a Facebook message from her.<br />

“Shh… dude, we’re trying to concentrate” Josh tells me.<br />

It’s a large block of text but I skim through it, desperately searching to see if the feelings are reciprocated. I need this. At the bottom of<br />

the screen I see the words. “I think it would be best if we just stay friends.” I cry. Why can’t she just like me?<br />

“That looks really cool! Could I help?” Connor glares at me which I take as a maybe.<br />

Every day I go through life looking to please everyone I meet. I’m at my most comfortable when I know everyone in the room likes me<br />

As I walk to see the table from a different angle, my foot brushes one of the legs. For a brief second, I realize what I’ve done and<br />

desperately wish I could reverse it. My heart collapses along with the dominoes. Josh erupts at me, asking what in the world my<br />

problem is. Conner just rolls his eyes and stares at me with hatred. They run and tell the teacher what I did as I stare dejectedly at the<br />

floor. The rest of the day, the boys give me the silent treatment. When I get home, I cry. Why can’t they just like me?<br />

and so I often make it my mission to ensure that becomes a reality. Usually I’m pretty good at it. Time after time, I win over my teachers<br />

and peers, only enjoying life when I know everyone enjoys me. But sometimes I fail. The angry shout from a coach, the muttered<br />

insult from a bully, the disappointed look of a parent. Sometimes, people don’t like me and it eats at me. I traipse from conversation to<br />

conversation, wondering what it would be like to interact with another human being and not care what they think.<br />

It’s freshman year of high school and I’ve found my soulmate. Her name is Tori Jacobson but will soon be Tori Sprigg. There’s only one<br />

problem. She likes my best friend Joseph. At our first high school dance, I was using the bathroom when “Stand by Me” first came on.<br />

As I reentered the cafeteria, finally brave enough to ask her to dance with me, I saw her with him. Her beautiful body was pressed up<br />

And now I come to you, oh reader. <strong>You</strong> know what? This time will be different. I don’t care what you think. I don’t care if you find<br />

my desperate longing for approval pathetic, or if you think my usage of the term “awkward pickle” was rather absurd. I refuse to be<br />

emotionally invested in your response to me as an individual. Go ahead. Hate me. I’m not afraid!<br />

against his mediocre-at-best body. It made me sick. And now after that one dance, she’s apparently head over heels for him. I hope to<br />

change that.<br />

Just kidding. Please like me.<br />

As the date of our second dance approaches, Tori asks me who I’m going to take. I gasp. I’ve never considered actually taking a girl to a<br />

dance. That would mean I’d have to ask a girl to a dance. How awful. But as I stare into her brown blinking eyes, I boldly ask her, “Who<br />

do you think I should take?”<br />

“I think you should take Tina,” she says.<br />

I take Tina to the dance. Tina and I have a rotten time because I am trying so hard to be a gentleman that I forget to have fun. Plus, Tori<br />

is having an amazing night with Joseph which really doesn’t help matters. After the fact, I wonder why on earth I decided to take Tina<br />

and remember it’s because Tori, oh my beloved Tori, told me to. I don’t regret it at all.<br />

After weeks of obeying her every wish and constantly making her laugh, I start to think I’ve made progress with Tori. Every time I make<br />

her smile, it convinces me that I matter. We have grown closer and closer now to the point where we are no longer just friends, we are<br />

“buddies.” The endearing term we both use for each other points to the love I am now convinced is mutual. Maybe she’s changed her<br />

28 29

Kimchi Refrigerators<br />

January, 2015<br />

- Most nights, the room smells like kimchi.<br />

- Tonight, it smells like Red Bull, vodka, and later—vomit.<br />

- Why had I come in the first place?<br />

- YJ called me on the phone, come; Dan and Eli are here too.<br />

- It’s 10 p.m. I said, packing an overnight bag.<br />

- My mother smiled, trusting me.<br />

- They won’t want to continue our Bible study, I remember thinking.<br />

- We had one a month ago, in a December snowstorm.<br />

- I never asked them about it, again, after that night.<br />

- YJ’s parents own a small apartment building; they live on the third floor.<br />

- YJ’s mother is in the U.S.A visiting her newborn granddaughter. She has been there for a year.<br />

- On the ground level of the building, there is a cold, tile-floored room where a church meets every Sunday.<br />

- There is a pulpit and a ping-pong table.<br />

- In middle-school we would play for hours.<br />

- That was before Xbox, and alcohol.<br />

- Now, whenever I stay over, we sleep in the guest apartment—where they keep their kimchi refrigerators.<br />

- YJ’s mother left those well stocked before she left.<br />

- Eli’s 15.<br />

- Legal drinking age in Romania is 18.<br />

- In two months, I’ll be old enough.<br />

- Dan is 13.<br />

- <strong>You</strong>’re a pussy, Eli says.<br />

- Ok. I’m a pussy, I say back.<br />

- Red eyes, flushed skin, handing me a 2-liter bottle of Ursus. I push it away.<br />

- I think they think I think I’m more holy than they are, but the truth is I know I’m not.<br />

- He downs a shot of vodka Red Bull, then another when I refuse him again.<br />

- The plastic cracks in his hands as he drives it into the sticky table.<br />

- Dan is cracking jokes—his eyes slurring with his lashes, words dizzy and hollow.<br />

—<br />

- Two months later, my father and Mr. Dunckel—my old history teacher—took me to a bar called Beer O’clock.<br />

- I remember them talking about weekly “beer and bible studies,” and after his second beer Mr. Dunckel couldn’t<br />

stop talking about his passion for seeing Muslims come to Christ.<br />

- The second time I bought a beer, I was with Bethel. It was late April or early May, and I hadn’t seen him for a year.<br />

- I told him to get a Stout, and he did. I had one too.<br />

- Then we shared a Belgian Lambic, and laughed about how women would usually drink those.<br />

- We had shaormas after, at the Turkish place on the corner, near both of our homes.<br />

- I remember singing while I crossed the street wondering if I was a little tipsy or simply happy.<br />

Or maybe a bit of both.<br />

- The Bucharest sky was black, but speckled.<br />

- All the snow had melted from the concrete.<br />

- While I walked to YJ’s, I knew if Bethel had still been here, we would be walking together.<br />

- He lived behind the gas station in front of my apartment building. Sometimes I would jaywalk to get to his<br />

house, even though my mother asked me always to use the crosswalk.<br />

- Eli throws up in the toilet.<br />

- I’m rubbing his back.<br />

- This feels gay, he says.<br />

- I tell him to shut up; he vomits again.<br />

- They are passed out in the same sheet-less bed. I toss a rough blanket over their bodies.<br />

