Small by Stephanie Cuepo Wobby

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abstract picture of red and green lights shining through wet car windshield

Once, on the way home from a party, we argued about microaggressions, and I remembered all of the times I was shoved out of my comfort zone. Not by him, but by people like him, and yes—I know that this line of thinking needs correction.

It’s true, none of them were his fault: my uncle’s silence, his solution for the accent he couldn’t get rid of after decades of being in the States; my cousins’ agitation over correcting every grammar slip in mixed company; the collections of skin-brightening soaps my aunties traded around for the “best results”; my “widescreen” almond eyes; my mother’s $725 citizenship fee; the store employees who shadowed me; the cashier who refused to look at me; our neighbor who only ever waved at him when the two of us passed by; the never-ending paranoia—is it me, or is it me?;our friend who wrote, “People who break laws are separated from their kids all the time!”; our friend who said, “Hi, dragon lady”; our friend who asked, “Wait, you’re an immigrant?”; the man who shouted, “Make America Great Again, Vote Trump!”

They aren’t his fault, no.

He drove in silence while I explained that he would never have to worry about “these things” happening to him, that he would never understand how I felt, that this conversation will never go anywhere because there are not enough words to pinpoint the anxiety, the shame, of being othered. All the while, the memories of him confronting each friend dissolved.  

“Not everyone is bad,” he said. But I thought, You don’t know. So when he pleaded for me to be the better person, my heart hurled itself against my rib. When he said, “But I don’t think they really mean that,” I could only see my mother’s face as she repeated her question to an indifferent customer service clerk—

(“I’m sorry, but can you repeat that?”)

—could only hear how she enunciated her words and rounded out her vowels—

(“I don’t understand.”)

—could only feel her fidgeting, trying to find the right word—

(“Come again?”)

—could only imagine her, my mother, her mouth turned up and her eyebrows raised, as if she were trying to smile.

Meet the Contributor

Stephanie Cuepo Wobby is a Filipino American writer. She is currently pursuing her MFA at Columbia University.

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/ARMEN

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