Roy Zhu / 朱若忆

this far West, you forget sometimes, when the guidebook jokes to you like a familiar,
that you’re the strange face who mars the perfect picture. you long
for the postcard road trip, the fantasia of open roads and freedom, but
do you still believe it? three weeks sleeping in motels & hearing your parents struggle
with gas station attendants & replies drawled slow through slit teeth. is the knot
that stays in your stomach fear or anger? so what if your classmates understood
the road never gives freedom until you beat it down? so what if your mother never told you
to turn the other cheek, even when you know the hero in the Western always
stays to fight? even then, when she’s catcalled and you see her helpless for the first time,
you’re not the fighter. never were meant to be. even your mother tells you this, warns
to know your place. America, she whispers, is a land of guns. she takes your hand & teaches
this is how you walk a straight line, as you shy from the canyon’s edge. this is how you narrow
your feet & straighten your back, so your weight doesn’t tumble to doom.
but you’re sick of it. you don’t know it yet, but you’re dreaming. dreaming of dragging
your feet out of place, not walking a line anymore but dancing your own, stumbling back
& spilling wads of desert sand & maybe blood, too, mixed with grief & the memory
of shedding it. you dream of taking home the gold mountain and telling them it wasn’t
San Francisco but the loving shade of darkened places, of finding bloodied faces that
you didn’t know were your own. you want to dance when they tell you to go be a man,
laugh because you know they mean take your skin somewhere else. you want to pull the skin
of history back to see your ancestors smile at you from America, three hundred years old &
unforgotten & laughing & proud & pointing back at them & what then? you
want to be the seated one, waiting for the door to ring, so that when your mother comes
back from the gift shop with a dreamcatcher in hand, telling you this is what they
sell everyone here, you want to say to her we never needed to buy ourselves a dream. 

Roy Zhu / 朱若忆 is a first-year from Braintree, Massachusetts studying Environmental Science and Creative Writing.