Me In The Eyes of 2020
By Mengnan Lin & Selena Beaumont
Two perspectives on 2020, a year of change, growth, tragedy, and conflict.
Mengnan I’m not a perfect student who Can sit still in front of the never-tired computer for 24/7 And be on top of every assignment I’m not a perfect friend who Has a thousand different ways to Cheer my friends up when they are in great sadness I’m not a perfect older sister who Has endless patience to Cook every meal with different recipes Answer every question which might not have an answer For my also vulnerable little sister by myself at home I’m also just not a perfect human being who Has growth mindset embedded in their body And can be optimistic Whenever a challenge pops up I’m weak I try to be strong, act strong And tell myself that I am strong, but I AM WEAK I’m a child of silence that Make me a fairly good listener Who is empathetic to embrace All the smiles and the scars But not this time Because when I close my eyes and listen I hear tremendous noises from every corner of the world crying, screaming, begging for hope and changes “I hate 2020!” “Grandpa! Grandpa! Please don’t go!” “Mom, I want food.” “Is there any more masks left at home?” “I’m sorry, but I really can’t lose this job!” “When can I go back to school?” “I promise I will pay the rent as soon as I get a new job!” “2020 is full of disasters!” …… SHUSHHHHHHH I open my eyes with tears and Cover my ears with all my force “Jie Jie, what are we eating for lunch?” My little sister comes into the room and Sees me trembling She doesn’t ask anything, but just Runs to my side and hugs me tight “It’s okay, it’s okay.” It is not okay, baby But it’s okay to be “not okay” It’s okay to have missing assignments As far as you catch up with them It’s okay to not know how to console your friends As long as you are spiritually by their sides and support them It’s okay to lose your patience with your siblings sometimes As long as you give yourself a little more patience and love It’s okay to be imperfect or temporarily pessimistic As long as you are still looking forward to tomorrow To the beautiful, hopeful things that will happen tomorrow To the beautiful, better self that you will become tomorrow Don’t worry, You are ON TIME. You are ON TRACK.
The men in front of me are white.
This is important in the story I’m about to tell. I go to deli at six a.m. while the sun debates whether it will rise to find two people ahead of me where there should be none in the crevices of early morning. Two men three times my size, identical in a way that doesn’t matter to me with strangers, similar enough that I notice the way the slightly younger one examines the older one with the same mimicry a child looks at their parent. I say that I am a person who cares about the details that make another person, but not before the caffeine stakes my heart. In the turn of the giant fabric of our collective story, these men would mean little to me, as many of them do, but they open the thin lines of their mouths and out comes an accent so Frankensteined, my head threatens to snap from my neck. It is an accent that beneath the patchwork of racism, is the accent of the echelons of my family. It is the accent of the five men who work behind the counter, men who have watched me grow up over the decade, between cups of French vanilla, who crow my name in chorus upon entry in that beautiful accent, chittering away in Spanish while I stand on my toes to shove dollar bills in their tip jar. It’s the same accent that sharpens across the stove in the back while it weaves through distorted orders—“Turkey and jam on rye; mini bagel scooped out toasted two shades darker than you,” one lady says. It is an accent in the mouths of these men that sounds like a nasally secret, not meant to be heard, the skittering laughter that follows turns my hands to stone, and I will the rage inside me to be silent. My mother says that I have enough anger to burn down a forest, that my birth and the sign that defines it embedded in the sun was destiny, that my words unfettered could kill the soul of a person, so I learn the grooves of the top of my mouth, sentences dying behind the seam of my teeth, while the men in front of me straighten their faces, placing their order with a cool ease that hollows out my entirety, stepping out of one body and into another. This is a poem about the consistent hum of such consistent people in the narrative of my life that keep it stitched together. This is a poem about the many women who live inside of me, begging in moments of conflict to scream.
Mengnan and Selena routinely did creative introspective prompts to explore the many emotions that come with living during quarantine.
Mengnan Lin is a young artist, playwright and storyteller who uses art and writing as her two platforms to bring light to the unspoken sides of the "minorities" world. Growing up in a small town in Fujian, China, and then later immigrating to Queens, NY, Mengnan is a "citizen" of many places. All her experiences engaging with diverse communities give her incredible perspectives on distinct ways of discovering, expressing and refounding our identity. Mengnan aims to continue to speak up and advocate for the unvoiced communities through her words and artworks.
After graduating with a degree in English Literature from Queens College, Selena spent several years at esteemed publishing establishments, such as Writers House, William Morris Endeavor and the Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. As a publishing professional, she feels it is her obligation to make sure that the industry and the stories produced reflect the demographics of society at large—that the voices of the most marginalized are acknowledged and uplifted.