What I’m Thinking About When I’m Making Out With Someone Of My Own Race For The First Time

She actually finds it attractive that I get good grades.

We are the two most invisible people in our almost entirely white high school. Yet here we are in the dark, sharing this moment.

Earlier, we watched To Live, a Chinese movie with subtitles, starring Gong Li. The film’s message about resilience touched her in a profound way. When the lights came back on, she was crying.

For Christmas, she buys me a luxury men’s grooming kit, with 9 steel utensils in a snap-shut leather case. It’s expensive, and I feel guilty accepting it. She works afterschool in her parents’ restaurant, and they’re not paying her.

I tell her she looks like Gong Li. She says that’s not true, that I’m just so full of flattery. But her eyes well up a little again.

Because I don’t speak Mandarin, her parents must think I’m an American Born loser with no traditional values. And yet at 1:00 am, they haven’t come out to ask me to leave.

She says it’s admirable that I’m so obedient to my father. When I ask if this is something she finds attractive, she says, “Yes, it’s irresistible!”

For Christmas, I give her VHS tapes of Red Sorghum, Ju Dou, and Raise The Red Lantern, from the same director as To Live. Bought them in the import section at Tower Records. She holds the tapes to her chest and says that’ll be our next date, a Zhang Yimou film festival.

She says actually we should cancel our next date, because we should study for finals.

I say then maybe our next date should be studying together. She squeezes me tighter.

On Monday morning, we pretend like nothing happened. Except for the graze of her fingertips on my shoulder as we pass each other in the hallway.

The seniors near my locker glare at me and chant Nerd! Nerd! Nerd! I’m not as invisible as I thought.

Suddenly, she’s next to me, on her tiptoes, whispering in my ear, “我爱你.” Even I understand those three words.

I can’t hear those losers chanting anymore.

Father tells me to stop seeing her, because it looks like I’m falling in love. He says I might not see things straight. I might stop caring about my grades.

I harness what little traditional values I have to keep myself from telling Father to fuck off.



Eliot LiEliot Li lives in California. His recent work appears or is forthcoming in Barren Magazine, Hex, Five South, The Margins, Fractured Lit Anthology II, Variant Lit, Passages North, and elsewhere.