I don’t know, I’m still trying to decide
what I want. I linger by the checkout lane, watch
the way the metallic soda cans shiver & pounce, all
those wasted nickels sinking corrugated rims into
my jaw. how the prices I’ve been chewing over lately,
lispy & metallic, trickle out between double puncture
wounds. a twin pack of Coca-Cola ricocheting off
concave echoing shelves on every late-night grocery
run, $1.88. the last-minute submission fee for yet another
high school poetry contest I have written about my Complex Asian
Identity for, $19.99. a glistening array of Burt’s Bees lip balm nestled &
wobbly like newborn birds in crinkled plastic, $3.29. the pre-college
Stanford summer program my counselor calls Vital For Creating
A Pathway To The T-20, $4926.00. the Chinese coupon book
left between Aisle A, which sells noodles & rice products, and Aisle B,
which recedes further into the distance for every boxy character I
cannot read, $0.00. the application fee for a ivy-buried
University that makes me call my mother and say can you
believe they’re charging this price for a possibility. can you believe
I still want it, $80. what I can’t calculate is the price without
numbers, how the exchange doesn’t end at the cash register. what
I don’t name is all the parts of me I’ve left behind
for the junkyards to ingest.
if it’s not a phone-book list of expenses, it’ll be
a scribbled shopping list of traits scattered endearingly throughout
every classroom start-up non-profit volunteer Icebreaker Introduction
I have participated in, to make myself Someone Set for
Success: IB Diploma Student. Ampersand Enthusiast.
Lit Mag Founder. 1500 on the SAT. Wears only
lipstick and no other makeup. Girl-kisser.
Writes poetry about God, no, wait, to capitalize
or not? god? no, my Mother, no, my Kitchen,
a bag of tangerines but Not the kind every Asian-American poet writes about,
God no, every lit mag rejection email lately has been telling of the
overabundance of fruit as a motif for love.
so please let it be known
that I write Asian Grocery Store and not Costco. this way, the
College Admissions Counselors will know I have a sense of identity.
that I am like a compass: I know every way home no matter where
I am. that I am an Asset to Every Situation, you want me by your side, you
want me to walk through these Latin-adorned History-bound
arches of Higher Learning. to say without saying that, yes,
I have walked down this supermarket aisle every Friday evening since
I was six. A unrelenting routine that I will turn into some kind of
literary metaphor about Growth in a ruthlessly peer-reviewed
Personal Statement. no, I do not see myself in every scattered corporate
bathroom mirror across the country. I am the Girl you want and not a ghost. no, I
have not forgotten my Mother Tongue nor my Mother’s Endless efforts
to get me where I am today. a series of checkout
lane beeps echo from across the supermarket, Your barcode number
is invalid. Please contact the nearest customer service. everything marketable,
everything label-able, box-able, sell-able to the most wanting
my mother asks me what I will put on my Common App
Essays. I say, the google bookmarks folder labeled for my poetry
chockfull with synonyms & dictionary.com & ‘search history: interesting
facts about’ / the Letterboxd list of A24 film reviews I reference when
someone asks about my Likes and Dislikes / the price tag of every
local-grocery-store-fruit I have consumed in the past month.
Ma’am, the cashier says. Ma’am, are you ready to check-out? I turn,
see my wavering reflections steadily watching me through the cash registers,
grocery bags, linoleum tile. Ma’am, what do you want?
Myself. I want myself back.
Editors: Phoebe H., Luna Y., Uzayer M.