The Believer Who Didn’t Believe
By Sandy Tan
Macy is far from being the math whiz her parents want her to be. Will God be the one to change this?
Macy was remarkably average. Her hair was black and straight. She had almond eyes with deep brown irises that would give you the impression that you had something on your face. Standing at five-feet-one-and-a-half, Macy was the definition of the average little Asian girl. Not a piano prodigy, a math whiz, or anything else Americans would peg as Asian for that matter. In fact, she despised math and would spend hours doing it for homework.
Macy’s parents weren’t the type to tutor her, and they couldn’t even if they wanted to. They would ramble on and on about how they were busy picking firewood at Macy’s age back in China, and finding X in an equation wouldn’t feed any mouths. Once report card day arrived, however, their attitude changed.
Since they couldn’t help Macy, they did what every good parent would do when they couldn’t help their child: send them to after-school care.
It was one of those “after-school camps” that virtually everyone signed up to attend. It’s always the same “limited-time-only, 10%-off sale” that gets each and every one of them. Of course, Macy’s math skills didn’t improve at all. She was too busy playing Sudoku and Connect Four to care about such trivial matters.
When she returned home, her parents would tell her their decade-old tales of farming back home and how it had all been replaced by skyscrapers and new shiny developments that Macy’s cousins inhabited now.
“You see those pictures they send? The road repaved, houses rebuilt, nothing feels like home anymore. Your cousins keep talking about their houses, but what do we get?”
Macy’s mom was not much of a tiger parent, but she still loved spewing comparisons to anyone who would listen.
It was the same things she would tell the tiny Buddha statue that adorned the red altar she prayed to during those special holidays marked on the lunar calendar. Macy didn’t dare question her mom’s faith, but she didn’t particularly believe that lighting up incense that triggered the smoke alarm and pouring tea to the gods would grant any of her wishes. If the gods were listening, she would’ve been five-feet-five already.
Macy continued to attend after-school camp, and the community leaders would sometimes bring in guests to talk to the students. After many failed attempts to gain anyone’s interest, the camp staff invited Mary, a skinny, tall Asian lady in her mid-40s. Her voice was soft, but it commanded your attention. She had small spectacles perched on the top of her nose and a tiny Bible in her hands.
Every afternoon, Macy would sit in during Mary’s lessons, where she would turn to a new section in the Bible. Mary talked about morals and the messages of God. She spoke about forgiveness and sin. Good and evil. When Macy told her mom what she had learned, her face turned sour.
“They brainwash you. Do not listen,” she demanded.
In the following week, Macy found out that her mother had disenrolled her in the after-school camp. Her mother gave her a $30 AMSCO textbook to study off of instead. This time, Macy’s math scores were finally showing some improvement. Before long, Macy had forgotten about the whole incident.
Math would still be a difficult subject for Macy in the subsequent years, but her trusty AMSCO textbook had it all. For good measure, however, Macy would close her eyes and make a wish before every test. You can never be too sure if someone is listening.
Drawing inspiration from Marilyn Chin’s Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen: A Manifesto in 41 Tales, I wrote a parable that explores the difficulties of reconciling one’s culture with one’s faith. In Chin’s novel, the Americanized character, Mei Ling, struggles to accept her Asian heritage with clashing American ideals. Sharing similar experiences as an Asian American, I decided to combine these elements to create Macy, the main character of “The Believer Who Didn’t Believe”. In writing this parable and bringing to life a character that resembles me, I was able to reminisce about moments in my life that have defined my identity and learn to accept it as a part of myself.
Sandy Tan is a senior in high school with a strong interest in the intersection between creative writing and technology. She believes technology and writing are not only tools for self-expression but also mediums for change. She is involved in various all-womxn computer science communities, engaging in projects that address low voter turnout in the United States and the gender gap in STEM. Her goal is to inspire more young womxn to find their place in the world of technology. In her spare time, Sandy loves baking with her older sisters, reading and painting.