I take a deep breath as I walk into the dark theater with several Hmong girlfriends from work. It’s 11:00 AM on a Friday, and the only people in the theater are us, a few rows of senior citizens, and a couple here and there. All week I’ve been reading the reviews for Crazy Rich Asians, watching the cast do interviews, witnessing this momentous event every step of the way. It’s been on my calendar for a whole year. As my girlfriends and I sit down to wait for the lights to dim and for the trailers to start playing, I only had one thought in my head. Gosh, please don’t suck.
I imagine a bright spark when an idea is born. Miniscule at first, it starts to grow, crackling and fizzing before its jagged branches shoot across the sky like lightning. In the movie Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Cobb says, “An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow.” My idea for A Kiss of Blood—my young adult fantasy novel about a girl who goes into the spirit realm to rescue her mother's soul—was an amalgamation of many little things, and one of those things is a Hmong song called “Cia Ua Ib Zaj Dab Neeg”—“Let It Be a Story”—“it” referring to a relationship. In the song, a boy receives a wedding invitation from the girl he Ioves who is marrying another boy. Although he is devastated by the news, he chooses to accept the situation—hence, his saying, “let it be a story”. I was particularly intrigued with one part of the song and one line—the very last line, which talks about a “letter”.
Literally. There is shit all over my black boots. The chicken kind, to be exact. It’s dry and green, brown and yellow, all the pretty colors of the shit rainbow, and it’s screaming at anyone and everyone proudly: I ammmm poooooop!
I pause in the middle of the lobby in the building where I work. My boots look like a mistake against the pristine floor. I look up. No one has noticed. Everyone is too busy trying to get to their respective offices. For a moment I think about driving all the way back home. I think about calling Alex and asking him to bring me another pair of shoes. I think about all the ways I could’ve dressed this morning, about the black pencil skirt hanging in my closet and the green summer dress that hid all my tummy fat.
Then I thought, “Oh, piss off inner voice. I’m proud of the chicken poop on my boots.”
I remember a blue door that was once red...or was it a red door that was once blue? Apartment 187 had two bedrooms, one bathroom, nine people, and a million cockroaches. When we turned on the kitchen light in the middle of the night, they scattered across the yellow linoleum floor, their short, little legs working hard to get to safety. They were just trying to survive, I guess. Like us.