We were walking down the street, fresh kumquats in hand, one day in her neighborhood of Little Saigon. Biggest Vietnamese ghetto outside of Vietnam, quietly situated across boba shops and Pho 99s, smack dab in the middle of 1999. My best friend and me, walking past dirt yards and Buddha bellies, swinging our little arms and sucking the juice out of the tiny, tart things that weren't quite oranges. We had grabbed them from the red envelope cement of her front yard, where strange smells from the kitchen and karaoke with English subtitles belted out from the peeling paint windows. Circling and circling around the block, bored as an Orange County summer, I opened my 9-year old trap to say, “You’re weird.” And I giggled. We joked like that, all of us, the half Mexican and the fat Japanese one especially. All us Orange County different-colored girls, poking fun at each other before the boys did, before the ads did, criticizing ourselves like our moms did, every flaw pointed out. I said to her this time, “You’re funny weird. You joke weird.” This was a compliment. “Yeah!” she said. So I kept going, “In fact, everything about you is weird. You look weird. You talk weird. You dance weird. You smell weird!” She was laughing with me until. Quiet. I stopped. We walked. Throwing away the skins now. Passing the house where the dog cried all day long, and then, one day, didn’t. “You think I look weird?” Stammer. “No,” I said. She cringed at me with long Viet face, big lidless eyes, framed by muddy cream skin and flat tracks of black hair, fallen. “I always thought I looked weird,” she said. I stared back, chubby China cheeks and big teeth, fat stupid fists wanting to ball up and kill the guy who killed his dog. We drifted back to her house, then drifted apart after 5th grade. What she didn’t realize was, what I didn’t say was, what I couldn’t say was, I didn’t mean it. A mirror can’t be offended. We’re in this together. Your face is mine.
Nancy Lynée Woo is fortunate to have found a lovely poetry home in Long Beach, CA with the fine folks of the Poetry Lab. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Subterranean Quarterly, Melancholy Hyperbole, Cadence Collective and Cease, Cows. This particular piece is taken from a larger work of prose poems that hopes to be published in the near future.