A prerequisite for renewing my membership in my school’s writing “guild” (fancy name, but it’s just an org) is I have to submit a piece of written work. I don’t have to submit a recent piece — I could just as well recycle something like “Vanity’s Theater: Red Shoes” or “The First Beauty” (if I really felt like punishing them for imposing such an arcane requirement) — but knowing me, and knowing my need to break out of my practically-perpetual writer’s block, I decided to try submitting a new piece.
I was torn between submitting my (currently just an idea) short story, “The Myth and The Mirror,” which is May Day Eve-inspired (Yes, folks, I’m not completely over it.) and features bitterness and not being chosen and all those lovely, conflicting feelings that a wannabe-theater actress gets after (yet again!) another rejection.
But I only have 57 minutes left on my Mac’s battery so I better get rolling instead of moping. Back to the story.
In PRS class, I was struck by a writing epiphany by the name of Jaffy Gotauco. Jaffy is my classmate in PRS and PolGov, and he’s a fellow Chinese high school-graduate, but he’s much better at Mandarin than I am, and he know’s pin yin. So when Miss needed someone to pronounce some weird pin yin Chinese names, she asked him, and he pronounced them with what was (to me) pitch-perfect inflection.
Hearing it brought me back to those high school days, when being Chinese didn’t make you different, no one cracked “yellow jokes” because everyone was yellow, and there was, not Taglish, but Sino-Taglish (Chinese-ism mixed with Tagalog and English). So, in honor of those days, I wrote this poem.
a poem I wrote in PRS China class
I’m missing the melody of Mandarin inflection,
And that pesky pin yin I could never master.
My ears tingle when I hear turns of Hokkien phrase,
And my tongue itches to answer, even in my broken speech.
When once I loathed the intonations and groaned at the vocab,
Now I miss the sound of Hokkien and ko gee and our Sino-Taglish slang.
It makes me homesick for high school and familiar scenery.
Any slant-eyed face, any Chinese school graduate
Becomes a touchstone for memories of standing in line to recite biak diam…
And fretting over mispronounced cheng yi with my high school batchmates.
Fond, familiar things to recall — college is all unexpected…
And so unsure — not like the Yellow world I left behind.
Need I elaborate more? I only have 28% battery power left.