Since then, I’ve been a collector of words—
Chinese characters on the dusty Beijing street signs
English letters highlighted in children’s books on the thick, soft carpet of the ESL classroom
French conjugations scribbled on an assignment completed five minutes before the start of 5th period
Japanese words discovered in the Digimon character songs and sung offkey in karaoke rooms
And the occasional “schadenfreude” and “hasta la vista, baby”
By junior year of high school, my little piggy was getting fat
And I thought I had enough words to make me a billionaire
But the day I met you, I knew that finally,
Here was a word I’ve never seen before—silence
Silence was your language
It was your word for pain and word for kindness
It was your way of saying “don’t look for me when I am lost” and “keep looking for me, for I am lost”
It was a futile shield against the thorns of words that pierced your armors
And a sword to fight against the demanding light that threatened to pull you from the darkness forever
And it was a leash you put around your own neck
So that when you want to bite the world, you won’t bite too hard before it strangles you
And did you know? The day I learned your language I put it into my piggy bank and it burst
Your silence cracked it open like a dissection
And the belly of the beast shattered with tears that could draw blood from my fingers
And words flowed into sentences and paragraphs and lines and lines of emails and Facebook messages and poetry
And, facing the you huddled next to the English classroom, silence
Maybe, I thought, silence was my language of love
It might have been the ocean connecting and dividing us, flowing rhythmically,
At times crashing deafeningly upon our shores
Sending tsunamis to overwhelm the continent
Maybe, I thought, silence was my language of happiness
It might have been the cast holding me together from bursting
That day when the California sun made it too hot for you to wear your armors
And you asked me to dance with shaking hands
Maybe, just like you, silence was my language of pain and kindness
That night, in my over-long purple dress
Watching you twirl her under the blinking neon lights
It was my way of saying “don’t bother looking for me” and “come find me”
It was a pair of shattered glass slippers that cut into the soles of my feet
So as to save you a beautiful memory, even if I bleed
But maybe, it was nothing at all
For why else did you not understand me when I spoke your tongue?
When I looked at you, sitting side-by-side on the wooden fence,
Why did you look down at the ground as if you wanted to kill all our words and tears and fears and bury them?
Why did you not notice my obliquely conveyed warmth, desperately trying to envelope the cold things and broken places within you?
Why did you not look back?
Why did our eyes never meet?
Why did you let me learn your language, your monotonous language that conveyed no meaning?
Why did you let me cut myself on the sharp edge of my unsent letters?
Why did you let me label you like a word and put you in my dictionary as the definition for love?
The day you told me that there is a reason we have vocal cords
I realized that it wasn’t you who taught me this language:
I knew it all along
It was there,
In the empty spaces of my piggy bank
And it’s up to me to break it