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All-American Boyhood -- Eric Pak

On the first day of kindergarten, I wore my Yankees jersey

‘cause Eomma said I could be an all-American boy.

In the classroom, scathing gazes pinned to the back of my head.

“Why are your eyes so small?” they asked. But Eomma

said my eyes gleamed like split onyx. They stretched

their annular lids with meaty fingers while Mrs. Johnson

watched and stood silent. I asked Eomma what’s wrong

with my eyes. She clipped my wrists with bamboo chopsticks;

scolding words florid off her tongue. When I was ten,

my neighbor’s son said my name sounded funny, that it buffets

the ears, a styrofoam cup grating against crusty hands. But Appa

said it soothed him. I asked him why they butchered my name,

but his voice was choked by silence. When I was sixteen, the boys

from across the street threw rusted cans at me because

I was doing Tai Chi under the cobble steps. They called me

“China Virus.” I assumed everyone thought of all Asians

as Chinese like how footsteps press against a blind man’s ear.

I had nobody else to ask, and for years, I let my boyhood ferment

under the clouds – waiting for it to blend with the clear skies.


Eric Pak is a 17-year-old Korean-American living in Thailand. He has lived in diverse countries around the world and aims to share his experiences through his writing. His works have previously been published in K'in Literary Journal, The Paper Crane Journal and The Cathartic Literary Magazine. In his free time, he likes running and eating enchiladas.

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