Journal » Trout 16 » You Did Well [Michelle Shin]
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You Did Well

Michelle Shin

Fix your hair, smooth the top down and re-do the ponytail. Keep your cardigan on so your arms don't show. Okay, now remember to act proper. You know what is expected of you.

Smile at Aunt Susie and remind her who you are. Laugh politely when she jokes about how old she is. Go grab her more maki rolls from the table. Offer her shoyu for the sashimi. Let Aunt Yuki pinch your cheeks and tell you how much you have grown. Always keep your head tilted slightly downward and smile softly with lips closed. Offer to refill their green tea.

Don't think about the car ride over. How he kept reaching around the front seat wildly to smack you and instead wound up clawing your arms with his nails. Don't think about how the car swerved and how your mother cried and clutched the seatbelt like it was a rosary. Don't think about the words he said. Stupid. Dense. Idiot. What a fucking waste you have been.

Uncle Masi is drunk as usual. Help Aunt Hiromi move the cups from his swinging arms as he mimics jumping into the water to avoid the Japanese kamikaze pilots when they attacked Pearl Harbor. Gasp and laugh appropriately as he dramatically tells the tale of how he swam to Ford Island after his ship sank. It is a thrilling tale, but you have heard it twenty times and half the words are slurred.

Don't look over at your father. It'll break your concentration, your control. Don't think about how he wouldn't look at the road because he kept turning around to glare at you. To yell at you. All because you were ten minutes late to come home. It doesn't matter if the bus was late, you should have taken an earlier bus. You should have thought about that possibility. Don't think about how you show no respect, think the world revolves around you, how you are turning into a disgrace for the family. Why, last week you didn't scrub the rice pot well enough and tracked some dirt into the front hall way. The week before that you took all night, too long, to do one of his logic puzzles and you didn't hear him the first time when he called for you to come help your mother. Move to help the women clear the table. Help Grandma prepare take-home boxes for everyone. Answer her when she asks how you are doing in school and say, "no, no" when she tries to give you five dollars for being "such a smart girl." Help Grandma do the dishes and tell her no, there is no boyfriend. Give all your uncles a hug, kiss your aunties on their cheeks, and wave goodbye to your cousins. Carefully close the screen door as you leave. Take off your shoes and shake them before getting in the car.

Hold very still as your father speaks to you in the car. Keep your face very plain, very neutral, bite the inside of your cheek if you have to as he says he thought you would be a baby and pout at the party. But that you performed perfectly and gave nothing away and did not shame the family. Make fists under the folds of your skirt and dig your nails into your palms as he says you did well today. You did not disappoint.


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© Copyright 2010 Michelle Shin & Trout.