Koreatown is the densest neighborhood in all of Los Angeles, but a stifling stillness still plagues this city, the economy of which depends heavily on the hospitality and entertainment industries. We continue to sit in the purple tier, indicating widespread COVID-19 test positivity rates and cases and requiring the most severe reopening precautions. While many businesses have been making due with limited hours and reliance on takeout and delivery services, many small businesses, including long-time favorites, have had to shut down permanently. Is there an end in sight?
Do not love me
if it holds me in shackles
that bind me to stillness
when I long to dance.
Do not love me
if it plunges me to depths
that drown my words
when I long to sing.
Do not love me
if it carries a fog
that clouds what I see
when I long to dream.
No, do not love me.
Tomorrow is the official U.S. Election Day of 2020 and I’ve been volunteering at the polls at a local center in Los Angeles. I just got home an hour ago, and it’s almost 10 PM here. Tomorrow’s going to be an even longer day, and while we expect that many have already mailed in their absentee ballots, it’s gotten even busier over the last few days. There are over 6 million registered voters in LA County alone.
We’ve registered many first-time voters, eager to have their voices heard for the first time during this momentous election. Personally, it’s my first time volunteering at the polls. I wouldn’t have even known that volunteering as a poll worker was a thing, had it not been offered to me when I had to sort out my registration a couple of months ago.
I’m proud to be part of this election, doing my part in some way, no matter how the elections turn out. I’ve spent many afternoons and weekends canvassing and phone banking for local candidates I believe in. There’s a fervor that’s palpable with so many during this cycle, and it’s exciting to see so many younger people involved. Two of the volunteers at our center are college freshman. When I was their age 16 years ago, there’s no way volunteering for anything election-related would have even occurred to me, nor would I have wanted to.
The times are a-changin’. It’s been a polarizing election cycle, with families and friendships being blown apart with outspoken beliefs—some of mine included. Regardless of how the votes tally, the U.S. has been building up a collective sense of existential crisis that will require repair for decades to come. Whether we can come together and rebuild bridges is another story, or maybe it requires demolishing old bridges to build new paths? I won’t pretend to know the answer. All we can do now is brace ourselves for what’s to come.
In between the rush of work, I found some time yesterday to slow my pace and seek silence. I thought I’d share some rooftop views of the city: on one side, the sun stretching out its rays with a final exhale before meeting the horizon; on the other, the city welcoming a quiet stillness before nightfall.
I often find it hard to sit still. It’s so easy to get caught up in everything and with everyone, especially during these times that require so much delicate attention, reflection, and action. Yesterday and today, I’m spending some time thinking about my own origin story and the labor of my ancestors bringing me to this time and place. What will my own descendants say about today? What do we have the license to rewrite and retell?
I open my eyes and stretch out my arms, reaching towards the banig mounted over my bed. I breathe in the soft must of the straw.
I look west to gauge the time. My parol lantern hangs by the window. It’s October, so I’m excited to plug it in, even if Christmas is still two months away.
I grind my coffee beans, plug in my kettle, and shake out my French press, trinkets of luxuries very different from my lola’s Folgers and the pan de sal she taught me to dip.
I brush my teeth with Sensodyne toothpaste, even if I don’t have sensitive teeth. My tita, once a dentist in the Philippines and now a dental hygienist in Australia, insists.
I sit by my desk in front of a bookshelf filled with books my nanay dreamed to one day gift to me. I’ve been building my collection since college.
I get to work on the laptop Nanay bought me after someone broke into my apartment and stole mine. She insisted that I not pay her back.
My coffee is ready. I take a sip and I smile.
Boots and jorts, they are
Jeans cut short and badass shoes
For boys, girls, who cares?
What will it take for me to live in a home like that? A home I couldn't even construct in my dreams Expansive borders I've never seen Ceilings that rival my imagination
What will it take for me to live in a home like that? Gated by leaves perfectly placed one-by-one Perched above the city Quietly overlooking the minutiae of bustle and noise
What will it take for me to live in a home like that? Room reaching farther than any home I've known Accents polished to a gleam that force my eyes shut Antiques and silver too hot to touch
What would it take for me to live in a home like that? More rooms than people to swallow a space Does it have a guest room for the housekeeper and nanny? Would they look like me?