30 31

Yellow is a colour, but sometimes society forgets to teach this. At least, not as much as they do black and<br />

white. My culture is not broken, the way my English is assumed to be. That is, until I actually open my mouth and speak, in<br />

which it then becomes a plethora of:<br />

“Wait what but I’m so confused, I don’t understand.”<br />

“This is absolutely mind-blowing to me.”<br />

out, “<strong>You</strong>r accent is getting more and more American.” I didn’t know whether to take it as a compliment or an insult. I don’t<br />

do it consciously, I can’t help it. Imitating, adopting, adapting is my way of surviving in the country. The more native I sound,<br />

the easier it is for me to get by; the more native I sound, the less I remember that I am a person of colour, the less I remember<br />

that I am still an “other”. How do I hold onto me in a country that doesn’t know how to accept me for me, which in turn makes<br />

me not want to be me here? How hard do I have to work at making sure I am more than what I am perceived to be? How is it<br />

possible that I have this irrational worrying about being an English major because a typo or grammatical mistake might mean<br />

that I am seen as less than what I could be?<br />

“Excuse me, I was just wondering; where are you from?”<br />

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude but may I ask?”<br />

“I apologize if I sound ignorant, but how?”<br />

“Why is your English so good?”<br />

“How is your English so good?”<br />

I say this very cautiously, but as a person of colour, it is tiring having the repeated race discussion. It is baffling to me that<br />

people can’t see, can’t seem to understand. Can people not see that it is everywhere? I don’t know, but I personally can no<br />

longer hear the colours black, yellow and god forbid white without associating it with racism and the negligence we have towards<br />

some colours and the bias we have for a certain one in this country. All the hashtags that trend on Twitter, Facebook<br />

and <strong>You</strong>tube channels are mere reminders of things we can no longer see with simplicity but they are labels being slapped<br />

onto things that should not be segregated or formulated into minorities. #BlackLivesMatter should not need to be a statement<br />

or something that needs reminding. How is it possible that we are failing so badly at our humanity that we desperately need<br />

something to remind us of something that should have been etched into our morals our ethics in the womb before we were<br />

even born into this world?<br />

Naturally, I have mastered the perfect response each time this question is posed, and it usually goes like this. I smile, nod and<br />

say, “Yeah, English is my first language,” which then segues into a whole other series of related questions. It becomes rather<br />

cyclical.<br />

There is this constantly shifting paradigm for what I expect of myself when it comes to dealing with my race, my words, my<br />

class, who I am in America. I do not know where I lie on the societal spectrum, perpetually staggering back and forth trying to<br />

figure out where I stand in this country. I am a person of colour; I am an international student, I grew up 18 years somewhere<br />

else 8,000 miles away; I am a USA citizen, yes, I voted on Election Day; I speak English as fluently as any other American,<br />

though sometimes I mix up the pronunciation for certain words because all my middle and high school teachers were British.<br />

I carry with me markers that make me the “other” but simultaneously I carry with me so much privilege that sets me apart<br />

from the other “others”; privilege that allows me to blend in with the rest of white America. When we talk about issues related<br />

to race, we are actually talking about optical conceptions, it’s all about perception. Social class is prominent everywhere yet<br />

it is often times invisible. Class does the work of race and is all-encompassing of a lot of social issues such as race and gender,<br />

therefore is more defining in terms of our identity within society. The dissonance and division evident within the class systems<br />

of America are overwhelming enough, but when I plug myself into the equation, I can’t seem to figure out where I fit,<br />

and honestly, I can’t see myself ever finding an answer I’ll be content with.<br />

<strong>If</strong> whiteness is equated with class, do I hold a certain amount white privilege? My British high school teacher once pointed<br />

Being in America for almost four years has given me a perspective I never thought to look at back home in Asia. Is it possible<br />

to be colourblind as a person of colour? Perhaps. But once I began to understand what I do now, everything came flooding in<br />

all at once, words became angry when I realized all the colours in society that are painted over, colours that have been omitted<br />

from the palette. I began to notice how my home has been whitewashed, layer upon layer of white paint, like the stereotypical<br />

picket fences in America that I grew up reading about. The community strives to make my city white. It strives to please the<br />

white. It strives to make white comfortable. It strives to help white fit in. It tries to make room for white. With the population<br />

density of 17,024 people per square mile, there’s no room for white. But somehow my city manages to allow white to seep in<br />

and force my city in a new direction. White privilege is an issue prevalent in my society but white feminism fails to fully encapsulate<br />

what it means to be an Asian female in an Asian patriarchal society. Because it isn’t enough to simply be a voice, nor<br />

is it enough to be a single Asian woman with a voice, because single women over the age of 35 are equated to dinner table left<br />

overs. So we must find our voice before the age of 35, before our voices become irrelevant and seen as nothing but white noise.<br />

There is so much colour everywhere.<br />

Everything is white on the inside. Coconuts, brown but white on inside. Mangosteen, purple but white on the inside. Rambutan,<br />

reddish pink but white on the inside. Twinkies and Bananas, yellow but white on the inside. Oreo, black but with a<br />

white filling. Eggs are white but yellow on the inside, mangoes are yellow throughout. Even fish balls are golden skinned with<br />

white insides. There are many foods that are white with yellow fillings but only one with the reversal. An egg. Why is the yel-<br />

32 33

low called yolk but the white called white? Is this an example of white privilege? <strong>You</strong> see, I can no longer see something that<br />

is purely white as simply innocently white. Why can I no longer see an egg for what it is? Humanity has been tainted by this<br />

whiteness, and even if something genuinely is solely white I see it as being something superior.<br />

Not one culture trumps another, but it scares me to know that this country that is aiming to MAKE AMERICA GREAT<br />

AGAIN could be one that keeps my non-citizen friends out. I am a citizen of this land of the free, but it means nothing unless<br />

I’m allowed to hold onto my culture without having it compromised for something supposedly better. I am waiting for the day<br />

that white is no longer the desired color, not the one that defines minimalism, for we live in a maximalist society.<br />

I am a privileged person of colour in a binary society. I am that voice; the muted one that people know exist but can’t hear. So<br />

this is me trying to reach out and claw at society, for them to hear. Hear me. Yellow is a colour, but sometimes society forgets<br />

to teach this. At least, not as much as they do black and white. But sometimes I forget that yellow is a colour at all.<br />

34 35

A border separates between distinct things, represents where one thing<br />

stops and something else exists. When you drive across a state border, it’s not a big deal, but if you travel long and far enough, you<br />

may notice gradual changes between the states, see the changes in scenery, notice the types of license plates around you, the kinds of<br />

buildings and animals that occupy that land, guess the financial status of that area.<br />

My borders are not the same. There are no welcome signs with birds and flowers. There are no rest stops or tour guides and maps do<br />

not exist. There are no attractions, nothing attractive about the states I cross.<br />

The word, “sane” describes having reason, a healthy mind. Sanity is the state of being sane. Insanity is the state of being insane, being<br />

mentally deranged.<br />

I live, straddling the borders between these two states.<br />

psy·cho·sis noun<br />

“a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.”<br />

I wonder sometimes if people know how it feels. To actually live in a different reality than what is actually real. To undergo the tortures<br />

and live with distortions and delusions that clash with your rational mind. To live with an understanding of the difference of sanity and<br />

insanity, yet having to deal with distinguishing between the two in your own mind.<br />

I physically live in the same world as everyone else, the same things happen around me as they happen to you, yet I am separated, by<br />

the boundaries created by my mind, or brain, I’m not sure which one.<br />

Welcome to the state of psychosis, the state of confusion, the state filled with hallucinations and crippling paranoia. Here, I started<br />

the process of cutting myself off from the world, myself. Here, I’ve screamed in silence, unable to trust my brother, my parents. This is<br />

where the reasoning, the realistic awareness of my irrational thoughts were not substantial enough, and paranoia wins.<br />

This is where the hallucinations are so small, so ambiguous, so viable and seemingly authentic, it is impossible to distinguish between<br />

what I am hearing and what is truly being said, or not said.<br />

It’s not a joke, “People are out to get me.”<br />

It’s not a joke, paranoia.<br />

It’s not simply, “I am suspicious of that person.”<br />

It’s more like “I know it’s not rational, but I’m convinced that everyone else is somehow coordinating something against me, and<br />

everything I do, hear, see, think, and everyone around me is providing evidence to support that conclusion.”<br />

Living in a state of “my thoughts are not safe” is terrifying. It’s the fear of sleeping because of the fear of what might happen to me when<br />

