Zachary Lo, 10th Grade
The clock is ticking down. The score is tied. The crowd is standing. Jeremy Lin has the ball, alone at halfcourt. My father would talk about him all the time. I guess it took me too long to understand why.
My father played on his high school football team. I can’t really picture him as a kid. I’ve never seen pictures.
He was a swimmer, too, but I never liked swimming. It feels oppressive to me, and dangerous: the foreign water surrounding you that is just as much your enemy as your friend. My cousins are swimmers, though. They call our grandparents Gong Gong and Po Po.
I don’t speak Mandarin. I’ve never tried to learn, either. Sometimes when my grandparents are chatting or when my father says phrases to himself, I wish I could.
I am in elementary school and my father takes me out to hit baseballs. He coaches the Little League team, and the AY soccer, my brother’s youth center basketball. I quit soccer before middle school. I never really liked sports anyway. I look like Dad, my brother observes, but I act like Mom.
I am thirteen years old and I write a racist story for a history assignment about the life of a Chinese immigrant. My friends think it’s funny, so I tell my mother about it. My father comes into my room that night. He doesn’t go into detail about his feelings. He reminds me that it’s
offensive to people like my grandparents to say things like that. When he was a kid, he tells me, other kids made fun of him and called him names. Just because he was Chinese.
In sixth grade I quit baseball, and I run crosscountry instead. I start track in the spring of eighth grade. I’m never the fastest but that’s okay. My father comes to all the meets.
There’s so much water between us, and I’m afraid I can’t get across. It’s already too late. And there’s only more as the years flow by, swirling and crashing and washing away.
I guess it must be hard, to see your parents fight to hold on to their culture as they drift in this American sea, and then to fight that way yourself, and then to see your children fight the same way, only not as hard, because it’s slipping from their fingers, more and more every generation, until you’re terrified they’ll drown in endless ocean.
If I gave someone in my life a gold medal, it would be him. For being on my team whether or not
I was on his.
Lin takes six steps forward. Arm leaps, wrist flicks upwards. The ball soars through the air. It sinks down, and he watches it fall, but I don’t care if he makes it. Because even when some people might have said it was too late, he still took the shot. I can too.