STEPHANIE CHAN #2: We Found a Sign in a Dumpster that Said ‘Granville, Ohio, Centre of Everything.’

Artwork by Priya Vunaki
Artwork by Priya Vunaki

The acceptance letter
on the kitchen table
told us it was
a half-scholarship
for ‘students of colour’.
It was the first time
I realised I had a colour
and the last time
I felt embarrassed by it.
The international orientation was a lie.
They made all the foreign students
arrive three days before everyone else,
so we assumed the school would be full of people like us.
At my first party before an exam,
I learnt where I am from is a really obscure
place on a world map and really hard to explain
how to find at 3AM to a drunk 20-year old
American who’s never seen the ocean.
I learnt the usefulness of drinking
and drinking fast, from my rugby team
during that line in that song
‘who can take an Asian lady,
spread her silky thighs…’
because if you look like you’re
chugging hard enough,
when it comes around to
‘….fuck her so hard that she
opens up her eyes.’
you don’t actually have to look at any
of your teammates in the face.
I thought the most about my race
in that basement of his cabin
when he interviewed me
for his Psychology Of Diversity essay,
in between the power going out
and roommate selling a dime bag
from behind the Jim Morrisson tapestry.
My story didn’t fit into any
of the models he learnt in the class.
When a picture of a noose,
then a swastika appeared on walls around
the school, everyone jumped to make
posters that said things like,
From the safety of our basement
in our communal granola-eating shared house,
we contemplated making honest versions
But by the time we sobered up
it didn’t seem so hilarious.
I felt most like a minority
the day they cancelled classes
and made everyone sit in the gym
for a college-wide discussion on diversity
and I sat at a table with three white frat boys
who sniggered and made joint-smoking
motions when my hippy roommate Tom
stood up to talk.
When I found out Tom had taken like three bong hits
just before he stepped up to the mic, I stopped feeling
sorry for ourselves.
The year I ran the international students’ orientation
was the first time the number of freshmen from China outnumbered
the number of freshmen from India. She confessed she was glad
I was there to help because all the Chinese girls looked the same,
and I smiled to myself, and ran a hand through my hair,
glad I still had my faux-hawk from the past summer.
When I found notes
from my interview for
the school newspaper
that said ‘slow on the
uptake’ upon waking up
on the newspaper office sofa
I smiled at how far
I had come in the world
and hoped it was written
by the editor who left
to go rehab.
She taught me the Bahasa Indonesian word ‘rasa’
her new favourite word, meaning ‘essence’,
that she had learnt from her Balinese gamelan class,
(that she was taking for 2 credits), assuming
I had never heard the language before.
I realised I only knew that word
as it was the name of a local beach resort.