I’m not awake. It’s the cessation of speech; they can read my mind anyway.<br />

And finally, somehow, somewhere, slowly, I end up walking in the borderlands, where my journey in this terrifying state is slowly<br />

coming to an end. And I’m not sure where I’ll be walking into next. It is not clear, no label or sign. There is no fence or gate that shows<br />

me I am free, I am leaving. But this new place I’m walking towards seems to be closer to reality. The fog of paranoia is lifting and it feels<br />

as if<br />

the world is no longer a complex labyrinth trying to keep me trapped. But getting out of the confines of a labyrinth, is not easy to walk<br />

away from, especially with confidence.<br />

dis·so·ci·a·tion noun<br />

“the disconnection or separation of something from something else or the state of being disconnected.”<br />

This is much better than feeling like I’m fucking insane. I’m no longer crippled by the kinds of anxieties and stresses that accompanied<br />

me in my state of confusion. The gunfire seems to have stopped; it’s not as loud in this state. I’ve walked into a state where there is no<br />

conflict concerning delusion and reality. But I think I’ve entered the state of numbness and disconnection. I do not speak much, I still<br />

have fear deep within me. It surfaces sometimes, but I don’t do much.<br />

It’s more than just “zoning out.”<br />

It’s more like a “blocking out.”<br />

I guess it acts as a shield, does a great job of blocking off chunks of memories and events. Past and present. I have trouble remembering<br />

things I did that day, which people I interacted with, the thoughts I had that day. Can’t recall or recognize most people’s names or faces,<br />

can’t keep track of the things I’ve done, can’t keep track of current actions.<br />

I’m living in some autopilot mode, where everything is a preprogrammed response or action. Breathing, listening, reading, writing<br />

assignments, sleeping, watching Netflix. But am I really? Do I really recall what I wrote or read, what I saw or heard?<br />

The moments where my true self does come out are rare and short lived. Unpredictable checking in, but there’s relief in the reliability of<br />

the checking out.<br />

I’m in this borderland where I’m stuck inside my mind and yet I’m in my body, which is presently in the world, alive, breathing,<br />

functioning.<br />

I could be walking, looking directly at you, and you could be looking right at me, but I don’t see you. Or sometimes, it’s the other way<br />

around. My body feels paralyzed and I’m screaming “move, do something, say something, just anything, whatever, please.” Nothing.<br />

I’m in the state of constant disconnection. Mostly I’m staring at nothing, a blank screen, or have headphones on, music playing but I<br />

don’t know what songs. We could be talking, and I hear you, I’m listening to you. But there is often very little output. I want to speak,<br />

but nothing will come out. I want to talk, but my mouth won’t open.<br />

36 37

Dissociation is scary. I can see myself and have no control of what I’m doing. I can see myself, but I’m not really there, I’m not there and<br />

I can’t feel, as if my nerves have been disconnected.<br />

Recalling things that I didn’t remember before. Losing memories.<br />

Always losing parts of me, little pieces of me falling out of my hands no matter how hard I hold on.<br />

trau·ma noun.<br />

“a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.”<br />

It literally translates from the Greek word to “wound.”<br />

This is the state of inescapable pain and unknowns.<br />

Wounded by things I don’t remember. The missing memories and the little snapshots of what I do remember, do not fare well together.<br />

A state haunted by uncertainties and unanswered questions, questions I don’t even know of.<br />

My presence is just an act. I am in college because it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. I am here, but always keeping a distance. I exist<br />

here, but I commute between the state of pain and disconnection. The unsettling fears of re-entrance, the painful discomfort of the<br />

battles between my thoughts and my mind, my brain. The battle between feelings, pain, fear.<br />

I hope you never enter this land, these states. But keep in mind, it’s not just me, and there are states left untold. Many are familiar with<br />

them. Some hide it well, some do not. Some heal, some move on, some do not. Keep in mind, people do live in this maze of reality,<br />

surrounded by borderlines that are not always defined or visible.<br />

38 39

An Anonymous Coming Out<br />

I am anonymous.<br />

But here I am.<br />

I am bare.<br />

Only I know me, my identity, and my pronouns.<br />

I’m finally coming out to my select few.<br />

I am honest to them and myself.<br />

I am bisexual.<br />

I came out the other day to a friend and I want to keep it on the DL.<br />

I’m scared.<br />

Because I’m in a position of leadership.<br />

Because my environment is against it.<br />

Because I don’t want to make the other people on my floor uncomfortable.<br />

<strong>If</strong> I come out publicly, it could change my relationship with my friends and colleagues.<br />

They’ll think I’m checking them out or hitting on them.<br />

They would feel uncomfortable in the restroom and alienate me.<br />

I’m aware of their ignorance and discomfort with with the term “queer”.<br />

When I came out to my close friend<br />

We acted like it was nothing.<br />

Because it was.<br />

I’ve been in they’re room while they changed and it was nothing.<br />

Because it was.<br />

It’s a body.<br />

I have one, they have one.<br />

They were just doing something mundane.<br />

It’s natural.<br />

The idea that I would lust after everyone I see is ridiculous.<br />

I know.<br />

My friend knows.<br />

And I’d rather make peace with this.<br />

It’s like an issue, pet peeve, addiction, or hobby. I am none of these things.<br />

I am not my sexuality.<br />

I am a human being.<br />

And it’s my business.<br />

I don’t need to broadcast this everywhere.<br />

It’s like how only a few of my friends know my pant size.<br />

It’s not something I discuss.<br />

I feel no need to.<br />

And part of me is still trying to figure this out.<br />

Is this really a sin or was it a cultural issue in the Bible?<br />

<strong>If</strong> I did not come out or admit to this, would I be sinning more by lying?<br />

Is this something in the Bible that still applies today?<br />

Is it part of the faith or was it part of the culture?<br />

Is this considered okay?<br />

Or is this something that I am supposed to “struggle” with?<br />

<strong>If</strong> I’m meant to be celibate or single, why am I also attracted to the opposite sex?<br />

I don’t know how to feel about this.<br />

<strong>If</strong> I had kept this in the dark for any longer, it would have eaten away at me.<br />

I told her that I didn’t know if I should tell my parents.<br />

They don’t support this.<br />

She said I didn’t have to tell them.<br />

It’s none of their business unless I have a significant other.<br />

She said it’s like a pant size.<br />

<strong>If</strong> I have a new pant size, it’s my business.<br />

And I agree.<br />

I’m finally speaking up because I’ve known this for a long time and just ignored it. The Bible says, whatever you keep in the dark will<br />

eventually come to light.<br />

God knows.<br />

40 41

Undiagnosed<br />

I feel around the rim of my pill bottle, trying to line up the little triangles of the child lock between my thumb and middle finger.<br />

In my head is a fantasy where I dump ten, twenty pills into my palm. The clinking of chalky pellets is a pleasing melody in the<br />

darkness. It is too many and a few more for good measure. My roommate breathes in and holds it, waiting to hear if I drop<br />

the extra back in. She will breathe and listen until I tumble into bed and all is clear. I will tumble into bed and not wake in the<br />

morning.<br />

I pause in the artificial moonlight of the bathroom night light and fiddle with the lid as quietly as I can. The cool plastic slides<br />

under my fingertips, and I enjoy the thrill of standing in my underwear and socks at two in the morning. Finally the bottle clicks<br />

open and I sprinkle three into my hand, instead of the recommended two. I swallow them dry because it suits me to.<br />

I climb into bed and doze off wondering if ibuprofen can even kill you, or if it only results in a she-barely-made-it recovery. I<br />

think that I would guzzle the whole bottle, just to be safe. I wonder what that slow, numbing dying would feel like and how long<br />

you stay conscious. Maybe a shot to the temple would be better, but how does someone even get a gun…<br />

