the morning before

Your ex sleeps in the spare bed,
and I’ve cracked my knuckles
ruining your birthday.
Whiskey gives way to false machismo
until you yank the glass from
my hand
and I tear through walls:

By day I mask demons with jokes,
practicing my smile in the reflection
on your sunglasses.
But when liquid courage
becomes liquid honesty
every word I’ve ever tried to hide
hits the ground—
and then I do.
Turns out, liquid honesty ruins relationships:
False bravado shatters windows,
scraped knees make you cry—
           | Oh God
           | I made you cry

Now it’s 5 a.m.
You have work in two hours
and I’ve dissolved Aspirin into your water glass.
As your ex snores,
you roll over in your sleep,
right foot still trembling.
Now I’m staring at the ceiling
wondering what you will say
when you wake up.

Oh, God.
What will you say when you wake up?

3

i was the only girl of color in my entire school from pre-k up until 8th grade, & when i got to high school there were only 2 other woc who weren’t even in my class.

for a long stretch of time, i had no friends because everyone thought of me as the nerdy foreign Asian girl who was too weird to talk to. the only time anyone did talk to me was to harass me on AOL instant messenger where they called me racial slurs & told me to ‘go back to Asia.’ my hometown area is absolutely notorious for its racism & white children there internalize it at a disturbingly young age.

when i finally did get friends, they were all white (i didn’t really have options to choose from) & they served me up with so many microaggressions that i mistook for genuine friendship, while their parents didn’t even bother to mask their racism when i visited their homes. i was fetishized by the worst of white boys who emotionally & physically abused me, but i let it happen over & over again because i measured my own worth by how they measured mine.

as a result of these experiences, i’ve dealt with internalized oppression in the forms of depression, severe body dysmorphia, social anxiety, & self-hatred. therapy didn’t do shit for me, & i also constantly longed for my family in the Philippines. i still find the diaspora woes hard to deal with.

but my healing process truly began when i started writing everything down, stringing my anger & pain & perceived self-inadequacies into poetry. i felt so validated the first time i ever shared the weight of my internalized oppression through spoken word, which allowed me to embrace my color & heritage fully, a feeling like no other.

since then, the elements of my healing process continuously expose themselves to me, like magic a little bit at a time, reminding me why i deserve to be loved, even if it’s only ever by me. reminding me that in rejecting the standards of whiteness, i can finally exist. i can live.

now the shy girl in the corner dances wildly in the middle of the room. wails high notes into a microphone in front of a bar crowd. doesn’t hide from the sun. actually speaks her unpopular opinions.

sometime’s it’s still a struggle. i still hurt. but i am proud pinay. queer & present. a brown girl thriving. it’s taken me 20+ years to learn how to love myself, but i think i’m finally there.

Can’t promise these raindrops aren’t teardrops
and that this window leads inside,
I’m low-crooning to our slow-spooning,
how do you smoke me?
Baby, you do it,
I can’t.
Baby, you knew it,
I can’t.
You’ve got open wounds like tiger strips,
absorbing alcohol in the spotlight,
that’s not good.
How will you heal, girl?
How will you heal?
—  Tiger Stripes.
2

So I’m 20 years old, soon to be 21 and I’ve always been skinny and the rest of my family is thick. People think just because you’re skinny you should be happy but I’m skinny and short so I basically look like a 15 year old. Im not trying to complain, but my weight has been between 110 and 115 for as long as I can remember. It always sucked to me because I always looked at myself as a child and I felt that others saw me that way too. Especially standing next to the women in my family because they all have these voluptuous bodies and they’re very curvy. So this summer my goal was to gain in between 10 and 15 pounds and I’m 3 pounds away from my goal weight! Can’t nobody tellin me shit! I’m about to be naked 24/7! I’m so happy! (Sorry about the thirst traps, I probably should’ve taken some before pictures)