I look at my boyfriend with such anger, but I feel a little sympathy too, as I notice a part of his chin dripping with blood. Tears stream down my face. I am scared out of my mind.
“Everyone take off your seatbelts and put your hands up or on the dashboard where I can see them,” I hear a cop say.
The first time I ever get in trouble, it has to be SDPD.
“The passenger in the van, get out of the car with your hands up and walk backwards toward the sidewalk,” came through the megaphone.
That’s my cue.
It all started six months earlier, in 2002, on the south side of San Diego.
I walked into my ninth-grade, fifth-period PE class at what was then Bell Jr. High School in Paradise Hills. Standing on the hot black pavement, our names were being called in alphabetical order for roll. I heard Toney’s name. As I looked around, I saw him hanging onto a girl by her waist.
What a flirt, I remember telling myself. I knew he didn’t have a girlfriend at the time because my best friend Joann was on his jock. But I didn’t care. I found myself beginning to feel an attraction toward him.
At Bell, I was a cheerleader with straight A’s and Daddy’s angelic little girl. Not some hood-rat rule-breaker or badass. I was more about academics and socializing.
But I am also a Filipino. We eat with our hands, drive crazy on the road, point with our lips, and have fathers in the Navy and mothers who are nurses, both speaking with broken English.
My parents moved to San Diego from Bohol, Philippines, when my dad got stationed here more than 23 years ago. Like many Filipinos before them, they left all their family and friends behind but brought a few things along with them: their hopes for a better opportunity, their accents, and their Filipino rules.
We have to do well in school, graduate from some college, get a good job, and visit our parents’ homeland with 20-plus balikbayan boxes full of stuff as pasalubong for our cousins, which seem to increase by the thousands every few years. We’re not supposed to move out or have kids until marriage, which isn’t expected until age 30. No staying out too late, no calling older family members directly by their first names, and no “disco-disco.”
My older sister is ten and I am eight when the lectures start. “No boyfriends till you graduate college” is what my parents emphasize.
Four years later, my sister is an eighth-grader at Bell. She walks to my elementary school every day after class because that is where we get picked up. We usually have to kill time before our parents come to get us because of their work schedule. I find it an opportunity to play with my friends or join after-school programs. My sister uses her time otherwise.
One day, I am about to walk down the ramp toward the big kids’ playground when I run into my dad. It ended up as his day off, so he’s come early.
“Where’s your sister?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” I start to say, when I notice out of the corner of my eye that my sister is sitting on some guy’s lap at the bottom of the ramp.
They’re both in their school uniforms. He wears his like a wannabe gang member who’d run at the sight of real danger. My dad sees them and storms down the hill. I am scared for my sister but so glad it isn’t me. Every Filipino kid knows to stay clear of an angry father; you don’t want to be beaten with a slipper. Although I am some distance away, I have a good view of this potential Jerry Springer episode. I can smell the popcorn. I watch intensely. I hear loud shouts. But I can’t make out the words.
I see my sister quickly try to remove her short little body off this guy’s chunky lap, and I can’t help wondering if my dad’s intimidating behavior is going to scare the toughness right out of the round-faced deviant.
My dad directs his yelling at the guy, who just sits there. I can tell my sister is trying to defend him because of her constant attempts to get between them. My dad then grabs her arm and pulls her up the ramp. Her arm and face turn red as she struggles to break his grip.
The yelling gets louder the closer they come.
“Sitting on his lap, Heather?”
“Dad, just stop!”
“You can’t see him anymore! Break up with him!”
“But I love him!” Her sobbing gets heavier.
“Let’s go!” he yells at me.
I can’t help smirking at my sister’s comment and laughing about her embarrassment as I follow them to the car. I couldn’t care less that I am being inconsiderate. It isn’t me getting into trouble, it is her.
We get home in what feels like two minutes. I’m not sure how we survive the car ride. There is a lot of yelling, jerking, and swerving on my dad’s part and crying, sobbing, and whining on my sister’s part.
My dad goes into the house and straight to the phone to call Mom. I watch my sister attempting to pack her stuff to run away if Dad continues to forbid their relationship. How far could she get? I think. She’s only 14. If my dad was angry earlier, he will be the Hulk now! But my sister dares not test his strength. Instead, she locks herself in her room.
Three years after my sister’s great love affair, I am a ninth-grader at Bell. I decide to go on a trip to Disneyland with people from a neighborhood rec center. Toney was going, so of course I wanted to. We’re in the same group and ride almost all the rides, but one in particular makes me cheese it every time I hear its name.