Alison Zheng’s work has been published in Jacket2, Hobart After Dark, Honey Literary, Pidgeonholes, The Offing, and more. She’s pursuing her MFA in Poetry at University of San Francisco as a Lawrence Ferlinghetti Fellow.
What I Remember
My Sanrio sticker friends: Keroppi, Pekkle, and Badtz Badtz Maru. My real friends: Nobody except our landlady from Hainan. Cooking on a portable hot plate. Drinking water from the bathroom sink. The Cambodian donut shop next door. Excelsior Library down the street. Chinatown Library on weekends. Dad’s first car: a Toyota Camry in Jolly Rancher Red. Shattered glass. Dad’s second car: A Buick that broke down on freeways. Dog-eared books inside pink plastic bags. Pretending I was shopping at the library. The multiplication table (sort of). Fractions (not at all). Care tags. Seam rippers. Our gray industrial Juki. Mom attaching collars onto J. Crew shirts. Speaking Hainanese. My parents saying, She’s going to forget it once we move. Forgetting it. Talking to myself. Waiting for Muni. A drunk white man following Mom and me home from 16th Street BART. How he kept calling her “leng lui.” How ugly Cantonese sounded when he spoke it. Realizing Cantonese was never a secret language between her and me. Realizing I can’t protect her from men like that. Moving house. Falling asleep to the sound of freeway traffic. Graffiti on our front door. Dad painting over it. The colors never matching after that. My classmates playing tag. My classmates playing kickball. Sitting on the bench. Teachers telling me I need to be more confident. Mom telling me to be quiet. Being quiet.