*It is with my sincerest apology to my mother and father for writing this story, as I do not have their permission.
It was May 5th, 2000. I turned eighteen unceremoniously. Waking up from the nap, I spotted a small vase of fresh flowers with a quick note that said “Happy birthday, Vy!” It was such a thoughtful and sweet gesture that I couldn’t bare myself running to my older sister to thank her. You see, in my family, we do not display affection or appreciation.
As I laid there deciding whether I should acknowledge my birthday gift, a loud screaming noise echoed from the living room. “They are at it again,” I thought. I pulled the blanket over my head, as if to shield myself from another explosive yelling from my father. When I was younger, as I sensed the looming of violent episode, I hid far away. Sometimes, I would run out of time; thus, I would just crawled under a table or inside a box and covered my ears. Now that I was eighteen, more mature, more Westernized, I was hoping that things would be different. We are in America now; a woman should be free from her Vietnamese husband’s beating and verbal abuse.
I allowed their fight to go on for about fifteen minutes. Then, I heard my mom wailed. “Help me!”
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! I don’t want to be dealing with this on my birthday. I don’t want to be dealing with this anymore! Why can’t be a an orphan?
I screamed silently in my head.
“Help me,” another wail vibrated the house.
I ran out, slamming the fragile door behind me, to discover my mom cowering, hugging herself in fetus position next to the stove. Right above the stove was a knife clinging on to the white wall.
Why did you do that for, dad? Are you crazy?
My father proceeded to scream the same speech he screams whenever he got into one of these angry episodes. The common theme was betrayal and sacrifice. It often goes like this:
“You bitch! I fought and went to prison for my country. I gave up my homeland to bring this family to the US. What do I get? I get treated like a dog. A dog is probably treated better than me. Is this how you repay me?”
I had it. The year was 2000 and the world did not end. However, this violence, it has to stop. Emboldened by my impending departure for UCLA in August, I screamed back:
What are you going to do? Kill us all?
I ducked just in time to be about 6 inches under the knife.
Scared and regretful, my father walked away from the kitchen and left the house. He looked sad and defeated. My mother, still in the same position, began to cry loudly.
That was the day I turned eighteen and a knife flew across the room, above my head.