As Us

A Space for Women of the World

Melissa R Sipin – Fiction

ISN’T IT RIGHT? 

1.

The hair is troubling the girl. The hair is frizzy, long, with streaks of blonde and the girl does not like the black stands or the gray ones and it is because of a memory with her lola that the girl is always troubled by the hair, the pale nails, the wrong colored lips. The girl is short. The girl is not beautiful. The girl tries to be beautiful. The girl likes painting black wings on her eyes because it makes the shape seem almond. The girl has a Spanish nose. A kind of winning prize for the girl’s lola. The girl’s lola once said: anak, don’t you understand, a girl with your face ought to marry the first man who gives you attention. A girl with your face, di ba?

2.

The girl hates any white man who gives her attention. The attention always begins: Wow, you’re so cute I can put you in my pocket. The girl will want to say—Fuck you—to the white man for saying her body would fit in a pocket of a man no bigger than her father or brother or uncle but she will be pleasant and say: why, thanks. You can leave me alone now. The girl doesn’t fit in any kind of pocket or community, or maybe she has always felt entrapped like a pocket that perhaps, she thinks, the white men are right: a pocket, let her be a pocket, a pocket of fucks, and what would that look like? Not beautiful, she knows. Whore-ish. At home, the girl is the only one left unmarried. A dalaga. An in-between. A discarded piece. A marker of shame. Di ba, her lola will tell her, di ba, don’t you want to get married? A girl with your face. The girl will be unpleasant to her lola. The girl will say: Fuck you to her lola. The girl will love only her lola. The girl will one day lose her lola. But the girl will keep a portrait of her gray-haired, surgically perfect lola with snake-like eyebrows tatted on the white skin and at night the girl will hold it in her palms and say: I’m alone and fat because I don’t have tatted eyebrows, and she will laugh. During the day, the lola will look back at her with eyes burning and say: maybe you need to fuck, di ba?

3.

But the white man who gives the girl attention truly loves the girl who holds a complexion like the girl owns. The white man will say: Oh, but you’re all so beautiful. The white man will say: You’re not like other women. The white man will say: You are pleasant. You are kind. You are submissive, giving, and most of all you are beautiful. Look at the skin, the porcelain or cinnamon shaded skin the almond eyes the big ass the breasts the breasts the fingers the high pitch voice that gives me a high like the black hair the black hair isn’t it all beautiful isn’t the girl with the eyebrows so threaded isn’t she beautiful? The white man will not understand. A doll, aren’t you a china doll, the man will say, in compliment. Doesn’t she understand? A doll, a doll like the one from his boyhood days living on the banks of the Mississippi River with the damp air and the rushing streams the houses separated upon miles and the loneliness of a goat and the loneliness of a house alone on a prairie alone with a doll, a doll, a doll that is beautiful: don’t you understand the doll is beautiful? That you are beautiful?

4.

Years later, the girl cannot come with a white man. With any white man. The girl will disagree: I am not beautiful, you do not know what beautiful is, white man, don’t you know, a doll is a doll and I am not a doll nor can I fit into any pocket and my family thinks I am a whore and I hate the skin on my body, and don’t you know, white man, you are all the same: fuck-you, she will finally say to a white man who grabs her ass at a club in downtown Los Angeles, fuck-you and your dolls, and she will walk down a crowded, busy street, hitch a cab home, and rekindle a friendship with a U.S. sailor who makes her laugh like her father. But he is different: he is brown. Filipino. Two brown bodies intersecting in the haze of the dry, sticky L.A. heat. The girl will then marry a man who resembles her father. A liar. A gambler. Hustler. The girl fucks a man who hurts her like her father. The girl becomes like her absent mother. Her dead lola. Absent. Leaving. Gone. The girl does not believe she is beautiful. The girl is not beautiful. The girl is a discarded thing. A cheated on thing. A broken thing. The girl is light-skinned and the other woman was dark-skinned and the girl wants to kill the lover of her husband and the girl rages against the dark-skinned woman she is not kind this girl the girl who is not beautiful the girl whose hair troubles her the girl who thinks too much of skin color of hair frizz of white men of dark men of men like her father and she weeps to learn that she has become exactly like her mother. She calls her for lola. Di ba, she says to the night sky, to the heavens her lola believed in, di ba, di ba, to you, I call, di ba, did you know, di ba, did you want, di ba, is this right, di ba, do you hear me, di ba, the girl mouths, isn’t it right?

 

melissa_SipinMelissa R. Sipin is a writer from Carson, California. In 2013, she won First Place in the March Glimmer Train Fiction Open and Honorable Mention in the September Glimmer Train Fiction Open. Her writing is published or forthcoming in Glimmer Train Stories, PANK Magazine, Fjords Review, Quiet Lightning’s sPARKLE+bLINK, Hyphen Magazine, 580 Split, Lantern Review, and Kweli Journal, among others. Cofounder of TAYO Literary Magazine, she was the Community Engagement Fellow at Mills College and the Tennessee Williams Scholar at the 2013 Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Her short fiction received the 2014 Amanda Davis MFA Thesis Award (Runner-Up), the 2013 Ardella Mills Prize, the 2011 Miguel G. Flores Prize, and, in 2012 and 2013, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. As a Kundiman Fiction Fellow, VONA/Voices Fellow, and U.S. Navy wife, she splits her time writing on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. She is currently working on a novel.

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