The Adirondack Review

Entering the Chinese-American Soap Opera 

Honolulu, Hawai'i


At first, I feel deprived, hungry for the spectacle of those extravagant Latin
American slaps,
cachetadas savory as empanadas, but then I find a similar formula applies:

lust and love impossibly intertwined, similarly convoluted plots.  Yet these soap
opera characters are plain-spoken,
honest to a fault.  A greater challenge involves following how they switch from
Chinese to English, and back:

English primarily for the office, but not always; Chinese, it seems, for close
friends, elders.   For lovers, sometimes. 
I begin to enjoy the sound of the foreign syllables heaping upon themselves, small
gems gathered in a pile.    

Setting: what appears to be a tiki bar (hibiscus behind her ear, tight coral necklace,
mixed drinks).
But back to plot.  He is attractive, deliberate when he chooses to speak to our
heroine
in Chinese: 

Yes.  Went sailing.  Didn't feel the need to tell anyone.  She turns her back to
him and stares at an ocean
viewers can only hear.   In previous scenes, workers have rushed around her

in dizzying orbits, a girlfriend has thrown up in the company bathroom, afraid she
will never measure up.
Now, all that's left is for her to walk away, unsteady, but sober, towards a blur
 
of hotel lights.  I want to take her by the hand and sit her down at a café table,
brush the hair from her eyes.  
I want to say something inadequate in a language I cannot speak.   


Michele Santamaria
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poemsThe St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poemsThe St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
MICHELE SANTAMARIA has work forthcoming in South Carolina Review and has had poems published in Snakeskin, and Lullwater Review.  A lecturer in English at Clemson University, she has also taught at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn and University of Oregon.  She has lived in three continents, but was originally born in Quito, Ecuador.