RAMBUTAN AND MANGOSTEEN ARE DEAD
An astute observer of Stoppard's Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern are Dead could find that they act
not as two characters, but each as only halves of one.
It would be just as keen for one to hold me, inspect
me, to turn me over only to find that I myself am not
a person, but merely two halves of one.
One half of me longs for big houses and white picket
fences, for sprawling lawns and unwavering independence,
all while struggling not to wake from the American Dream.
The other half of me yearns for rice and tea, for red
envelopes on the New Year, and to relish the smell of incense
at home when the word "honor" is hung in the smoky air.
If I were to come home for the first time, to be
born in my adult years, where would I go, and
how would I be received?
If I were to visit a temple and to kneel beside the monks
to pray, would they say to me, "Child, this is not our first
meeting, for here you have passed many of your lives away?"
If I were to visit a brothel and lay beside the girl of the
given day, would she say to me, "Here, too, you fool, we
have soothed you as you watched many of your lives decay?"
Though I know it is the cruellest of traps to ask, "What if
I were to do this, to be there?" as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
had the audacity to ask, "What if we were to live?"
When of course they knew, as we all know, that they
were slated and fated to die. But then, the question remains:
why is it I fail to notice that so too, after all, am I?
Though if I am to die I am first to live in, as I expect,
continuous service as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were
to the Danes, though who I am to serve I do not yet know.
Whether it will be a woman, or to a people, or to an ideal,
or to whomsoever can answer my question, that riddle
that must be solved before passage beyond may be obtained:
"Do you know what it means, to
be an immigrant? To feel most at home
when you are far from home?"
Or my other question, "How is it that people can lose
themselves?" As when I watch people, as I tend to do,
I often see many of them lost but never any of them found.
Whenever I watch the poor, my heart fills black with the
ichor of sympathy, as though I am as brown as many of them
are, I am not nearly as poor, and they know just as much.
Though sometimes I feel jealousy too, for I tend to
notice that that many of their families are closer than
mine, and many of them happier than I, it seems, as well.
It seems only the most content with their lives can smile
even when they are poor; their smiles, bright in their
rarity, are all that can lighten the weight of privilege upon me.
Upon sensing the presence of the rich, however, what
is spared in my heart is not sympathy or even jealousy,
but merely hate for those who steal from the poor.
While I was always caught, or even restrained, right in the
middle of it all, in the eye of the storm, and could do
naught but watch as the continuous cycle swirled around me.
I think of the elites, hoarding their fortunes in
boundless vaults like ivory dragons, their gluttonous bellies
not lined with jewels but with cholesterol, and I ask them:
"How many lies have been told, in your
effervescent search for gold? How many lives have
been lost, crunched underfoot, tempest-tossed?"
What I had were not riches in value but in culture,
for I was always given but lavish gifts of beads and bracelets,
and most importantly of all, those fruits that burst in the mouth.
Rambutan and mangosteen, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,
were relics of a bygone age, and would soon be
sentenced to death, for there was no longer any room for them.
There were too many words in other stories for them
to tell their own; too many people on the stage of life
for them to have any of the spotlight for themselves.
I admit I deceived the fruits as Hamlet had the men;
feigning loyalty and allegiance, when in reality I had long
forgotten the words for them, and ate of them less and less.
To myself, who once knew of the juice of their nourishment,
rambutan and mangosteen are now lost, for that which once
lived but died cannot ever be found again.
But to those younger than I, who never once tasted
their white flesh, rambutan and mangosteen are not dead,
for that cannot die which never had the chance even to live.
TY KIA is a high school student growing up, or at least giving the pretence of growing up, in the heart of the Midwest. A first-generation American of Thai heritage, he seeks to prove his dedication to the craft of the written word and his love for what it is able to do.