No Man's Land

November 3, 2016
By , Nyack, NY

No Man’s Land
A crowded hallway is in front of me. I push past faces that look so different from my own. I can hear their voices swirling in my ears.
“She’s only smart because she’s asian.”
“You’re smart. Why don’t you do all the work?”
“What’s the answer for number three?”
Suddenly hands grab me. I’m drowning. Everything is dark. I can’t breathe. Cold claws shred my skin. My limbs are torn from me piece by piece. I am nothing.
I wake up in a dorm room. Where am I? Who am I?
“Hey. Are you okay?” I look up to see a familiar face. My roommate.
“Hey Katrina. I’m fine. Just a dream,” I said, not wanting to worry her, but I still felt shaken up. It felt like I was back in my old school. All the feelings came back. All the memories resurfaced. I was back there doing a group project in history class:
“Hey guys we should really get this done so we’re prepared,” I said clearly annoyed. We were supposed to be done by now, but so far, this period, we’ve just been talking.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be able to do it. I don’t know why you’re so uptight,” said Fred. Now, he was really the cause of the problem. He was more concerned about discussing the education system and had no concern for doing the project.
They talked until the period ended, still not getting anything done.
The next day Fred didn’t show up and I had to do all the work with the other person in the group. We did the entire project, and we did it well.
On the day grades were given back, our project got a 100, as a reward for our hard work.
“Oh yeah, great job guys!” said Fred. He seemed pleased with himself. “We did it!” Did he have no shame? I heard him talking about how he set up the presentation and so much hard work.
“But I did almost all the work,” I said, confused.
“But you’re the smart Asian one. You deserved to do all of it,” he replied. I was shocked. I was angry, but I left.
I felt used. Like a tool. I was just a resource to be grabbed. No one really wanted me. They wanted to use me. Like a slave. I didn’t belong. Not in that white school, filled with kids who who expected everything to be given to them, who shunned anything different, but emphasized individuality, who hate everything they don’t understand. I was certainly not something they understood.
I turned to my own people. Chinese people. The culture of my parents and their parents and so on. Surely that’s where I could find someone who understands. Someone who cares. So  I talked to a family friend:
“What do you mean you don’t watch anime?”
“I never really had the time. I was busy doing work.”
“What kind of Asian are you? Do you even speak Chinese?”
“Well just a little-”
“You’re not a real Chinese person. You’re a twinkie. Yellow on the outside. White on the inside.”
“But I use chopsticks and-”
My own culture rejected me. Any ray of light I found was smothered and blocked the instant I heard those words. I was back. I was in the murky darkness. I was drowning again, even though I was so hollow that I should’ve been able to float, spiraling down into the abyss.
I was never enough. I’m too Asian to be white. I’m too white to be Asian. I’ll always be a twinkie, or a banana, or whatever you want to call it. I’m in no man’s land. The zone not quite one side or the other. I belong to both sides and neither at the same time. Untouchable. No one dares to cross. To step a foot into the zone is to invite death. So far, I have just done a good job of dodging bullets.
Out of the darkness, warmth surrounds me. I realized I was being hugged.
“Again?” Katrina said, concerned. I looked at her and nodded. She didn’t need to say it. She knew from the tears on my face.  “I’ve been through it too, we all have. We know what it’s like and we’ll stick together. We’ll be here for you. No judgment. We have all been judged enough for several lifetimes.”
I never knew how much I’ve wanted to hear those words. I never thought I could find a place to belong, someplace that I could be loved without changing who I am. I would’ve never guessed it was in the middle of no man’s land. I would never have guessed I would build a home there, along with the other ABCs, Americans born Chinese. A blur of West and East.
“At least it’s tear-ific here!” quipped Katrina.
“You’re tear-ible!” I replied while laughing at our bad and silly puns.
“Hey c’mon, they have pancakes at the dining hall!” Katrina chirped, jumping off and grabbing me with her, a smile on both of our faces.

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