Fathers

Our fathers left their lands to look for better ones.

They left their lands and their loved ones and the lives they had built up around nice jobs and nice houses and the corner-shop snacks of their childhood. They went overseas, often alone at first. Searching for new homes and small money. Trading in the clunky words of a new language, trying not to look the fool. Modern day scouts for their fledgling families.

The weapons of our fathers were moderation and caution. For their families, it was better to have a safety net than an SUV. They learnt to calculate when not to take risks and when to hold their tongues. Because they could not rise in the ranks of a foreign company through youth or charm or eloquence or appearance, they learnt to put their heads down and swallow racism and work hard and complain little.

They weathered anxiety so that we would not have to. They absorbed worry, turned it over and over silently, wore it down. Buried it deep, heaped it over with other things. Traded their dreams for their children’s.

Our fathers put their cultural memories into a little box that they brought with them to the new land, and sometimes opened. The children laughed, thinking that there was no use for such things in this new, loud, opportunistic place. We dismissed their wariness, not knowing that it allowed us to survive, and ventured bravely forth into the world, believing it is ours.

Two Minute Research

He walks past me, doubles back, and approaches with an earnest smile. Black backpack. Black skinny jeans. Black sneakers.

‘Hi! Do you have two minutes? I’m doing some research and I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions.’

We are kin unmet: brittle black hair,  almond-shaped eyes, olive skin that holds scars easily. There is an immediate sense of similarity.

‘What sort of research?’ I ask, tucking my handbag in to my side.

‘I’m doing a theology course.’

It’s not an answer, but more than an answer. He talks about his studies, and I’m listening, but he’s not telling me much. I smile and listen harder.

‘Mind if I pull up a seat? I’ve been walking around all day.’

We sit, knees pointing together, in the foyer of the library. He’s talking about his faith now. I wait for the research to begin. At my elbow is another Chinese girl, playing on her phone. Several feet away, a tall white man huddles over his laptop.

‘I was wondering, where are you at, in your beliefs? Do you believe in God?’

I stare into his crinkled eyes. I’m at the end of my journey; he’s in the middle of his. The question is a bridge through time. I could tell him so much, but it’s impossible in this space. I give him a single word answer.