Photo by Andrew Le on Unsplash

Stay and Listen

Thank you for staying. You make me feel safe.

It’s in your eyes, you know, from those shifting pools of black and blue, I can tell those mirrored glances jumping from the dinner leftovers sitting cooly before the two of us to the drumming humming of the clock ticking to the midnight hour. You’re impatient, aren’t you? And I want to say sorry, but the word is stuck, clinging to the tip of my tongue as my throat is too hoarse for me to breathe and my eyes are too cloudy for coherent thoughts to form. I hate that I’m crying, and I hate that you just don’t understand why. 

It was on the eve of March when I lost my naiveness and had to grow conscious. Never before have I’ve become so vividly aware of my Asian-ness to be the target of a society grappled by Whiteness. Never before have I felt that gut-wrenching feeling when witnessing someone with eyes like my grandmother, mother, sister, cousin once or twice removed, cursed at on the sidewalks. Eyes like mine beaten black and blue. Their tears and blood paraded across the streets, spawled against the subway. Never before have my dark hair and slanted eyes been my biggest insecurity, my largest fear, or my newest shame. Walking out of the house only to stand still with fear of becoming the next flashing headline, knowing now that you are in fact still a foreigner even though you lived in America for all of your life. Suppressing the urge to scream,  yell out at passing strangers, and maybe even yourself that while you are Asian, you’re still American. How exhausting it is to turn on your phone just to scroll through headlines and shaky videos of those who look like you bleeding and crying out for help, only for backs to be turned away in response. How scared you were. How scared you were of everything about yourself.  

But how would you know? How would you ever understand my fears? How would you even grasp that the impending deep-rooted fear of simply existing, the seed that only grew and grasped and warped around my consciousness recently, never went away? I’m screaming at you, balling my eyes out, my eyes seething red and your ears bleeding red. You stood and slowly walked to the fridge to grab me a glass of water before excessively patting my back as if hugging me would make me explode, and you just didn’t want the burden of restitching my broken pieces back together. 

“Calm down” was all you said, but how insulting, how degrading, your words felt. Why can’t you let me be mad? Let me scream till my throat’s stripped. Let me just get this icky unreasonable feeling of fear off of me. And for the love of God, take your hands off me – patting my back isn’t helping. Same as your eyes shifting from me to the distilled water glass isn’t helping. We both know I’m not mad at you in that way, I know you don’t believe in that bigotry, but would it kill you to at least pay attention and listen to what I’m saying? 

Listen to me. Please just listen to me. I know it’s getting late, I watch your eyes subtly relapse forward, but please stay and just listen to me. Cause I don’t know how to deal with this feeling. I feel so alone, so ridiculous for being fearful, so please just let me be mad. I know you don’t understand me, you may never understand me, but I know you still care. You express your guilty feelings through that distilled water glass and you just being here with me – listening to me as I try to navigate the sea of my emotions and fears. And yes sometimes I do get mad at you for never even having my thoughts but it’s selfish for me to wish you’ll experience my fears. I know that. But I want what you have. Your America. So badly, it’s sad. So I choke out a broken “sorry” from my burning sore throat, expecting a tried “goodnight” but you sighed and whispered: “don’t be sorry”. 

So thank you. It’s exhausting for both of us. The clock’s still drumming and humming and our cold dinner leftovers with the addition of the distilled water stand still, yet I can tell something changed within both of us. This fear hasn’t gone away, probably never will, and you still will never experience my pains, but you stayed. Your eyes of pools of black and blue don’t shift into those mirrored glances anymore, no, they meet my slanted eyes of brown and stay there. You listen. You don’t question me. You don’t make me feel like an idiot for feeling mad, for feeling scared. You make me feel safe. 

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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