Hey Afro Puff Chronicles! I’m Emma Chan, and I’m 15 years old from Chester, NJ; I go to Kent Place School. I’m half Chinese, half Hong Kongese, and 100% Asian-American. One important issue that isn’t often addressed in the Asian-American community is homophobia. The hardest part about living in the hyphen is having to reconcile the values of two completely different worlds: the conservative Asian culture and the more accepting Western viewpoint. LGBT+ members of the Asian-American community specifically highlight this problem, but I believe it gets little coverage in the media. I often integrate themes of identity and self-love in my writing. The pieces I submitted focus specifically on sexuality and the feeling that your love is “wrong” because your culture or family tells you so. I know lots of “gaysians”, or LGBT+ Asians out there can relate, so I want to call attention to this important topic through my writing and let people know that they should have their voice heard!
pride for the closeted
By Emma Chan
You wake up and you expect to be filled with rainbows and happiness and smiles. Instead you feel like a limp towel damp and draped and dangling controlled from falling by one thin line of promise that things will get better and today is just an acrid reminder of that.
So you shuffle down the street and all you feel is tired. The people celebrating pride don’t know that being able to be proud is a privilege and they have forgotten that pride is for the closeted too. You are tired of the biting hypocrisy the gilded façade the elaborate masquerade and you want it to be over.
You don’t want to feel anymore, because feelings get you in trouble. You remember the good ol’ times when you thought that you could wait until your parents died to come out like a cockroach scuttling out from a crack in the wall and live your life. Now that it seems like your life could be shorter than theirs you are dubious.
At school everything is the same including the nagging, lingering premonition that someone knows, and then your friends’ parents will know, and then your parents will know, and then everyone will know and you, you monster will be damned for the very thing that you wished on a thousand stars
you could change about yourself. You still remember the day no, the instant that you realized that the one thing you were thankful for that wasn’t true had come true like a nightmare because you looked too deep into the wrong girl’s eyes and you became trapped in them like a fly in amber your heart gallivanting in your chest like an excited puppy finally off the leash. You pray to whatever God is listening to erase your heart of the scummy, black mark of inadequacy and start over normal.
People ask. Why haven’t you told your parents? As if it’s as easy as asking what’s for dinner. You don’t know what to say to that. Honestly, it’s just that there’s no room for honesty in the closet.
And yet (here’s where the oxymoronic part comes in) you want to laugh and scream and cry and shout and say that who you are is no different because you see a girl on the street and think that she is attractive instead of pretty. But it’s really not like they’d listen anyways. All they know is that to be repulsed is the correct response to someone- no, something so unnatural, so strange a tendency born of miswired psychology and boredom. And you dont think that’s right, but you can’t let them know that in the first place. So you smile and wave and nod.
But the world is awakening.
And even if they, the people who are made to love and support you unconditionally don’t accept you for who you are then maybe they’re not meant to. Don’t lie to yourself and say that that’s okay because in all honesty, that’s messed up. But there’s nothing you can do to heal a bleeding world in a day so you stride fast down the street with your head hanging down and even as you are filled with fear you see rainbows and even if you don’t show pride, you feel pride, and you are pride.
ode to my bedroom closet there’s no room for honesty in the closet because there are skeletons dancing in the darkness, dusty bodies heaped carelessly like ragdolls, jammed and squeezed so that the door could wedge the shadows shut. i’m one of them meaning that, unlike them, i have to come out sometime for each leaf that falls off a stretching tree in autumn there’s a tear behind a smile because there are lies building up like a pile of sifting golden flame
ad astra I have always wondered whether things could be different they say that every choice you have made in life has led up to this moment this burning of your tear ducts these tears swimming in the oasis of your eyes i have imagined these alternate realities a fork in the road, and then another, again and again in the same way, forever astral projecting into the body of another the happiness of someone else laughing with a laughter that is not mine
i walk into the kitchen without saying hello trapped in my own perfect world at night my soul is free to wander picking its way through the thicket, i distantly recall that not all those who wander are lost as i twist and turn and walk for miles and miles in a body that is not mine but, at least in dreams, feels like one that I could get used to loving and living in and it seems like a respite, a lull in the storm until i jerk awake. my foreign, grotesque body hits the mattress with a sick thud. i remember someone saying that every time you startle awake another you from another universe, better or worse has died i say a silent prayer, an homage to a forgotten better self and succumb to dreams and whisper to myself Non est ad astra mollis e terris via
love i have never been in love before, (i haven’t been allowed to love, they said, and told me i couldn’t know what that meant) and maybe that’s why i can only imagine being able to love and love and love again no matter how many times the tears stung the corners of your eyes how many maps of sorrow laced with flecks of gold were scrawled into your back how many nights the stars faded from view, but only grew sharper as you drifted away how many apologies, an echo and an answer how many stolen kisses in early morning light how many fluttering butterflies grazed your skin, i can only dream about what love is like soft peach fuzz on lacquered wood salty ocean spray magnanimous sunrise
still sometimes i am able to make myself believe that the angry red lines from last time have faded from glistening ruby red to scratchy, dull maroon so i should be fine. i have healed. i walk into class and know that you are not what i want who i am allowed to love nor what i need nor someone that is good for me and that because you are (d), none of the above i rationally should throw away my feelings or at least fold them into the churning mixture of my heart integrated in. homogenous. i walk into class thinking that i will be fine this time, because i have grown an immunity to poison and then I hear your laugh, watch your winged eyeliner crinkle into a folding fan of rare happiness and am forced to admit, nope, i was wrong. still in love.