* * *<br />

It is not unusual for me to think about death every other day or so. More often, I just catch myself thinking how much it sucks<br />

being alive. But the thing is I know without doubt that I will never do anything about it, as long as I stay where I am. I have reasoned<br />

myself out of every suicidal weeknight thought so far, and I can’t even put a razor to my skin. Sometimes my depression<br />

prods me, come on, just try one cut. And I prod her, come on, just make me. But I’m not quite that bad yet.<br />

Depending on what day you ask me, my conviction that I even have depression will vary from “I think so” to “absolutely” to “no,<br />

I’m just tired.” I have been like this for years, residing somewhere between clinical and all made up in my head. I like it here,<br />

because it is up to me whether I trick myself out of it or indulge in it. Sometimes I thrive on the drawn-out all-nighters, and<br />

midnight runs to CVS because I just need some chips so I can focus. I just need the fresh air to snap out of it.<br />

of my living room, then to a café, then back home, then frantically to the grocery store at 11:30pm because I realize I don’t have<br />

any food for lunch tomorrow. I threshold back to the library, can’t get anything done, and threshold cross back home. I think I<br />

love this idea of thresholds so much because of the precious five minutes of movement I get from A to B, when my eyes cannot<br />

settle back into their daily blur. On long weekends, I run home, drive to Maine in the dark, fly to California, Canada, anywhere<br />

that keeps me moving and my depression distracted.<br />

* * *<br />

Somehow in all these years, I have never actually been diagnosed. This is probably because I don’t want to be. I think about<br />

going to a doctor and trying to explain that I only think about suicide recreationally, and most days I just feel a little sad, and my<br />

grades are fine, and I have a job, and all that. Maybe the technical term is “low risk,” or even “no risk” if the psychiatrist is busy<br />

that week. I also do not go to a doctor because I cannot decide if I am more worried that they will put me on meds I won’t take,<br />

or tell me that I’m fine and just need to get more rest.<br />

I am confusing even to myself because no matter how chaotically dim my insides feel, I always keep performing life just fine. All<br />

the times I plead with her to make me crash and burn, I still find myself handing the paper in on time, making it to the meeting,<br />

showing up for work with only some extra cover-up under my eyes.<br />

I recently told a friend that I like being messy, and think it’s perfectly okay to live life here forever. I told him I don’t want to get<br />

my shit together or fall into daily monotony. I want to keep my spontaneous movements, and I like the way my house looks at<br />

3am. I wonder if I really believe this or if it’s just a convenient way to account for the last five years as the product of something<br />

other than depression. I like this idea because I still get to believe that I can find my own way out. That maybe the kind of<br />

“messy” I will be in the future is a bit cleaner, more in focus. But even if it isn’t, between the midnight pills and weekend running,<br />

I’ll still be alive.<br />

Other days I get to pass myself off as doing just fine. I have the organized planner and checked off to-do list to prove it. I have<br />

the GPA to prove it. I get to tuck myself into bed at 10pm and cherish my eight hours. I get to call in sick and spend the day in<br />

bed because normal people take “personal days” too. And I never feel so alive as the day after an episode. Everything is crisper<br />

and I am more productive than ever.<br />

* * *<br />

Last year I had a professor who was committed to the idea of “threshold crossing.” One night in class she came close to tears<br />

talking about something sad I don’t remember, and she told us that after a hard discussion it is good to physically cross a threshold.<br />

The whole class got up, walked out of the room, and came back in. We were spiritually different on the other side of the<br />

doorframe.<br />

I think I have learned to take her theory a little too seriously since then. Every time my mind wanders somewhere too dark, I pin<br />

it on being in the same space too much and obsessively cross thresholds. Obsessively keep moving. I drive to the library instead<br />

