Fricatives

To speak English properly, Mrs. Lee said, you must learn the difference between three and free. Three men escaped from Alcatraz in a rubber raft and drowned on their way to Angel Island. Hear the difference? Try this: you fought your way into existence. Better. Look at this picture. Fresh yellow grains beaten till their seeds spill. That’s threshing. That’s submission. You must learn to submit before you can learn. You must be given a voice before you can speak. Nobody wants to listen to a spectacled boy with a Hong Kong accent. You will have to leave this city, these dark furrows stuffed full with ancestral bones. Know that death is thorough. You will speak of bruised bodies skinnier than yours, force the pen past batons and blood, call it fresh material for writing. Now they’re paying attention. You’re lucky enough to care about how the tongue moves, the seven types of fricatives, the articulatory function of teeth sans survival. You will receive a good education abroad and make your parents proud. You will take a stranger’s cock in your mouth in the piss-slick stall of that dingy Cantonese restaurant you love and taste where you came from, what you were made of all along. Put some work into it, he growls. C’mon, give me some bite. Your mother visits one October, tells you how everyone speaks differently here, more proper. You smile, nod, bring her to your favourite restaurant, order dim sum in English. They’re releasing the students arrested five years ago. Just a tad more soy sauce please, thank you. The television replays yesterday on repeat. The teapots are refilled. You spoon served rice into your mouth, this perfect rice. Steamed, perfect, white.


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