red

四 (2012)
Gouache on newspaper

 

the worn plush of a cinema chair
the smooth pen strokes of a bad grade
red sunsets
red strobe lights
lipstick and chipped nail polish

chinese new year
firecrackers and red envelopes
a flag with yellow stars
weddings and the family unit
filial piety and good fortune
a dream of red mansions

roof tiles placed on a house
a red suzuki swift parked on the lawn
a red feature wall, redwood deck chairs, a brick chimney
strawberry jam and some cordial

red angst and love hearts
she has red shoes and warm lips
flushed cheeks and bloodshot eyes
she is shared wine and a number three billiard ball
the cherry on top
youtube and netflix
silk pyjamas and a maroon duvet
the city link bus, beach pohutukawas, the new zealand symphony orchestra and the auckland art gallery

I write with a red pen
words gush out from thin slit wounds

wolves can smell red
blood and fear
the scent of hidden secrets
sweaty palms, fermented grapes and a blood moon
like unearthing a body
uprooting a family tree
there is a gasp
the sound of pages turning  
and silence after the howl

it starts softly
why are you like this
is it a broken family
bad parenting
1B8s in an all girls’ school
too many red liquorice sleepovers
it is disobedience
it is disrespect
it’s because I hate my culture
another lost daughter
it’s because I talk back
and she sees red

red is the colour I spit when lips are split
when fist meets braces
when wrists are twisted
it’s tough love
a bruised apple and a broken plate
a wallet with a single hundred dollar note
a bed against the door, a cabinet against the window
a red hot poker in hand guarantees safety
get out, gun dan

if you slice me open
you will find lots of red
I bleed love
roses and candy hearts
red string and red guts

a piñata is made to break
a human is made to heal
from fresh crimson to a deep burgundy   
cuts stitch, hearts mend
and a red dawn heralds a new day

 

***

Author’s Note: Who am I? Narrating my life in terms of trauma is relatable, an immediate call to empathy. I am not my trauma, but now that I have your attention, I am a queer Chinese New Zealander trying to navigate traditional family values in a gay boat. I’m getting better at sailing. Kia kaha to all you queer people of colour out there. It’s not easy but it gets better!

About the author
Angela Zhang is a geotechnical engineer. When she's not looking at foundations, groundwater and retaining walls, Angela is looking at the spaces between people. She is interested in telling and hearing stories, and is slowly collecting more through coffee dates and late night phone calls.