42 43

Coming of Age<br />

i am 22 years old, and<br />

boy awkward in the fullness of womanhood,<br />

a newborn grasping for new air, now,<br />

a senior rocking to and fro wondering<br />

where childhood has gone.<br />

mother, your daughter shall never return.<br />

father, your little girl never was.<br />

sister, your sibling remains only in play:<br />

that prince, pirate, adventurer, king.<br />

that hoister of trousers and paper towel rolls.<br />

that too-large shadow you sought to escape.<br />

mother, auntie will blame you.<br />

father, grandpa will lapse silent.<br />

sister, our friends will pray for my soul:<br />

that god, jesus, and holy ghost, three-in-one,<br />

that punisher of gays and trannies should convict me such<br />

that too-large a sin as this i should seek to repent.<br />

sometimes i wish i could say that<br />

i am 22 and boy,<br />

awkward in the fullness of womanhood anew,<br />

born grasping for new air,<br />

now a senior, rocking to and fro wondering<br />

where childhood has gone.<br />

sometimes–<br />

but my days of shadowboxing my own reflection are catching up to me<br />

and i am dying.<br />

the heavier my chest grows the heavier my step,<br />

and i swear each month i bleed more.<br />

i do not know how to tell you all this.<br />

i only hope that if you find this before i find the right words that<br />

i will be around to know and<br />

i hope that you’ll understand and understand that<br />

i am used to black and blue and all hues in between–<br />

and so if you choose to cut<br />

me<br />

i will bleed a flood in the color of god’s promise sign and<br />

love you all the same.<br />

44 45

When I was a sophomore I took Modern Genetics.<br />

One of my favorite parts of the class was the weekly ethics<br />

discussions, but I was not prepared for the discussion on the<br />

genetics of homosexuality. What was supposed to be a discussion<br />

about genetics quickly devolved into my classmates giving their<br />

opinions on how to handle the “gay issue” in the church. None<br />

of their points were overly offensive, but during the discussion<br />

my classmates didn’t even consider that a gay person might be in<br />

the room. The issue was completely conceptual to most of them.<br />

It was the only discussion all semester that I didn’t contribute<br />

to. I didn’t feel like there was a place for my voice. The issue was<br />

too real for me, too personal. My classmates wanted to discuss<br />

a theological issue, not be confronted with a complex human<br />

being. I left that room feeling more invisible than I ever had in<br />

my life.<br />

I was in high school when I realized I was gay. Mostly, I forced<br />

myself not to worry about it. I thought that if I didn’t act on it,<br />

it wouldn’t matter. The first time I realized that was going to be<br />

problem was in a bible study. Somebody mentioned a same-sex<br />

relationship, and the girl sitting next to me immediately let out<br />

an exclamation of disgust. She let us all know that she could<br />

not understand why someone would want to be in a same-sex<br />

relationship. To her, it was revolting. I sat next to her in silence.<br />

Slowly, I processed that she was talking about people like me.<br />

I wanted what she found so revolting, so I must be revolting.<br />

My heartbeat sped up, and a wave of nausea washed over me.<br />

I wanted to leave, but I was wedged in a booth between my<br />

youth pastor and the girl who found me so disgusting. For the<br />

first time, I understood that it wouldn’t matter if I acted on my<br />

attraction or not. There would always be a part of me that didn’t<br />

belong in the church.<br />

Growing up, the church was always my sanctuary, a place where<br />

I felt loved and valued. I was raised in the church in the Bible<br />

Belt. In many ways, evangelical Christian culture is my culture.<br />

The stories of the Bible are my stories. Hymns and worship songs<br />

are my songs. I have been having theological discussions since<br />

I was three, when I asked my mom to explain the Trinity. The<br />

church is my home, like America is my country. It might not<br />

be the best, but it is the place where I understand the language,<br />

the place where I am comfortable, and the place where I feel<br />

like I belong. Realizing I was gay didn’t change any of this, but<br />

it did give me an insurmountable fear that I was going to lose<br />

all of it. I was afraid that I was going to lose my home, lose the<br />

people I deeply cared about, and lose my God. Instead of risking<br />

this, I chose to stay silent. I let my secret eat at my heart, eat<br />

at my relationships with other Christians, and just devour my<br />

relationship with God.<br />

Over the last three years, I have told many friends and some<br />

family that I am gay. Some of those experiences were funny.<br />

Some were heart-warming, and some were heart-breaking. They<br />

were all extremely awkward. Even though I have been honest<br />

with many of the people in my life, I still have trouble talking<br />

about my sexuality. I hate using the word lesbian to describe<br />

myself, for example, even though it’s accurate. The phrases “you<br />

know” and “the thing” are my crutches when I dare to bring<br />

up the subject. And, to top it all off, I’m still not sure if God<br />

is okay with same-sex relationships. I have been in love with<br />

two wonderful (unfortunately straight) women, and I am still<br />

not sure if that was disgusting or not. For the last four years, I<br />

have walked the border between affirming and non-affirming.<br />

I have prayed to God. I have cried out to God. I have yelled<br />

at God. Everyone in my life seems to have an opinion about<br />

my sexuality, but the only word I have ever gotten from God is<br />

“wait.”<br />

When people protested the life and conduct statement during<br />

my sophomore year, I wanted more than anything to join them.<br />

I wanted to find a community of people who understood me.<br />

However, I never could bring myself to join them partly because<br />

of my social anxiety and partly because I knew that I didn’t<br />

agree with them. I didn’t want to bring my struggle into their<br />

affirming space. I never wanted them to feel judged, especially<br />

by me. Since I wasn’t affirming, I was scared that this group<br />

would just be another place that I didn’t belong. I feared yet<br />

another rejection, so I just walked by them.<br />

Mostly, I have dealt with my internal struggle by masking my<br />

true emotions. For me, it is the easiest way to avoid conflict.<br />

When the topic comes up, I just brace myself like I do when I get<br />

my blood drawn. My muscles tense up, I take deep breaths, and<br />

I pretend I’m not terrified. One night I was talking to a few of<br />

my friends who didn’t know about my sexuality when the topic<br />

of Gordon’s life and conduct statement came up. I nonchalantly<br />

put in my two cents, trying to pretend that the issue didn’t<br />

matter too much to me: “Well, I just think that many different<br />

denominations have different views on homosexuality. As a<br />

non-denominational school, it seems inappropriate to include<br />

a statement on homosexual behavior in our code of contact.”<br />

However, on the inside I wanted to scream. I wanted them to<br />

understand that the life and conduct actually affected LGBT<br />

students on our campus. I wanted to tell them that the policy<br />

made me feel unwanted and reinforced my fears that I could not<br />

be a real Christian, but I didn’t. Instead, I let my blank face hide<br />

a girl who was falling apart trying to belong.<br />

46 47

Funny, Isn’t It?<br />

Fifth grade’s a week away and I haven’t worked on my assignment yet. I’m supposed to make the comic section for our class newspaper<br />

and I’m panicking. A girl in my class called a while ago, asking if I wanted to help her out. She figured because I’m the funny guy, I’d like<br />

to make a comic strip for the paper she was starting. I agreed immediately, confident in my comedic abilities. Now I’m not so sure. I sit<br />

in front of the blank piece of paper, fighting back a growing sense of dismay. I should have started this right when she called me but my<br />

inner procrastinator won out. Now, the deadline is fast approaching and I’ve got nothing.<br />

I run to my mom on the brink of tears, already picturing doomsday scenarios in my head. “Wow, he lost his sense of humor? That’s all<br />

he was good for. Guess we can’t hang out with him now.” They’ll say that and more. I can already feel my popularity withering.<br />

“I don’t know what to write my comic strip about mom!” I pant.<br />

“Well, what’s something you all have in common?”<br />

“I don’t know! Most of our class is girls! Why did Victoria have to ask me to do the stupid comics section anyway?” The tears are<br />

starting to come as I realize the horrible truth. I’m not funny anymore.<br />

“Why not write a comic about a class? It is back to school season after all.”<br />

I go back to the paper, its blankness mocking my anxious heart. I wonder if I can scrawl the words “PLEASE LIKE ME” across the page<br />

and achieve the desired effect. Probably not. I need a way to send that message with subtlety. I pray. Lord, help me to be funny.<br />

catcher’s mitt and for a brief moment the scrappy stick of a second basemen was the best player on the team. Screaming with elation, I<br />

ran to high five the guys in the dugout. My persistence had led to significance.<br />

Hustle is essential to success, not only in sports. The comedian must also bust his butt to achieve his goal. Night after night, he takes the<br />

stage to entertain. Joke after joke after joke until one day the right person laughs and he finally matters.<br />

I’m in seventh grade Sunday school. The chairs in the old sanctuary where we’re sitting are dry and scratchy, much like our teacher’s<br />

voice. I’ve lost count how many weeks we’ve spent in Revelation and it’s getting harder and harder to pay attention. Our teacher<br />

mentions the Left Behind movies which reminds me of a joke I heard the other day.<br />

“Hey Chris,” I whisper, nudging my friend next to me. Chris eagerly leans to hear me, glad for a reason to stay awake. “Did you hear<br />

about that new movie Constipation?”<br />

“No.”<br />

“It hasn’t come out yet.”<br />

Chris pauses a second as he absorbs the punchline, then explodes into a half-giggle, half-cackle. Our teacher stops, most likely knowing<br />

that the Seven Bowls of God’s wrath aren’t the cause of Chris’s laughter.<br />

Chris gets the worst of it, our teacher talking quickly and sternly with words like “disrespect” and “unacceptable.” It isn’t until afterwards<br />

that he realizes I was the instigator of the disruption. I too get reprimanded. I outwardly express my regret for my irreverence and<br />

disrespect but on the inside I can’t help but think that it was totally worth it.<br />

I end up using my mom’s school idea even though I give myself the credit. I draw a “school of fish” with all of them floating behind their<br />

desks and listening to their seahorse teacher. I carefully draw the classroom, filling it with underwater puns. It takes a while, but I enjoy<br />

knowing that I’ve played my role. I exhale after finishing it, existential crisis averted. It makes the final print of the “Fourth Presbyterian<br />

School Fifth Grade Times”.<br />

It’s the first day of tenth grade and we are performing introductions. “Please say your name and give four descriptions of yourself ”<br />

It’s the new kid’s turn and I’m not really listening, trying to think how I can condense myself into four characteristics. I know it’ll be my<br />

turn soon and I’m already feeling nervous.<br />

A week has passed and fifth grade has begun. I’m tired as I say hello to friends I haven’t seen all summer. Shutting off my brain the night<br />

before school starts is near impossible so I’m running on minimal sleep. When Victoria starts handing out the papers though, I become<br />

vigilant. I’m nervous for the moment when they’ll see the comic. It’s not funny. It’s a flop. How embarrassing. People are done reading<br />

the front page and they’re flipping towards the humorless image. I take a deep breath, preparing for the shame.<br />

“And I’m funny,” he concludes. My heart starts to beat a little faster as I realize the implications of what he just said. He’s funny? And<br />

bold enough to describe himself as such? Class clown is my role and the threat of competition sickens me. My four descriptors must<br />

be golden. Other people are saying theirs rather blandly, perhaps realizing that this exercise is meaningless, while I search for the right<br />

words. What should I say? I feverishly rack my brain. Then, epiphany!<br />

Surprisingly, they laugh, as if knowing that I need them to.<br />

It’s my turn now. I swallow.<br />

I always played my heart out in baseball. They called me Scrappy. While my best friend Michael won MVP, I won the “a little bit crazy<br />

but I like it” award. Base running was the best part. When I ran, it didn’t matter how strong I was, or if baseball came to me naturally.<br />

All that mattered was getting from Point A to Point B. I stole home once to tie the game. The pitcher gawked at me as I bolted towards<br />

the plate, surely thinking “Nobody’s that stupid to try and run on me with the game on the line.” My foot slipped safely under the<br />

