I call you on Facetime, and, when you pick up, you’re laughing, mid-sentence with people in the background. My parents are here, you say, and your mother appears behind you, your father behind her, and their faces light up.
Oh! Hi! Are you? they ask, and your mother takes your phone, pushes you out of the way. We’ve heard so much about you! she says as you reappear behind your father’s shoulder. It’s so lovely to see you — I don’t know that we’ve seen our child so happy, she continues, and I break down crying.
I don’t know what happens next because I’m crying into my hands, my phone on the floor beside me, and my puppy is crawling into my arms, trying to lick my face and bite my nose, wagging his tail furiously to remind me he’s here, he can feel my distress. You’re saying my name over and over again, asking, Shit, what happened? Are you okay?, and I want to hang up, want to say, I’m fine, even though I’m not (and you wouldn’t believe me and leave me alone, anyway), want to apologize for ruining the mood with your parents, especially when they’d been so nice and so sweet, and I’d wanted to meet them, too.
Hey, you say when my crying sounds diminish into sniffles, did something happen?
I wipe my eyes, blow my nose, and pick up my phone again, even though I know I look like a red, swollen monster.
No, I say. Nothing really happened; it’s just … but the words won’t come.
I know, you say, and you do know in the way that all of us know, all of us who are different in some way, all of us who want different things, who love different people. You know in the ways we all do what rejection looks like, rejection on the grounds of gender, sexuality, religion, rejection that is often silent and implicit until it isn’t.
They love you so much, I say.
They’ll love you, too, you say back. You’re the one who says we make our own families.
It’s fucked up that that has to be true.
Maybe. If you look at it one way. If you look at it another way, though …
Oh my god, are you trying to tell me it’s all about perspective right now? You know how much I hate perspective, I say, try to scowl.
Only as much as you hate silver linings, you say and laugh.
Yeah, well … I say, blow my nose into another tissue. I’m sorry. I hope I didn’t ruin the mood with your parents.
Nothing to apologize for. Just be prepared, though. When you do meet them in-person, my mother will probably try to bury you in food. She does make a hell of a schnitzel.
Is that another skill you didn’t pick up?
Yup. What can I say, though? Asian kid here, white parents, remember?
Says the Asian who doesn’t like sesame oil.
I don’t not like sesame oil. I just like it in moderation. In the right dishes.
You smile, your eyes soft, and I wish you were here. Did you at least eat well?
Yeah. My sister-in-law’s parents cook well. And they made so many handmade dumplings. And hand-pulled noodles. So yeah. The food at least was worth it. And who knows how many more of these family things I’ll have?
You smile at me with all the assurance of someone who loves me. You’ll have a lifetime of them because you’ll make your own. And I’ll be there to make them with you. And I do make good dumplings. And handmade noodles, except my noodles are pasta, but noodles are noodles, and I don’t think you discriminate.
Nope. Not at all.