I killed you.
My heart raced as I stumbled to my feet from my affectionate bed.
Suddenly the bedroom door pounded like the thoughts in my dreams.
“Danny,” my bewildered and inebriated Chinese father called.
“What?” my properly irritated American response bellowed as I quickly threw clothes on.
My bedroom door flew open, apologizing before the reprimand.
“You’re always responding with this sense of entitlement when will you get that…,” his slurred voice trailed as I walked pass him out to the hallway towards the city bus.
You killed me.
My head in a daze trying to concentrate on the day which laid ahead.
Na my best friend came racing my way with an ensemble of light and exultation. I immediately smiled.
“Want to talk?” We boarded quickly. Her locks fell in front of her gentle face as she held me close, as if she could sense my uneasiness. “Don’t worry, you’re so much better than that,” squeezing me.
I am so grateful for her.
It was the last day of high school and I knew today was the day my entire life was about to change.
Unlocking my front door, I came home early to prepare a feast. Duck was served at the Chinese reception after a loved one had been buried. It was the Life-Death River which is the main dish with accompanying sides of rice, fruit, and vegetables which represented gifts to the deceased for safe travels.
I sat across from my father in this simple spread while he sat at the head nearest to the waterfowl.
My father smiled at the appearance, “Danny,” he said delightfully. “How was school?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
He scuffed with disappointment, “I got this in the mail,” he pushed an open envelope in my direction. Unhesitatingly revealing the letter and it read, You are cordially invited to The Culinary Institute of America’s Registration Day.
I didn’t reply to his opening gesture.
He chuckled before every insult, “you’re pathetic Danny. To really think you could be successful at -cooking,” he scuffed, wiping his mouth, and pushing his plate away.
“Do you treat me like this because of mom,” I mumbled?
“I don’t care what your mother thinks,” he stood up pushing the wooden chair against the worn floor board and slamming his palms against the table to stand. “When will you be done embarrassing this family?” He walked towards me swiping his open beer from where he stood. He stumbled and slurred his words in my direction, “Your mother hates you so she left me with you huh? And, you stilllll can’t get it right, huh?” His voice shook as he stood over me reeking of desperation. I stood out of my chair.
He was still yelling disparaging remarks as I turned towards the hallway to my bedroom ready to surrender but then with a sudden twist my my fist clenched.
“I didn’t kill her,” I turned back to the fight.
“What?” He took another swig from his beer.
“I was eight years old. If you hate that kid then hate him but I stopped blaming him a long time ago,” I was furious and relieved to finally express all that I had grown over years. “I was a child, a child, and YOU had us move to this deserted town, YOU abandoned mom, and YOU resent every fiber of me, just preying on me to fail because you’re terrified that if I did succeed,” I grew closer. “If I get just close enough, right near it,” I said almost sarcastically as if I was his inner thoughts. “You couldn’t bear to see me become twice the man you’ll ever be!” I combed my fingers through my dark mane.
“Shut up,” he threw a glass bottle in my direction. Missing me as I wiped the bottle’s reminiscent from my face. He accelerated my way but due to his poor condition we dropped to the floor as we tussled. He latched onto my neck. I threw a punch capsizing him to the floor. He grasped for me as I reached for the bottle near his head.
Don’t kill me.
Towering above my other half.
“I’m not you,” I looked at Danny (my father); realizing love and blood could never be enough to change this man because this is who he chose to be. I stepped over him and revoltingly dropped the bottle by his head. Turning and running through the hallway to grab the bag I packed the week before. Rushing to the front door.
“Where are you going?” He stumbled off the ground. “You need me,” he hung onto the sleeve of my shirt.
I froze, “I NEEDED you,” I moved my arm and walked out the door. I walked in the dusk of the night towards the bus stop. Na was holding herself as her lips parted, “You did it,” she squealed. “Are you ready for this new chapter in your life Dan?” She said amusingly.
I chuckled as we lined towards the bus, “Do you know you are the only person that gets me,” I looked deep into her eyes.
“No, I just accept you for who you are while other people are just blinded by who you will become.” She paused, wrapping her arm over my shoulder. “And Dan you will become great,” she said exaggerating as we found our way to our seats. “You did this, and your sister helped you every step of the way,” we placed our luggage overhead.
“Are you sure of that,” I sat near the window seat, Na sat beside me?
“What do you mean? Your sister is the reason you even decided-,” I cut her off.
“Yeah, but that doesn’t stop me from blaming myself for killing her. I was supposed to protect her, Na. It doesn’t even feel right to have this to feeling of freedom. To feel love feels so wrong,” I said helplessly.
Na laid her head against back of the seat. She reached for my hand, “Dan, the only person you killed is…Danny. You aren’t that little boy who neeeds love from individuals who aren’t willing to givveee you the love that you need. You aren’t weak and feeble, you aren’t stupid, and you aren’t a murderer. You. Are. A. Survivor. You may not be able realize that today, but you fought those thoughts everyday so you could stand to be that the person you are today. And Dan, that IS love. You ARE amazing Daniel Phang,” she wiped her face. “You are strong and you are powerful to walk away from anyone or anything that doesn’t reflect that. And your sister would’ve definitely wanted that for you. So yes, she is a part of this journey and yes if you didn’t let go of your old self then you wouldn’t even have the space to stand and be the man you are today.”
I wept for myself for the first time as I cherished this moment. I really took the time to absorb everything and saw Na clearly.
“I love you,” I said abruptly as we reveled in each other’s embrace.
“Um,” she blushed. “Dan you know I love you,” shyly looking away. But,” we held each other close. “Do you feel ready?” She cleared her throat, quickly changing the topic.
“Do you know I love you,” I laughed? Holding her intentionally, I never held her in this moment like I did today. “I want you to know that I appreciate you, you make all of this so much easier,” I laughed as I wept.
“Yeah,” her grin flickered in the dark. She wiped my tears. “You do too.” I knew her story of living with a busy single mother so all her needs came secondary in her household. Therefore, having each other in our lives made life more bearable. We were always a light for each other even when our path was consumed with darkness.
The following morning we arrived in the city and took a silent 15 min. car ride to the suburbs.
We both got out, “so this is it,” Na smiled as we looked up at the quant home on the corner of W 39th Street and Broadway. All the modern 1950s split level homes were lined in a row with tailored front lawns.
“It’s green,” we both smiled as the color resembled the painted interior of my childhood home. Na waited by the car. “We can leave, if you want,” she yelled reassuringly. As I took slow steady steps towards the front door.
I shook my head, as she knew I needed this. Na nodded her head clenching her palms together.
You found me.
I knocked silently at the silver door knocker. The door creaked when it opened.
“Hi,” I stood still but confident in myself, relaxing my shoulders and taking a deep breath.
She smiled, “Dan,” my mothers’ eyes filled with joy as her outreached arms opened in my direction.
I found you.
My thoughts murmured gently.
“I found you,” I said engulfing my other half. My body collapsed and the feeling of peace overcame me, as I finally accepted myself wholeheartedly.
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