I say my name. Then: “I’m funny, nerdy, and bad at counting.”<br />

The slight pause gives me a jolt of anxiety but soon the room is full of laughter, the best medicine.<br />

48 49

I had a teacher once who asked the class to only laugh when his jokes were actually funny. He said he didn’t want any pity laughs.<br />

Yet we kept laughing at his dumb puns and random stories. I don’t think it was out of pity, more like kissing up. Sometimes I wonder<br />

though. What would he have done if we had obeyed? Would the silence have tortured him, causing him to doubt his identity, frantically<br />

wondering why no one was laughing? Or would he have shrugged and moved on with his life?<br />

We’re reminiscing around the fire at yet another grad party. We’re talking about how our class could have made a good sitcom. We have<br />

the egomaniac, the joke-telling nerd, the ladies’ man, the drama queen, the sassy girl, the super-sarcastic computer geek, and the goofy<br />

Hispanic kid who always makes jokes about “his people.<br />

“Everyone in our class is so funny,” I say. “And there was certainly enough drama to keep the show interesting.” Most agree with my<br />

assessment but Christina, the girl next to me, has some doubts.<br />

“Ehhh. I don’t know. Some of the kids in our class think they’re funnier than they actually are.” The fire feels warmer now, less friendly.<br />

The next part she mumbles, expecting no one to hear, while looking straight at me. “Like you.”<br />

“I heard that.” I say teasingly, pretending it didn’t just punch me in the gut.<br />

She smiles sheepishly and apologetically, not sorry that she said it but sorry that I heard it. She shrugs, sticking by her statement. I try to<br />

laugh it off.<br />

50 51

INUIT<br />


SLAVEY<br />

DOGRIB<br />

INUIT<br />


CREE<br />



EMPIRE<br />





HURON<br />


SALISH<br />

CROW<br />




NATION<br />

UTE<br />

POMO<br />

APACHE<br />

EMPIRE<br />



HOPI<br />





PEQUOT<br />

OJIBWA<br />

PAWNEE<br />


NAVAJO<br />






MI’ KMAQ<br />

AZTEC<br />

EMPIRE<br />

CREEK<br />


(APPROX 2015 AD)<br />

OLMEC<br />


ARAWAK<br />

MAYAN<br />

EMPIRE<br />

52 53

A little girl ran to the doors of the church, pleading for sanctuary.<br />

Refusing to believe she didn’t fit anywhere, she opened the doors.<br />

The plastic chairs and tile floors of that school gym did not bother her,<br />

Because the souls inside built a church that would make cathedrals envious.<br />

Inside, she stood among worshiping souls and marveled;<br />

Together the souls lifted their offerings to God, mingling in the process.<br />

The girl quickly and irreversibly fell in love with that dingy gym,<br />

And with the people who welcomed her there each week.<br />

In that makeshift cathedral, the strange little girl belonged.<br />

In the arms of this beautiful community the little girl flourished,<br />

But the loving arms were comforts, not shields.<br />

Even surrounded by love, the girl was not immune to reality,<br />

And good intentions could not stop her from understanding herself.<br />

She began to understand as she braided her friend’s long tangled hair.<br />

She learned as her heart fluttered when their hands touched.<br />

Finally, she understood that she should be ashamed, so she hid inside herself.<br />

But a secret is a worm that eats the soul.<br />

She started to carefully watch her words in the place that had been her safe-haven,<br />

But the people who had been her refuge still wielded their words like weapons.<br />

Casual comments and well-meaning advice left her wounded,<br />

So she<br />

built wall of stone to fortify her already bleeding heart.<br />

And the worship that had filled her heart with wonder started to drown her.<br />

As the congregation sang their praises all the girl could hear was:<br />

<strong>You</strong><br />

Do<br />

Not<br />

Belong<br />

The girl cried to the God who had always heard her,<br />

But the God who hears would not bother to respond.<br />

Today the girl still stands in a pew, the weight of her secret on her shoulders.<br />

Love still surrounds her, but the love only adds to the weight.<br />

She knows that a love she could destroy with truth is not true,<br />

But it is still love, and she cannot leave it.<br />

54 55

Shahad, Jesus, Me, & <strong>You</strong><br />

Shahad left his brother and his watermelon patch,<br />

his mother and his holy mountain.<br />

He left his happiness in Kurdistan,<br />

his joy in Sinjar,<br />

his peace in that cement brick home<br />

when ISIS came to kill the Yazidis.<br />

He walked across a border that his god never willed him to cross,<br />

and wandered like Abraham in a country not his own,<br />

though it bore the name of his people at points.<br />

He paid the smugglers with his very soul to cross that ravaging, refugee-killing Aegean.<br />

Truly, he paid them with his precious memories of red watermelon and red earth;<br />

with dreams of freedom and normalcy spilling out of his pockets for refuge.<br />

And the worst part is… he isn’t special—<br />

He’s just one of the hundreds of thousands fortunate enough to sell all of their memories in order to escape the sword.<br />

So when I,<br />

under the shade of opulence,<br />

looked into his empty eyes which in themselves told the long story of an arduous journey,<br />

I had to reckon with my truth.<br />

Did I truly believe in that Godman, came down for the sins of tax collector and Samaritan?<br />

Did I truly believe that his Gospel was pure hope to Americans and Kurds alike?<br />

Would my Jesus bring hope, or was he just another Baal, fixed up but not good enough to call upon on the day of trouble?<br />

Truly, I say, verily, verily,<br />

our Truth had no home—no refuge in or from the hearts of man.<br />

Much like Abraham, our TruthLamb had no place to lay his head.<br />

He left his happiness in Nazareth of Galilee,<br />

his blood on the table of the Upper room.<br />

He left it all and climbed on the cross,<br />

for Shahad, you, and me.<br />

Is this the Jesus I know?<br />

Is this the Jesus you know?<br />

Reckon with your truth.<br />

Does it have a capital letter?<br />

Does it have a home?<br />

Does He have a home in you?<br />

Does He give hope to the refugee?<br />

Does he give hope to you?<br />

Because, Friends,<br />

<strong>If</strong> Jesus isn’t good enough for the refugee,<br />

He’s not good enough for you.<br />

I tell you this in all kindness,<br />

with more grace than the number of water droplets in the Aegean Sea:<br />

<strong>If</strong> Jesus isn’t good enough for the refugee,<br />

He’s not good enough for you.<br />

Because Me, I’ve never had to leave anything;<br />

not my mother or my figurative watermelon patches.<br />

Although, I might, in some sort of lavish devotion, like Abraham, be willing to lay my everything down on my holy mountain.<br />

