by Shaun Terry
All he ever wanted was to feel connected to something, to someone. He slept long nights on a cold German floor, just to appease someone who he thought could love him. His life started with him being abandoned by the only person who was supposed to always love him, and society followed through with further isolation. He was different from everyone — his race, his background, his familial history. He was a fearful, anxious, sensitive child. Growing up in East Asia, other kids threw rocks at him and called him names. When he was adopted and eventually moved to America, he lived with strangers who claimed to love him despite never having known him, but he knew better. This was all he had now, and he had to make the best of it.
He gravitated to a cultural heritage not his own. He pored over documents to learn of parts of his new family’s past that were wholly non-Asian, as though he could rewrite his history, as though he could somehow be connected to something that was never meant for him. Maybe in learning of this side of his new family’s past and by living in his new family’s old country, he could curry favor from a patriarch who was nothing if not tough. Maybe people in the family’s old country would connect with him. He joined the military early, hoping to make his new dad proud, hoping to finally feel some connection to someone. His commanders broke his will. He learned to say, “Yessir” and “No sir,” and “I have no excuse, sir.” But after all this, he knew that his surrogate father was still not proud of him. So he decided to try to become a teacher., instead. He hoped the children could love him and he hoped to give something to a world that had been brutal to him. Maybe then he could be connected to something.
Once, when he was out of state, a policeman pulled him over, and he gave the policeman a vicious tongue-lashing because he knew that the officer was simply taking advantage of his power. The policeman figured people with out-of-state license plates were often engaging in criminal activity. Maybe this officer would find something for which he could throw this Chink in jail. But after the man’s violent response, the humbled policeman didn’t give a ticket. After all, the man had committed no violation and he’d been right about what he’d said about the cop.
He was discarded at birth and no one in the world ever managed to see him as a whole, valuable person. Now, just past middle age, he works a shitty 9-to-5 job, he has no savings, he lives in a humble apartment, and he watches bad television while eating takeout and drinking cheap beer. Alone.