I sigh as I brush my damp hair out of my eyes.
“Where’s that sound coming from?” My hand moves to my forehead again as I get up from my prone position.
A flash of light. The sound of rain pattering violently on tile.
“Ah.” I shuffle wearily to the window. “That’s where the drip came from.”
“About time,” my mom grumbles in Chinese. “Typhoon was supposed to come three days ago. Three extra days of pre-typhoon stuffiness.”
I start making my way up the stairs. “You want me to close the bedroom windows?”
“Yes, please.” More Chinese.
A few moments later, and I’m standing in front of my bedroom window.
I run a hand through my hair again as I stare out the window. Rain is lashing down everywhere, turning the nearby creek into a mess of concentric circles and the bright red lanterns into soggy balls of maroon.
These are the Septembers that my parents grew up in. Torrential rain punctuated with interludes of sweltering, humid heat.
I look out over the darkened street.
This was the life they lived. Simple childhoods by a crook, catching dragonflies and toads, collecting cicada pupae for traditional pharmacies, steeped in a culture that defines them and, perhaps, could have defined me.
I sigh again. My parents, caught up in the massive chaos of the Cultural Revolution and the cultural dark age that accompanied it, rarely brought Chinese culture into our family. And so, despite spending most of my childhood summers and the last five years in China, I am still staunchly American—with a Chinese ancestry. My parents taught me to question, to criticize, but never really got around to sharing what they had been like, how their families had lived.
So it’s not surprising that I was a bit out of my element living in China. My Chinese was, to say the least, choppy and accented, and I could squeak out barely a few phrases in Shanghainese, a dialect that should have been my native tongue.
Suddenly, the Asian-American identity that I’d carefully crafted was no longer relevant. To my Chinese relatives and friends, I was an American, a foreigner. At best, I was a “banana”–yellow on the outside, white on the inside.
But, as I’ve only just realised, I’m quite okay with that. I was never going to quite fit in in China, nor, with my wanderlust, any place else that I decided to live. My time overseas meant that my experiences no longer quite meshed with those of Asian Americans, Californians, or even Americans as a whole (pardon my sloppy generalisations here).
I have friends who I care about, a college community that I respect, and goals to realised. Maybe I’m naively delusional, but for now, that’s enough to keep me going.