So as I looked into the exhausted, empty, yet eager eyes of Shahad,<br />

I wrestled like Jacob with this question:<br />

Was my Jesus good enough?<br />

Is my Jesus good enough???<br />

And friends, my hip will forever be out of place because of the answer I received,<br />

like living Hopewater slowly flowing out of my feeble mouth:<br />

My Jesus, my Truth, my Hope, he left his brothers, too.<br />

He left his mother and his carpenter’s shed.<br />

He left his sea and his sermon mountain.<br />

56 57

H I S T O R Y<br />

This is the borderland where the present crosses paths with the past.<br />

Here we voyage into our history and witness the experiences and<br />

narratives from within our collective identity.<br />

58 59


In Loving Memory of Dr. Richard Leo Twiss<br />

( – )<br />


Obnajin emphatically declared to open<br />

the Beyond Colorblind week. Taoyate<br />

Obnajin (“He Stands with his People”),<br />

better known as Dr. Richard Leo Twiss,<br />

spoke to the Gordon College community,<br />

explaining that “All my relatives”<br />

encompasses his belief that we are “related<br />

to things above, things below, and<br />

to things all around. It says that [we’re]<br />

related to those who have gone before<br />

[us], those who are here, and those<br />

who are not yet. So [it] situates [us]<br />

within the bigger picture of creation.”<br />

He stated that as part of this creation<br />

we each have a story, even expressing<br />

that “God loves stories so much that<br />

God created human beings.”<br />

His challenge to us, therefore, was to<br />

accept the responsibility to explore our<br />

own stories: to share them, to hear others’<br />

stories, and to create a bond aer<br />

having done so.<br />

Shortly aer our school’s “Beyond<br />

Colorbind” week on February , ,<br />

Dr. Richard Leo Twiss passed away. We<br />

will continue to be mindful of his wife<br />

Katherine and four sons Andrew, Phillip,<br />

Ian and Daniel, as well as to reflect<br />

upon what he came to impart with us.<br />

As a campus we will not forget the lessons<br />

he taught us in his last week on<br />

earth: lessons of community, love, and<br />

honest relationships.<br />

In loving memory of Taoyate Obnajin,<br />

Dr. Richard Leo Twiss, may he rest<br />

in peace.<br />


March , <br />

more minutes though, in this weather.”<br />

I think about making a joke about<br />

how I bet her BMW was still pretty<br />

warm, how I’ve always wanted to sit in<br />

a seat with a butt-warming thing, but I<br />

refrain. She’s nice, but I can tell she’s<br />

not that nice.<br />

“Well, just be careful around this<br />

neighborhood,” she says. “Especially at<br />

this time of night. It’s … well how should<br />

I put it? It’s a bit … multi-cultural, you<br />

know?”<br />

Pause.<br />

I just look at her.<br />

“But there are a ton of new stores and<br />

nice housing facilities going up around<br />

here,” she continues, “so they’re trying<br />

to clean it up.”<br />

I think of responding using the word<br />

“gentrification.” Of telling her that the<br />

only way I even adequately found myway<br />

to this street was from a “multicultural”<br />

man on the platform who I was<br />

afraid of because of an irrational fear<br />

promoted by comments like hers<br />

I wish I could tell you that I responded<br />

back with something epic. Something<br />

that would have perfectly targeted the<br />

blatant xenophobia oozing from the<br />

language she was using. But the shameful<br />

thing is, I didn’t.<br />

I didn’t say anything.<br />

I just kept staring at my shoes, then<br />

up towards her apartment, which was<br />

a white, high-rise brick building. She<br />

took the last of her bags out of her car<br />

and as quickly as the conversation had<br />

begun, it ended with her walking away,<br />

pleasantly wishing me well.<br />


mugged.<br />

Just kidding.<br />

But this is where I stop detailing last<br />

Wednesday night, because the rest of<br />

the night at the hostel just consisted of<br />

techno music and me having to utilize<br />

I'm at a loss for how<br />

Perhaps we could<br />

Whyhave<br />

my disgusting “Sorry, I only speak English”<br />

medallion. Can I expand on that<br />

brief interaction with the woman on<br />

Javastreet, though?<br />

See, because there was a thread in<br />

her words which was my choice to pick<br />

up and continue with if I wanted. And<br />

my stagnancy was just as damaging as<br />

if I were to pick it up and run with it,<br />

perhaps through laughter or a sighing<br />

“Oh, goodness.” It’s the eyebrow-raising,<br />

the slight conspiring smiles which<br />

act as subtle signals for the majority:<br />

“<strong>You</strong> and I, we’re the norm. Keep looking<br />

into my eyes and laugh with me as<br />

we reaffirm one another.” (We never<br />

say it, but we attempt to settle on this<br />

being, you know, a white country.)<br />

ere are the obvious phrases which<br />

attempt to establish this warped, exclusivist<br />

sense of solidarity:<br />

“It’s just a bit too … ghetto, you<br />

know?” or,<br />

“She was just so Asian, you know?”<br />

or, similar to the woman on Javastreet,<br />

“Let’s just say it’s getting, ummm …<br />

diverse, you know?”<br />

Other times, though, it comes in less<br />


ONE<br />

.<br />

<strong>You</strong> Know?<br />

“Heb je<br />


to me.<br />

I shamefacedly offer up my first<br />

of many “Sorry, I only speak English”-s.<br />

“Do you need help?”<br />

He is the only person around; it is <br />

a.m. and I’m standing on an icy platform<br />

in east Amsterdam. I’ve been doing<br />

so for some time now. Compared<br />

with the previous stop, Amsterdam<br />

Central, there aren’t many people milling<br />

about. I hadn’t yet been able to find<br />

my way to an actual street yet; there<br />

were merely tracks in all directions, enclosed<br />

by gates.<br />

“Ahh no – I’m fine.” I’m so screwed.<br />

He takes his headphones off as I hike<br />

my bag up closer to my back.<br />

“<strong>You</strong> sure?”<br />

“Yep. anks.” I’m screwed.<br />

“Okay.”<br />

He walks down the stairs and disappears<br />

into a tunnel. I sit on a bench,<br />

looking at the directions I’d made before<br />

my flight, when I briefly found internet.<br />

“Walk northeast (as if they’d be<br />

offering compasses on the plane) – find<br />

Celebsstreet. Then: Balistreet, Javastreet,<br />

Delistreet. From Deli, take Borneo (missing<br />

on Google Maps?) – you’ll hit mporlien.”<br />

en, in large letters: “YOU<br />

WILL BE FINE.”<br />

I’m still sitting there ten minutes later<br />

when I hear someone coming up the<br />

steps. It’s him again; he walks towards<br />

me, smiling.<br />

“It’s freezing. Let me just draw you a<br />

map. Let me guess: you’re trying to get<br />

to the youth hostel?”<br />

Now I smile. Defeated, I hand him<br />

the piece of paper in my hand, which he<br />

takes a quick look at and briskly flips<br />

over. He sketches out a map, telling me<br />

how many minutes each street would<br />

probably take. e route he gave me<br />

eliminated half of the streets I thought<br />

I’d have to navigate.<br />

“Just stay to the right. <strong>You</strong> will be<br />

fine,” he says playfully.<br />

“Savior,” I say, as I offer up the rest of<br />

the chocolates in my pocket. “Savior.”<br />


in my hiking garb isn’t feeling quite as<br />

sexy as I saw it in my head. <strong>You</strong> know,<br />

sexy; lone girl traveling through Europe:<br />

my black hoodie, my lip ring, my<br />

independence … but it’s more like slipping<br />

on hidden slabs of ice and catching<br />

the random shit that keeps falling<br />

out of my bag. Nobody’s even around<br />

to witness if I were actually pulling off<br />

Lisbeth Salander – until a blonde woman<br />

gets out of a BMW beside me on Javastreet.<br />

“Headed to the youth hostel?” she<br />

asks.<br />

I stop for a minute and laugh. “Yes,<br />

you could tell?”<br />

“It’s huge. Kids are trekking past<br />

here all of the time. <strong>You</strong>’ve got about <br />

obvious strands: it’s almost culinary, a<br />

bit like parsing. Because, sometimes,<br />

when white people talk about black<br />

people in ways which would be seen by<br />

most other white people as positive or<br />

inclusive, it’s just plain patronizing. It’s<br />

my family’s proud self-identification as<br />

“multi-cultural” (funny how versatile<br />

this word can be) due to its newest<br />

additions of Leo, my cousin’s “exotic”<br />

Colombian doctor-husband, and Pat,<br />

another cousin’s African American<br />

husband who, as the Vice President of<br />

Little League International, engages<br />

one another, or on how it slips into<br />

conversations with their non-white<br />

friends. For years, their attenuated acknowledgment<br />

and exposure of it has<br />

