Drowning Girl, Roy Lichtenstein. 1963. (MoMA)

Drowning Girl, Roy Lichtenstein. 1963. (MoMA)

I am seventeen years young.

But I am already dead and dying.

Marked by this world as

A body that is different.

A body that is inferior.

A body that doesn’t deserve to exist.

I am seventeen years young.

But I’ve spent a third of my life contemplating ending it early.

When I was twelve, I sat in a bath of still water,

Praying for release from this cruel world.

So I reclined: back in the water, face upwards, arms limp like the corpse I wanted to be,

And I became Ophelia.

Another girl gone too soon to a watery grave,

Where flowers would float next to my arms instead of decaying above my decomposing skull.

I, too, could embody immortal serenity;

I, too, could be tragically beautiful.

That was the first time I considered suicide.

I am seventeen years young.

But I’m already drowning.

Not in the literary way Ophelia does,

In the literal way colored people do.

In English class, we speak of Hamlet’s suicidal thoughts and Ophelia’s purposefully premature death.

But never do we discuss suicide

or depression or even mental illness in the present tense.

Never do we dare to mention that our class,

primarily composed of Asian American women,

faces a dim statistic: 12 of us dying per day,

the highest suicide rate of any ethnic group from ages 15 to 24.

Never do we wonder why.

I am seventeen years young.

But I spend far too long every day

Trying to convince myself I am sane

Because too often it feels as if

It’s my fault

For feeling the burden of colonization

For recognizing that what happened in the Philippines was colonialism at all

Surely it is my fault

For realizing that my ethnicity is named for our colonizer’s king

For asking why my uncle got shot in the stomach serving for the country that slaughtered 300,000 of his kin just a few decades earlier

It must be my fault

For wanting a world where I am not exoticized, otherized, fethishized,

Where my experiences are not delegitimized,

Where I am not deemed invalid.

I am seventeen years young.

But I am drowning from the weight of living under siege.

For there is a stigma against my sadness

And I have been taught to be silent,

Because every ailment has an antidote

And any other response should be a source of shame.

I am seventeen years young.

I should be somewhere with sand and sun

But instead, I’m caught in the riptide



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