Things Left Unsaid

Sometimes my thoughts leak out from my face, unknowingly so — I have quite some faith in my unshakeably Asian poker face, but they slip out nonetheless, it seems like.

For example, I have an acquaintance with maladaptive Freudrian oral fixations who bites his nails to the quick and chews on them, sucks on each fingertip delicately after he’s done as if he’s sampling some exquisite cuisine, the sound of it reverberating in the room and in my eardrums. I believed that I had kept my face impassable, stone cold, completely wiped of human emotion, during all of our interactions, but in all likelihood, there was a deep furrow in my brow and my teeth were gritted and my clenched knuckles shoved politely and discreetly into whichever unfortunate earhole was facing his direction — and it leaked out, my hatred probably leaked out. Which is one of the many factors that probably led to our fast-crumbling professional relationship.

I am constantly editing my thoughts, it seems like. A multitude of words never make it out of me and are either digested slowly to eventually dissolve, or otherwise remain ricocheting around my brain — an utterly useless game of Breakout, me vs. my sanity.

Like a few months ago, when someone was driving me and the aforementioned Nail Biter back to the train station, and they both struck up an enthusiastic debate over whether they could “forgive” a woman for forgetting to shave her armpits, those nasty little patches of one-day stubble. I kept quiet throughout the exchange, not offering how it was a practice that only came about in the last century thanks to a deeply sexist but effective marketing scheme, not to mention a Eurocentric beauty standard that’s only taken root in Japan within the past few decades and how once I saw a scene from a Japanese film in the 60s where the main character had thick tufts of black underarm hair as she writhed on the floor, how strangely beautiful it was, and who the fuck did they think they were to “forgive” other women for their own body hair when they weren’t exactly lookers themselves? No; I sat in the back of the car and didn’t contribute a single word to the conversation.

Or when I get a “Nihao” and a “Chink” thrown my way for the first time in a handful of years, but I pretend not to hear and continue walking because I am afraid and alone and my overactive imagination is busily conjuring up creative headlines of my own gruesome death in the news (“Raped, Robbed, and Murdered (In That Order): A Tragedy on 7th St.”), and “Cracker” and “Fuck you” cannot adequately express my quick bubble of rage.

When I walk into the supermarket bare-faced and attempt to buy umeshu, some plum liquor, but the cashier squints at me and asks for ID, refusing my business card when I flash it at her half-heartedly; deeply flattered and yet deeply annoyed, I leave the supermarket empty-handed when I fail to convince her that I am in fact, 25 years old and legal, and and that it is simply impossible, a real No Can Do, to get drunk off of fucking umeshu.

When a relationship becomes more than a singular spark of interest, but I don’t voice these desires because of my stubborn adherence to outdated gender norms and a wish to gauge their interest. I wait, instead.

When a casual acquaintance wonders aloud how our other casual acquaintance has never had a proper boyfriend before and why she doesn’t try harder to get one — I don’t volunteer my own expansive romantic history or suggest in all seriousness that perhaps it is not her Life Goal to get a man because she has other more pressing concerns and ambitions or perhaps she plays for the other team, if not both, and from there on hold a satisfying discussion on how same-sex relations actually used to be very common in Ancient Japan and how Westernization in the Meiji Era and the subsequent importation of Christian taboos and the widespread adoption of the English acronym “LGBT” and English terms such as those very four in that particular acronym instead of Japanese have somehow managed to erase history and instill the public perception that this whole gay thing is a bizarre new rainbow-colored Western phenomenon of sorts; I just ho and hum along and eat my lunch special, agreeing with her lamentation that it’s such a terrible waste when she’s still so young and pretty, and that she definitely needs to get herself some quality D, stat.

Why do I routinely swallow my words? Because I’m an awkward fuck, to protect myself, to save face; because occasionally, words alone do not suffice. There are an endless myriad of convenient reasons for my silence.

But what do I lose when things are left unsaid? I suppose it costs me my character; vanilla is a people-pleaser, but bland and forgettable. My integrity, when I maintain my pretended indifference in the face of ignorance, because silence is tacit agreement. I lose out on opportunities to be an adult and have honest, vulnerable conversations about shit, when I tamp down my feelings and let them flit about inside me without release. My confidence, when I wait passively for words that might indicate something, anything. The “what-ifs” build up, entire scenarios of alternate lives that could have been. It chips away at you, when you leave things unsaid.

I want to be braver, let all my words out one day. But if I can’t speak them, for now I will write them and hope that they will be read:

Down with the patriarchy

I wish to denail you

I miss you more than you know

Kindly fuck off

Please hire me

Mind your own pits

Dinner might be nice

Please hire me

I ate the last slice

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