been deemed over-reactionary and unfounded:<br />

an unfair placement of guilt,<br />

reverse racism.<br />


and the rest of the white Gordon population<br />

should address this, because “addressing”<br />

it seems to imply that it can<br />

be “dealt” with in a singular (or perhaps<br />

even week-long) event.<br />

Perhaps we could start by simply asking<br />

ourselves the following basic question:<br />

why am I here right now? I ask you<br />

right now: why have you found yourself<br />

reading this booklet, or seated at this<br />

“My Story” event?<br />

We must ask ourselves this and place<br />

ourselves in a position to be asked this<br />

by others for the following reason:<br />

many white individuals, when asked<br />

why they want to converse about diversity,<br />

would describe their choice in<br />

ways which reflect a desire for some<br />

sort of self-growth or self-expansion; ofwe<br />

should address this.<br />

start by asking ourselves:<br />

you found yourself reading this booklet?<br />

with enough white people each day to<br />

prevent too much discomfort.<br />

It may seem extreme to you if I identify<br />

this nuanced language as a key ingredient<br />

of white privilege, even white<br />

domination. Yet it’s a small part of a<br />

series of active and smuggled interactions<br />

which support a sense of superiority<br />

among a particular group of<br />

people: what else are we to call it? And<br />

as a final note: it would be foolish if I<br />

were presuming to “enlighten” my nonwhite<br />

readers on the ways in which<br />

white people employ this language with<br />


60 61

tentimes this compulsion involves a<br />

kind of civic or spiritual obligation or<br />

mandate to better understand the experiences<br />

of others. And for some time,<br />

these all worked to motivate me to only<br />

gently probe my privilege. ey motivated<br />

me to speak about diversity in<br />

brief public situations; raising my hand<br />

to speak first in a room full of other<br />

people with a face full of concern. And<br />

while I am now repeatedly confronted<br />

with the truth that these reasons fall<br />

short, they can still magically construct<br />

a safe haven for me to run back into<br />

whenever I fear experiencing what Latina<br />

feminist theorist María Lugones<br />

terms self-disruption.<br />

Self-disruption, she says, rather than<br />

self-enlightenment or self-betterment,<br />

is what the white individual needs in<br />

order to honestly engage in matters of<br />

race. As always, self-interest is easier;<br />

self-disruption calls for us to “…learn<br />

to become unintrusive, unimportant,<br />

patient to the point of tears, while at<br />

the same time open to learning any<br />

possible lessons. <strong>You</strong> will also have to<br />

come to terms with the sense of alienation,<br />

of not belonging, of having your<br />

world thoroughly disrupted, having<br />

it criticized and scrutinized from the<br />

point of view of those who have been<br />

harmed by it, having important concepts<br />

central to it dismissed, [and] being<br />

viewed with mistrust.”<br />

Given what this process requires,<br />

it would be absurd for any white person<br />

to actually engage in it out of selfinterest.<br />

And furthermore, Lugones<br />

asks, why would any non-white person<br />

even want this white person to pursue<br />

a greater understanding of race out of<br />

their own self-interest?<br />

“e severe self-disruption that the<br />

task entails should place a doubt in<br />

anyone who takes the task seriously,<br />

about her possibilities of coming out of<br />

the task whole, with a self that is not<br />

as fragmented as the selves of those<br />

who have been the victims of racism…”<br />

she says. “is learning is … extremely<br />

hard because it requires openness (including<br />

openness to severe criticism<br />

of the white/Anglo world), sensitivity,<br />

concentration, self-questioning, circumspection.<br />

It should be clear that it<br />

does not consist in a passive immersion<br />

in our cultures, but in a striving to understand<br />

what it is that our voices are<br />

saying.”<br />

What would provoke someone to be<br />

examined in such a naked, rigorous<br />

manner? I feel it’s the experience of<br />

being in close relationship with individuals<br />

whose lives are affected negatively<br />

by a lack of engagement in such<br />

examinations; experiencing a mutual<br />

affection with someone whose health,<br />

opportunity, and desire to be understood<br />

are overlooked by the same language<br />

which espouses they’re a little<br />

too “other”.<br />


closing: that I must consistently remind<br />

myself that establishing intimacy with<br />

anyone is possible. I say that because I<br />

am a person who remains highly aware<br />

of the times in which I feel misunderstood,<br />

but who lacks an awareness of<br />

how much I misunderstand others. I<br />

could simply see my privilege, which<br />

is blatant to non-whites, as immutable<br />

– simply because of my near-blindness<br />

to it. Even my small understanding that<br />

these blind spots exist makes me fear<br />

that it would be completely impossible<br />

for a non-white person to form a deeply<br />

trusting and intimate relationship with<br />

me. Yet when I’m around certain individuals<br />

– ones who have been patient<br />

enough with me to keep the door open<br />

for such discussions – I discover a place<br />

where I’m able to lay down that hesi-<br />


tancy. It was when you, as a black male,<br />

understood that my experience as a<br />

woman could help me to understand<br />

certain aspects of your silencing. It was<br />

the first time I heard you lay down the<br />

ground rules during an ALANA meeting.<br />

At the risk of sounding like an<br />

extremely horrid metaphor, it was in<br />

all of the streets you and I had waltzed<br />

down together in Boston, attempting<br />

to harmonize with one another. And<br />

next, at the risk of sounding creepy, it<br />

was when you were sleeping at the hospital<br />

and I couldn’t stop touching your<br />

hands because I knew I would be away<br />

from them for a while. Finally – just before<br />

I le – (you know, before I arrived<br />

in Amsterdam to get scared of a friendly<br />

black man on a platform), it was in that<br />

parking lot where you and I were saying<br />

goodbye – and despite me being a far<br />

cry from Whoopi Goldberg, we finally<br />

nailed the gut-wrenching parting scene<br />

in The Color Purple.<br />

In all of these places, I am reminded<br />

that our intimacy is perpetually<br />

attainable, and furthermore, that<br />

it’s indispensable.<br />


When<br />

ALANA<br />

first approached<br />

me and asked me to share<br />

the different experiences I face as an<br />

African American here at Gordon, my<br />

initial reaction was to take this as a perfect<br />

opportunity to go on a rant and regurgitate<br />

all of the many negative racial<br />

encounters I have had to face during<br />

my time here – but then I began to wonder<br />

if these experiences would actually<br />

have an impact on you. Would I be accomplishing<br />

or achieving anything? I<br />

am not sure.<br />

I could share with you all of the many<br />

negative statements people have said<br />

to me regarding my race; I could share<br />

how it’s a struggle oen being one of<br />

few African Americans in my classroom,<br />

or I could share the stories of<br />

the many times Barry Loy and others<br />

have had to come to my rescue in the<br />

different encounters I have dealt with<br />

TWO<br />

.<br />

because of my race.<br />

But I think it is far more important<br />

to address how the resentment resulting<br />

from these events have clouded my<br />

view of what it looks like to be a daughter<br />

of Christ. For far too long, I have put<br />

so much emphasis on what it looks like<br />

to be an African American in a predominantly<br />

white culture and here at a predominately<br />

white Christian College. It<br />

finally hit me that I was missing out on<br />

being able to see and value myself and<br />

my white peers as children of Christ.<br />

is could be because I did not grow<br />

up with an earthly father, or it could<br />

be because it is easier to see race first<br />

rather than other parts of our identities.<br />

I had an opportunity to talk with<br />

a mentor recently who shared her insight<br />

with me. What she shared with<br />

me was, “It is important that you begin<br />

to recognize that you are a daughter of<br />

Christ first, and then you are an African<br />


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S p r i n g 2 0 1 7<br />

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I s s u e # 1 0<br />

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