WRITTEN BY YEJI KIM
Initially published by Body Without Organs
I’m not even five minutes out the door when a man spits on me. It sears into my skin and burns and boils and then I am on fire and there is no more water in the world but spit. He rests his mouth into a nasty grin and spits out some more like he just learned tobacco can kill you, like he’s trying to put out the fire that’s on my cheek but make it into a new literary device called sarcasm plus all three types of irony. He says chinese virus but what he really means is something different. I think he means i hate you go back to your country why did you ever come here anyways this is all your fault ihateyouihateyouihateyou but he manages to fit it all into two words. It stings like the cut I once got from a paper lantern, it’s some kind of semi-fathomable betrayal that makes me dizzy when I think about it. Later I read a New York Times article about a girl who got spit on by a man with a nasty grin and forgot how it got published. I don’t explain to my little brother who laughs when kids ask him if he eats bats and snakes and loch ness monsters and drinks blood from a cursed stream that bleeds into the bloodlines of those who have no home because ha ha ha how silly is that? I go to bed with the spit mark still stained on my cheek like a red target announcing i am i am i am a sacrificial looking glass for the ignorant. And it bleeds into my head and kisses with the pound in my heart and brain and soul become one until I start to believe it but stop myself just in time before I stare at the mark too long. The next day I’m not even an hour out the door when a man spits on me. Spit is not saliva. Spit is only formed with the kind of rancor that even optimists hate and pessimists tolerate and narcissists love. It has been boiling for a thousand years in the mouths of those who might have known better, it is boiled the exact same way they boil murdered cherry blossoms. They cook their food in my heat. The president says he is a wartime president. I say I am the hardtack they eat. That night I spot fifty stars in the sky but cannot name a single one of them so I name them all promises I heard and pray they like it for the time being. It’s only temporary. The spit stain stays on my cheek. My brother and my mother and my father all beg of me to wipe it off but I cannot, I scrub until the red mark becomes crimson blotches, I wipe and wash until my skin becomes the paste that kids use to make lotus seed mooncakes or paper mâché with, maybe someday somebody will take my cheek and make a monument out of it. My fathers at Rushmore and my sisters in their hanok disintegrate into a medium that finds itself hard to exist. The mark spreads to the rest of my body, covering the empty space under my moles and thick shoulders and dark armpits and dehydrated lips. I have been marked by a broken promised land. I want to spit back but my mouth is parched. I want to tell him I’m not Chinese but my legs are running and there are bugbears of malevolence and laughter in my ears and then I am 50 years out the door when someone spits on me. My nails try to peel off layers of the marked spit which is a synonym for hate which is to say that they are challenging me to a game of freeze tag but they leave halfway so nobody can win. The final score is cheeks: burn, eyes: dry.