by Annie Malecek
People often ask me when I first figured out that I was adopted.
As in, figured out that my parents are white.
Or rather, that I am not.
My natural inclination is to fuck with people. To get even.
To at least try.
To try and make them feel the same discomfort
that they have unknowingly inflicted upon me, I make it a game.
Sarcastically write it off as a genetic anomaly:
or better yet,
stare at them as if they, themselves,
have broken the news to me: “Fuck—
Damn, do they squirm: And you see, a part of me gets off on it—
a sick part of me, that is.
A cowardly part of me.
When I was younger, I was naïve enough to tell people that I always knew.
That my family celebrated my adoption every year on my gotcha day.
That on this day my brother and I received special gifts because it was the day
that we became a family, the “Malecek” family.
This answer always seemed to satisfy people,
to give them the story they wanted to hear, the story they needed to hear.
And in many ways, it was the same story I needed to tell.
The story that kept my world beautifully small.
That allowed my family to live in a fantasy.
A world untainted by greater socio-historical processes,
a world that had not yet been constructed to systematically pit us against one another—
Sometimes, I wish this story was still enough for me.
But the truth is, I didn’t always know.
Truth be told, I only recently “figured out” that I was adopted:
That my parents are white, and, well,
I am not.
Now, I know what you’re thinking.
How could this bitch not know?
Not know that her eyes were slanted in a lateral line,
not know that her hue read a bit more than just sun-kissed,
not know that she was different?
I guess the joke’s on me.
Has always been on me.
Was on me in the sixth grade,
when Hannah Kaminsky asked me if I could see out of my eyes.
Was on me in the eighth,
when Jason Muñoz called me a chink.
Was on me during the fallout—
that fateful night that I dared to be normal,
that I dared to be “American,”
that I dared to be white.
Fastening that fucking red,
and blue bandana around my head,
I should’ve known that I was doomed from the start.
On loan from my mother, the fit just wasn’t right.
Was never meant to be right.
Looked awkward, I guess.
On any other night,
I suppose I could have gotten away with it.
Could have remained unseen.
Could have passed.
But, there was too much at stake
“freedom” was on the line, after all.
However, I was never destined to be free.
Fettered to the shape of my squinty, little eyes,
my own ignorance inhibited me from
truly seeing my own positionality,
from truly seeing myself.
Maybe I should’ve thanked them,
those bigoted Beverly boys, that is,
for letting me know.
For letting me know that I didn’t deserve to be wearing such a bandana.
For letting me know that I wasn’t American.
For letting me know that the joke really was on me.
That the joke was on my brother.
For doing what any brother would have done:
However, he’s not just any brother,
he’s my brother.
With one fatal swing,
he did what our ancestors were trained to do,
what they should have been trained to do:
To protect ourselves from a world that my white parents could not possibly begin to imagine,
a world that they, themselves, had no part in creating.
A world that they could not see.
Charged with involuntary manslaughter,
that world was forced onto my brother.
Was forced onto me.
A world in which I am easily typecast as a “promiscuous” Asian girl,
and my brother, an “aggressive” Asian man.
His super-human strength a result of the years of Taekwondo he never did.
The joke was us.
The joke was on my family.
On my parents,
blissfully ignorant enough to think that their children could possibly pass as white,
could possibly pass as them,
And while naivety could have been our fatal flaw,
I’ve always found Greek tragedies somewhat unimaginative.
For our tragedy is not solely rooted in the defect of individual actors,
rather the defect of an entire nation,
limited to those who have convinced themselves of worthiness.
of something as stupid as a
of something as stupid as
Encoded into the core of every “American” institution,
inhibits us from truly seeing one another.
From seeing ourselves.
I am no exception.
My family is no exception.
We are no exception.