age 8 - oblivious:
my almond-shaped eyes crinkling,
smiling and giggling on the monkey bars
a time of simplicity
a time of blissful ignorance
he looked at my eyes and brought his fingers to his temples
pressing and stretching his lids like they were some type of toy
“you look just like me!” i exclaimed
and so i laughed
while ignoring my blurring vision
and closed up throat because they were
age 10 - ashamed:
my vibrant pink lunch box bounced in my hands
as i made my way to the cafeteria tables
the cacophony of students adds to the usual colorful chaos
but they sneer at me
their noses upturn
and i see them squirm
nanay told me it was rude to criticize
that i’m supposed to keep my thoughts to myself
so why did they do it to me?
was the rice not white enough for them?
so i turned my nose up at the dishes my mom made
and opted for food that my peers accepted
too stuck up to notice my mother’s sullen face when i refused her food
too naive to realize my mistakes
age 13 - normalized:
at last, my teenage years
for me, with adolescence came assimilation
i wanted to fit in
and tried so hard
no matter the cost
people would say
“of course you’re smart, you’re asian!”
“you play the piano? that’s such an asian thing to do!”
“i got a better score than you? i’m practically more asian than you!”
and i laughed.
can you believe that?
i made a fool of myself
hid my cultural insecurity
behind a glass mask that cracked
with every word
why speak up anyway?
there wasn’t anything wrong with this
age 15 - terrified:
a time unlike any other
covid-19, we called it
cases rise and fall and rise and fall
but what if
there is another virus i’m afraid of?
our brothers, sisters
our identity is being shaped by those who fear the unknown
who feel the need to blame someone anyone for issues they cannot control
as the cases rise
so do the hate crimes.
it isn’t our fault
it never was
i am still so afraid
afraid of how my almond eyes
the eyes that people now envy to possess
the eyes they paint on their faces to imitate us
without the fear
without the repercussions
may be the death of me.
- Julianne Tenorio
Cover Photo Source: https://www.behance.net/gallery/41853087/Race-and-Identity-Asian-America