Ocean Vuong said that the pathway to American citizenship begins when the first bombs fall.
What a long journey that is.
He cast back over his left shoulder, the dirt road stretching both ways, potholes with haphazard gravel scattered about them. There were crumbling shoulders, the top of the levee being pulled by gravity down to be closer to the earth. One step, two step, one step, two step. He counts to focus, he counts to not feel his fear.
The pack on his back. What do you grab when you are fleeing? A wallet. A change of clothes. A hat. Your most worn comfortable shoes. An extra pair of socks. But the pictures? The family heirlooms that your granny and her granny before toiled away for hours to rise up and up and up to more class and more status and more being seen as human? The handkerchief embroidered, the doll, the metal cast of baby shoes. A life. Many lives.
The dirt road traverse jungles, forests, steppe, savannah, scrub, desert, mountains, streams, rivers, ocean. A boat. A stowaway, stowing away. He’s never been on a boat to know whether he gets seasick. He gets seasick. The jumble of limbs and bodies together, wretching, wretched. The ups and downs and sea salt making its way into the blisters and paper cuts. The ship heaving towards a destination, a north star that he’s never seen before but believes it exists. Belief. Maybe a distant cousin there, or a cousin’s friend who can translate this foreign place – the language, the food, the way they move about, the smells, the air, the angle of the sun – that no body would go to if it were not the only way to survive.
He is my great grandfather, he is my grandfather, he is my father, he is me. He is you.
In this new place, he stands still, standing still and yet standing in the sky.
What is still possible is more pain. What is still possible is everything.