from a blog of poetry... I liked this, because I can kinda relate.
i have always wanted to work in a korean nail salon
i have always wanted to work
in a korean nail salon
painting nails and airbrushing tips
while chattering softly
in an unknowable language
doing pedicures and filing feet
and mentioning to each other
that that white person’s foot
was like a loaf of wonderbread.
when i was thirteen
i went to get my nails done
and i listened to the women
speak to each other in a complicated tongue
and i thought they were laughing at me.
poor little twinkie,
she doesn’t even know we’re talking about her!
this may have just been paranoia
but my inability to grasp my own language
makes me feel paranoid,
makes me feel
like i have a small penis.
how many times have you
stepped into an elevator
and thought someone was talking about you
in a musical language, in a gutteral language
and then the doors slide open
and you go about your day
but you still keep those sideways glances
in the back of your mind?
i listened to those women speak
and strained to hear inflections,
tried to discerne tone and rhythm
a soft clucking of the tongue
and words followed by a titter.
in all my twenty two years
i have never sensed
the way i did when i heard those women laugh
mouths hidden behind surgical masks
as they applied chemicals to some woman
with big hair and a layer of fat around her waist
i never never felt that kind of commonality
i am at times ashamed of my whiteness
of my pathetically limited knowledge of korean food language culture
how i know hamburgers better than i know the types of kimchi
how that woman in the library
started speaking to me in korean
and i couldn’t answer her
because i didn’t know what the hell she was saying
how self-teaching language programs
only serve to confuse me more
how i can’t wrap my mouth around the words
even with korean-english dictionaries
how cute that boy with the spikey black hair was,
and how he’d never even look twice at me
because my parents are white.
because all of my friends are white.
because i was born at a bad time.
because my birth mother abandoned me.
because i have never been to seoul.
because that soft-spoken korean girl in my english class
stopped talking to me
because her friends told her to.
i would sit at the lunch table on one side,
they on the other,
and they would talk and laugh
and i would read my books
as though my eyes could burn holes in them.
as the nail salon closes,
i’m on a bench across the street
watching them rinse out the pedicure tubs,
spinning the tops of the nail polish bottles closed.
they leave together.
one of them sees me
i wave back.
it needs no translation.