When you wake-up in Tokyo, California dreaming… READ THE STORY at Hanako and Jiro in Japan on hanahawley.com.
“I can’t,” I say, loud enough for him to hear but hoping the girls won’t.
“I can’t do it.”
“You can,” he says, equally quiet. “Just try it.”
I shake my head, taking in the sight of the other girls, their tight abs, their perfectly round backsides. Their shapely legs pull in unison against the ropes, their bodies bent in two like the legs of a shiny metal compass completing measurements. I’m flanked by them- out, in, out, in. Their tight bodies strain against the effort but the girls still manage to look like they’re filming a Beach Body DVD.
That would make me the –you can do it too person sweating in the background while the pros glisten and glow up front near the instructor. The sweat from my effort on the treadmill ten minutes ago is still evaporating from my skin and surrounded by these girls who can, I find myself choking on the humiliations of the past.
I see grade school me, shoulders slumped in defeat, eyes cast down and boring holes into my white Reeboks as I toe the blue tape of the shiny gym floor. I’m overwhelmed by a sense of ineptitude, of invisibility. I listen despondently as names are yelled enthusiastically from the team captains standing before me. Will they remember my name this time or will I be the last one called, my name then becoming irrelevant?
Then, as expected, the voices calling the names take on another tone. They deign to divvy up the lesser of the less. I can hear them roll their eyes and sympathize with each other on having to take that girl who plays violin and doesn’t play sports.
I try to lift my body in a similar fashion but land on my hands and knees. I feel as though the Beach Body girls are judging me from the corner of their eyes, already deciding to pick me last.
Before the grade school me becomes paralyzed on the gym floor I pick myself up and leave. I feel bad for the kids facing team captains all over the world but I’m not trapped in those situations anymore. My worth isn’t based on the number of people I can hit with a dodge ball. So I go, marveling that wounds from the past could still hurt in new ways.
My parents are visiting me from Minnesota this week! I don’t think I’ll ever feel too old to play dress-up with mom!
“What do you think, honey?”
The question is music to my ears. She’s trying on the “newest” lip color from MAC. Posh Tone promises to make her lips look expensive and pouty. It’s a pretty color on her and I tell her she should definitely get it. The MAC girl is fluttering protectively over mom’s face and the tittering wanes a bit as she realizes I’m not one of those girls- I don’t have to be the one making all the suggestions.
It’s fun and gratifying when mom wants my opinion or compliments. Sure it might be on superficial things like lipstick or throw pillows but the underlying message to me, is much deeper. I want us to connect, I want you to like what I’m doing or saying. What you think little girl, matters to me.
It feels like just yesterday that all that mattered was playing dress-up and getting her to laugh or smile in delight at something I’d said or done. No matter how much I want my internal voices to matter more, there’s a weight to what she says that is denser than what my own instincts dictate. That doesn’t mean I always agree or that my voices lay immovable beneath hers but it doesn’t stop me from wishing unreasonably that our thought processes could work togehter like synchronized swimmers in the Olympics
A fleeting thought transforms me from waxing poetic about being a child in carefree days of summer to an individual on high alert, scouting for suspicious eyes.
Mommies at this park probably think I’m some sort of weirdo sitting here, childless, watching kids run around a place that’s obviously just a kid zone. It’s obviously not a bird watching zone, or get some sun zone, or play Frisbee zone since it has a massive rubbery jungle-gym stationed smack dab in the middle of it.
Absurd, I think. For all they know I’m just a negligent mommy letting her child run around unsupervised, letting him or her eat dirt and push smaller kids around. This thought slightly horrifies me.
Maybe they think I’m some poor, childless woman who yearns for children of her own and comforts herself by stopping by the park to watch others nurture. But then, I don’t think I look quite old enough or sad enough to fit that category.
I had been overcome with a general sense of well-being. The sun was out, the air was crisp and I was in the middle of an incredibly insightful book…when I saw the sign that punctured my joy.
Adults must be accompanied by a child.
The dark green sign demands attention and respect. My mind muddles over the verbiage. Does that mean I’m not supposed to be here, I wonder? Would park police come around and notice my diaper bag/stroller-less state and demand I leave while adults accompanied by a child tsked and shook their heads? Did this mean a parent could report me for lollygagging around a public place unaccompanied by a child?
There was no getting back to my book after that, no way I could wax poetic about being a kid again. I left.
Someday, I thought. Someday I’d meet the city’s qualifications and I’d be back, kid in tow.
Eyes that are almond shaped are beautiful. They are also a mystery. As an Asian child nurtured by Caucasian parents the most loving and familiar eyes I’d known were theirs shaped. As I moved around the country and began my life in LA it was clear to me why a college news broadcasting professor once said I should get out of Illinois and move west. I believe he said something to the effect of, “They have a lot of Asians out there.” He said this as though he were commenting on the number of pot heads or crime or mosquitoes.
I remember thinking, why would I move further west where my face wouldn’t stand-out? Wouldn’t I have a better chance of getting noticed in the Midwest in a sea of blond and blue? And then he’d answered my unspoken question. “People would identify with you better out there.”
His intentions were good, but his comments made me feel strangely alienated.
I’m in San Francisco for the day, working out of The Coffee Bar, a trendy, contemporary scene where a shiny sea of Macs provides a united front against my weary HP. It’s probably eight to nine Asian to “other”. It’s no surprise to me that I’m probably the only one with black hair hunched over an HP. Not that I’m saying all Asians use Macs. My point is that I may look like a Mac but I have HP insides. And the other Macs tend to reject my software.
Yeah, I think, sipping my latte with homemade caramel syrup, yeah, there sure are a lot of them out here.
We’re playing a game of tag and currently I‘m “it“. He’s been a bit on the grumpy side for the last couple of hours and I can tell that my incessant chatter is only making things worse but I can’t seem to stop talking.
I’m in a good mood. The day is sunny and the breeze is just cold enough to be refreshing. I want to chat on our walk through Griffith Park. The crunch, crunch of the powdery dirt and rock beneath my feet is satisfying and I can smell the dry grass braised by the sun as it sweeps across my face on the breeze. I’m hoping that something in my mindless, out-of-breath banter will strike a chord with him and make him laugh. No such luck.
It’s another full hour or so before our roles reverse. I’m not exactly sure when the switch happens- where he’s “it” and I’m the one feeling irate but it inevitably does. It’s almost as though we take turns punishing each other for the other’s grumpiness. Subconsciously we try to bring the other person UP when they’re down, but just when their mood seems to elevate, the other person throws their hands up in resignation as if to say- this is hopeless! Why should I try so hard to make you smile? So by the time one person wants to interact and be themselves again, the other person starts mumbling and making snide remarks. Oh, so now you want to talk to me? Now you’re in a good mood? Well, it’s just TOO LATE BUSTER!
Today we each take a turn before calling it quits. I mumble something about being sorry I made that comment and he apologizes in kind with a smile in his voice. It’s interesting how our sense of righteous self-indignation can come into play in the smallest of ways…similar to a game of tag.