It was about 5:00 P.M. when we managed to leave the airport. The traffic surprisingly smooth as most of the roads looked fairly new. Driving around the roads, I can see neon lights emanate from the city’s skyscrapers. I see BMWs, Buicks, Cadillacs and lots of Volkswagens surrounding our Honda Accord. The drivers looked confident, tired, disgruntled, and even excited. I would have thought I was just on a road on some freeway in Hong Kong, but the simplified Chinese from the billboard and commercials trucks reminded me that I was, in fact, in China. The ride to my sister’s apartment was just very long and surprisingly boring. My nephew was just sitting there starting out towards the car window despite my sister’s attempts to get him to practice his English on me. I didn’t mind; I was also zoned out from the flight. My eyes were glued to the glowing neon coming from the background and my ears were focused on the foreign cars buzzing past us. Soon, I was dreaming before I knew it.
I was back in my college graduation on a sunny day in May waiting anxiously for my name to be called. Our speaker said that road to life is the one we made on our own and he’s absolutely right. There is no fate but what we make according to “Terminator 2” and I just have to take my life into my own hands as it should be. As cliche as it sounds, his commencement speech struck a chord in me. However, I knew the only was I was ever going to truly have control of my life was to start by first confronting the past that was dictating my present. When it was our row’s turn, I got up and proceeded to go through the motions of an anxious but elated soon-to-be college graduate. I received my diplomas from the deans backstage where I also got my picture taken. It was a proud moment when I felt all the years of work truly paid off while a darkness was disappearing within me. The two years of business school were an overwhelming darkness that clouded my mind and ravaged whatever wit and optimism I had gained during my first two years in college.
Where I was once basking in my graduation, I am back in my third year sitting alone in my dorm contemplating suicide; frustrated at the failure of my support system. My roommates who I thought were my close friends deserted me. One, Tom, decided to only look out for his own interests after his heart was broken by a closet lesbian while the other, Darren, decided to phase me out of his life after he gain a false sense of popularity among his clique. Life in the classroom was no better: the top students were the top cheaters, the professors were abusive and the administration was simply impotent in dealing with these issues. I felt that my hard work was not paying off, my time was being wasted, there was no one I could related to and I felt that I was living in a Godless world. The final straw came when I got news that my childhood friend Frank was found dead in the gym apparently of freak heart attack. The good die young while the evil ones reap all the rewards, I thought to myself. I wanted to die that night with the flow of rum and vodka flowing through my veins. I somehow managed to make a working noose despite all the alcohol, but I was stopped when Darren barged into my room looking for cigarettes. I punched him in the face and screamed as he tried to restrain me. I kept telling him that he left me to die and kept screaming “God is dead” over and over again because I believed it.
I’m still screaming but now I’m thrown back in High School and my American cousin is spreading lies about me. He thinks I’m a spoiled, immature brat who doesn’t deserve to have the academic success I’m having in my classes. He has managed to alienate my friends by telling them a distorted story of my life and now my close friends are now his close friends. My former friends now think less of me and started to step over me. I feel that my American cousin has become popular partly by spreading lies of me to gain popularity at my expense. I feel powerless because I didn’t know anyone in my town. There were few I could trust and I thought I could always count on my family when I’m down. My cousin was my go-to guy, I thought, someone I can count on and pilot me around as I adjusted to life in America. I was completely wrong and I am sad to say that I actually counted on this guy when I was young and naive.
“Wassup my niigggaaaa!!!” It was my nephew trying to practice his English on me. What a strange way to wake up from a dream.
“Zhanghua, watch your language!” My sister scolds her son while her Spanish boyfriend laughs it off.
“Where did you learn to talk like that?” I asked with a confused look on my face.
Zhanghua didn’t know what to say. He thought he was talking “American” like me, but I had to explain to them that that word is only used by Black people and only for Black people. I also had to make it a point that he would get savagely beaten if he even tried talking like that in places like Los Angeles, Chicago, and especially New York City. While I was spending all that time telling my nephew why the n-word is bad, the Spaniard kept laughing, then my sister started laughing and I laughed all while Zhanghua looked on.