Chen-ou Liu's Translation Project: First English-Chinese Haiku and Tanka Blog

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The First American I Ever Knew

On his side of the wall, black Jesus hangs from the cross in a painting, and next to him, Malcolm X points his finger in a photo. I am curious as to why my roommate, Malik, placed these two pictures side by side, but I don't know him well enough to ask such a personal question. This is the first time I've ever studied abroad, and also the first time I've ever lived with a non-Chinese person. I have little clue what personal boundaries are, but Malik and I have gotten along (albeit for only three weeks so far).

I first broke the ice and got to know him when I prepared a Chinese dinner for the two of us the second Sunday after I moved in. He gave me face by finishing the last grain of rice in his bowl and sucking out the last shred of chicken from the wing flapper on his plate. The next morning as he left to attend a student union meeting, he looked me in the eye and said, "I want to thank you again for your heartwarming dinner. The chicken dish reminded me of the Chinese takeout my father brought me after his last shift. I saw him in my dreams last night for the first time since he died unexpectedly."

racism kills, kill racism
my roommate
chanting in his sleep ...
a transient light
before sunrise

Ribbons, 13:2, Spring/Summer 2017