Jenny led her
boyfriend down the streets of Chinatown.
Calling it a town was really an undeserved
exaggeration — it was more like a string of tiny shops and rundown
buildings crammed into one block. Still, as Jenny glanced at the
colorful paper lanterns adorning the streets and the crowds bustling
along the sidewalks, she couldn’t help but feel at home. This was
the world she’d grown up in.
“Wow, this place is incredible,” Patrick said,
gaping at the commotion around them. “I didn’t even know this
Jenny smiled, trying to see her world as he would.
The clicking of mahjong tiles from games along the street, the
shopkeepers bartering with customers behind heaps of red-kissed
litchis, the sugary scent of coconut mooncake from a nearby sweet
shop. She doubted he noticed the finer details — the slowing of
the games as they passed by, the sidelong glances as they wandered
hand-in-hand through the market, the hesitation of the pastry chef
in handing them samples. But to her the reactions were obvious, and
it was clear where they came from.
Patrick was American.
Not that a Chinese-American couple was so out of
the ordinary, just not in her family. In her family there was
tradition, honor, and commitment to one’s origins.
She wished she could share who she really was with
them, to laughingly tell them about that crazy spy bar she went to
last week, or that she wanted to be a sculptor instead of a
businesswoman, that she’d applied for a scholarship to an art
school in New York.
But no, they’d just shake their heads. Jenny
would wither under their disapproval.
Not that her friends knew her any better. “Your
folks are too conservative,” they’d say. “They need to lighten
She was conservative too, they simply didn’t
see. She didn’t really mind the role of the dutiful daughter,
living with her parents, working weekends at their store, and
helping her grandmother dice vegetables for dinner every night. It
just wasn’t the entirety of who she was.
But, one group wasn’t interested in knowing
about the other, or didn’t understand. Couldn’t her parents see
the world around them changed every day, grew different, more
varied? Didn’t her friends notice the subculture around them, a
whole generation of immigrants’ children searching for an
No, the world was simpler for them; the facets of
their personalities didn’t compete against one another.
Jenny ushered Patrick past a row of hanging dried
ducks and into a dim sum parlor. The warm smell of pork dumplings
brought hot saliva to her mouth. Well, she sighed softly as they sat
down, at least she had Patrick. He was the only one who seemed to
understand how difficult it was to live at the threshold between
“You know,” Patrick said, interrupting her
thoughts. “This place is really cool. I’m really glad you
brought me here.”
“Me too.” She smiled absently.
“I’ve got something to share with you too,
something you should probably know about me.” He fidgeted with his
fork. “There isn’t any easy way to say this, so here goes… My
last relationship wasn’t what you think. It was, well, it was with
a man. I’m bisexual.”
And Jenny’s world just sort of stopped.
Vanitha Sankaran (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is presently writing a collection of vignettes, to be titled
Ordinary Lives. Her recent work can be found online at Prose Ax, The
Independent Mind, Orchard Press Mysteries, and The Paumanok Review.
Her current print work will appear in upcoming issues of Mindprints,
The Guild, and FUTURES. She is also an editor at the new e-zine flashquake.