My two mothers are arguing again right over me. I’ve awoken to their bickering. I lie here waiting for them to stop. My first mother is to my right and my second mother is to my left. They’re annoying me with the same old argument.
My first mother questions my second mother as to why I smell like potatoes and butter all the time. My second mother accuses my first mother of wanting me to smell like fish and sweat.
My first mother crosses her thin, brown arms and huffs about how ignorant I am of classic Vietnamese poetry and songs about my people’s origins, and is sad that I still do not know how to answer her in my dreams in Vietnamese. My second mother crosses her arms too and raises and lowers herself on the balls of her feet, signifying agitation. She accuses my first mother of giving birth to me in a crowded flat where two of her brothers were secret guerrillas who would have thrown me out with the bathwater if they saw my American eyes staring back at them. She says that if my first mother really wanted me to speak Vietnamese, she would have kept me and raised me instead of giving me to my blind grandmother and skipping town to do every Tom, Dick and Harry who arrived on base.
My first mother counters that my second mother doesn’t know the slightest thing about her situation, never bothered to ask and warned her to stop putting lies in my head. She yells, “What does an uptight, midwest farm girl know about life anyway?!” My second mother jabs her chubby finger at my first mother and says, “What does an uneducated, manipulative Vietnamese city girl know about life since you’re dead to your son anyway?!”
That’s the last straw. I’ve had enough. I sit up, get out of bed and quickly get dressed. I plug in my earphones, put on my sneakers and head out the door. I’m deaf to the pleas of my two mothers as they reach for me and beg me to stay with them. But, I belong to neither of them. They both have foisted shame upon me in order to mold me into a more sympathetic person. Yet, it’s turned me against them. I do the opposite of what is expected of me so as to counteract the imposition of a foreign will on my life’s territory. I’ve convinced myself that I am no one’s son, regardless of who gave birth to me or who fed me. I’ve always been a burden.
On that point, there is no argument.