hour 12: 1.5 generation

I’m a 90’s baby but I don’t know 90’s music
so if you say anything about Destiny’s Child I’ll just smile and nod.
Back then my mom was bumping Cho Yong Pil, and no—
you’re the one who’s missing out.

I still haven’t been given the sex talk by my immigrant mother
and I probably never will. I’m 22.
Public school health ed failed me too.
Friends and the Internet came to my rescue.

Only years after enduring stale cheese sticks
and pizza squares in the school cafeteria did I learn to appreciate
the dishes my mom can whip up with the humblest of ingredients—
get you some soy sauce, chili powder, and garlic—you’re set—
and anything lying around the house becomes
your next orgasm.

I spent as much time as my mother spent
making me write and rewrite the English alphabet and
spell out all the numbers up to forty
and reading books aloud
interpreting for her
at the grocery store
the bank
the school
even to the police.

But I always refused to step in
when the pizza guy couldn’t understand her accented “black olives”
because what on earth else
could she be talking about, pizza dude?

My mom never asked to read my writing
even when it was published,
and I never asked her to read it.
The unspoken agreement is that it’s the English
that is the barrier,
but I don’t think either of us
want to face the moment when she reads
about herself through my eyes.

As for me, I had to relearn the language that was
my birthright.

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