We don’t say how are you anymore,
just you doing okay? It’s a good enough substitute.The answers to both, after all, are equally obvious:
fine, thank you, and no, of course I’m not doing okay.No one is doing okay. The only ones doing okay are
the ones who don’t need to ask. At the grocery store,the black cashier searches my eyes before handing
back my change. Tells me to take care. I have never seenthis man in my life, and still I know he will stay up tonight
wondering if I got home safe. These days, every letter Iwrite to my girlfriend ends not with I love you, but with
I am so glad we are both alive. I don’t say goodbye topeople anymore. I am saving up all of my goodbyes
for something that feels more and more inevitable. I wantto be ready when it comes for me. I am writing this
down because the language which you have taken fromme, these sentences you have redefined to something
foreign, are a manifesto no matter what words I use.Make no mistake: this is not a story about hatred, it is
a story about fury. You can do many things to ourlanguage, but no matter what, you cannot make
those two words mean the same thing. The womanwho lives next door to me is a Khmer Rouge survivor.
I was with her when she learned that a man who bragsabout sexual assault is now our president. It is the first
time I have ever seen her angry, and now I know howshe survived. Now I know how we will all survive.
Make no mistake: this is not a story about fear, it is astory about what happens when we grow tired of
being afraid. These days I write love poems and theyread like suicide notes. Yesterday my sister told me
she was going out with her friends and I tried to sayhave fun but what came out was are you sure you want
to wear a skirt that short? I can feel you seeping into mywords, wrapping yourself around my tongue. So do you
still wonder why we burn for each other? Do you stillwonder why we sing fire in the streets? This is how we
take back our language. You try to baptise us in thechurch of white supremacy, and our flames only blaze
higher. There is this illusion that everyone here is full offear. Make no mistake: this is not a story about fullness,
it is a story about starvation. We are so hungry we arebloody. So hungry we are desperate. So hungry
we may never eat again.