My Five Homes

“She doesn’t need anybody to laugh with, she just laughs.”

– The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

“The Other Woman.”

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He leaves at night and comes back before the sun rises. He opens her safe and has lipstick stains on the white shirt she ironed for him. He leaves her with the kids and spends the milk money on a new pack of cigarettes.

He leaves the house and she locks the door. Don’t come back, she says. Fine, he says, I don’t want your money. I have plenty of my own. 

He rents a room now. His briefcase  is tucked away under piles of dirty laundry and divorce papers.

“And All You’re Ever Gonna Be is Mean.”

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I hate hot days, dirt, and mean kids. Mean kids who would pour dirt into my hair and clothes on hot days. “We won’t be your friends if you don’t let us,” they said. 

“OK,” I said. So I stood there, in the middle of the field, watching them scoop dirt into my brand new sneakers, rub dirt into my hair, and smear handfuls onto my clothes. 

“The Story of My Life.”

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The more my brother took from my mom, the more I had to surrender. If my brother threw tantrums in Target, I put back the toys I wanted to get so he could get his LEGO set. 

Even now, if there isn’t enough rice for the both of us, I eat a small portion to save rice for him. I try to stay out of trouble so my mom doesn’t have both hands full. 

One parent meant one child at a time.

“I’m Never Gonna Meet What Could’ve Been, Would’ve Been…”

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A little past midnight, I laid with my mom on the mattress in the living room. My aunts and uncles occupied any available space. The door opened and everyone rushed out but I turned to my iPad, more concerned about the game I was playing than what was happening downstairs. 

A few minutes passed and everyone returned. My mom laid down and put wet cotton pads on her eyes. “He passed,” she said. 

That sentence did not change my life. I still woke up the next morning but for three days, I wore a black áo dài and kneeled in front of my grandpa’s casket. 

I remembered apologizing to him, “I’m sorry I’m not sad. I’m sorry I’m not crying.” Then, I dropped a flower onto his casket, lit an incense for him, and flew back to California. 

My grandpa was not someone I knew well, I did not spend time with him and due to his Alzheimer’s, he did not remember me most times. So I felt bad; I felt so sorry that I could not empathize with what my aunts and uncles were going through, sorry that I could not grieve his death.

“Run Fast For Your Mother.”

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It is scary inside the library. Something scary lurks inside the fiction section of the library. It lingers and approaches you, catching you off guard. You can’t run from it so you talk and try to stay calm. No one has any idea what is happening except for you. It won’t let you leave that easily. So you stay and when the scary thing gets enough out of you, you can run. 

So then I ran.

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