By Emma Chan
I want to call your name, the noise ricocheting sharply like a shot around the narrow walls and fly down an alleyway filled with light to meet you midnight-blue skirt pleats billowing like petals, breeze caressing my skin I want to secretly slip my hand in yours for a fleeting moment as we bob along, buoyed by an effervescent zephyr separating and coming back together, weaving like singing swallows across the gentle cobblestone waves the rosy hint of morning sun on your lips and the fresh scent of summer in your hair I want to succumb to the pull of promise and prowl the bustling shopping streets of Ginza at lunch break, burning up with the thrill of doing the forbidden and the giddy excitement of being free I want to run and run and keep running forever in a sobbing sky the gray mist blooming over emerald rice paddies splashing in puddles and feeling the wet, sinking, soaking chill
and watching you fling the shaking droplets from your limp, hanging hair I want to laugh like there’s no tomorrow the air squeezing out of my lungs in gleeful bursts as we try, and fail, to snag a plushie from the claw machine for the sixteenth time and walk away with empty hands, light wallets and brimming hearts I want to lean against you on the subway ride home reaching up to tightly clasp the oscillating handles and not quite being tall enough, but that’s okay I want to press a soft kiss to your cheek as the sky dims around us holding a cup of bubble tea in one hand and the faded smell of leather and eraser shavings in the other I want to feel the world grind to a halt hearing the melodic chime and the rush of crisp, biting night air as the doors open letting in a constellation of serendipity idyllic, infectious, intoxicating, igneous, ichorous I want to lie on a velvet carpet of viridity watching the festival glow like an ember of hope a village, a tradition, a home coming alive tucked into the crook of of two silent, listening mountains seeing “大” branded into the sleeping valley with apoplectic torches and the fireflies perform their sacred dance rising up, up, up into the satin curtain of darkness without a care in the world and vanishing as soon as their light begins to shine I want to discover more in you and in me than we ever thought possible cradling the strawberry moon in our hands holding the orphic fire in our souls
ekphrasis I it’s you, and it’s always been you, and i don’t think that getting you out of my head changes the fact that i lost my mind and gained my raison d’être the plum-colored dusk you tore this lesson from my bleeding lips and i swear, i swore i could fly, love or grow flowers from my fingertips soft epilogues can’t capture a singing swallow’s beauty
II i was a warning sign, yellow triangles tattooed into my skin
and i wanted to tell you that you would regret it, to turn back now but i felt the handcuffs chafing my wrists break the moment i saw the unchained look in your eyes the bass injecting illicit love into our veins but none of that changed the fact that we were broken we drank to the fact that the world couldn’t cage us but we didn’t know the steel bars were ourselves
III we made offerings of rainbow-coated baby’s breath to the god(esse) of love but there was no way of knowing whether prayers or profanity would reach the heavens faster and even though you (we) were bruised like a crimson and auburn apple dropped one too many times into despair it’s always been you,
IV and the thrum of your ukulele the night sky swimming your eyes the taste of ruby-red cherries at dawn the juice dribbling down your chin and now i can’t get your song out of my heart (my love, we were made to write out lyrics on paper napkins name our fractured light the colors of the sky and find a way to heal like golden glowing apricots we may be battered by rain but oh, we are worthy of the sun)
sometimes i wish i could grope around in the dark my fingers tracing an electric path in the braille on the floorboards until i find the place that is me-shaped, the crack that i crawled out from the putrid plank that birthed that. i didn’t have a name yet,
but you gave me an ekphrasis for painted nails, gossamer lip gloss, butterflies whose crumpled wings fluttered at my feet the day you proclaimed me broken. what was i, then if not abject what were we, then if not the squelching squalid maggots that come streaming out from where shame has tucked them behind the walls when darkness lowers satin serendipity upon our monologue. scene: you, ring of stars, crusher of dreams me, throne of ants crown of worms
did you have to cut me open with a shard of glass let the blood slip from my lips crumple my heart with your fingertips to see that it was diseased?