litanies for the body in-between

diasporic loneliness & your family

sara david
Human Parts
Published in
4 min readDec 23, 2013

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i have three brothers. owen is twenty-eight and in ohio. lucas is seventeen and in new york. nico is twelve and in manila.

my mom makes famously delicious filipino spaghetti, and one night when owen was about twelve, he was so happy we were having this spaghetti for dinner that he spun in a circle with his dinner in hand and the spaghetti flew right off his plate and onto our white walls!

when we were young, he fostered this whole “nerd girl” thing i’ve got going on by telling me things like, “i think it would be super cool if you were into comic books like me, cause you’re a girl.” i didn’t fully understand or appreciate the safe space he created for us but i’m so grateful for it now. (#subverting gender since 1989) owen taught me how to play video games. he took me to play magic: the gathering. he gave me every action figure i liked more than he did. i took him to dance classes. now he’s getting an mfa in choreography.

when lucas was a kid, owen and i used to take him to aikido class. we watched him do exercises across the floor and thought about when owen started karate. (he hated it and cheated on his sit-ups, got kicked out of class for being too sassy.)

now lucas is seventeen. i smoked pot with him this summer, and he told me that since mom left, he’s felt really depressed and disconnected from most people. especially his friends, who don’t understand what it’s like not to have a nuclear family.

last year, nico walked in on his mother’s attempted suicide. twice. when owen and i went to visit him in manila last spring, he started crying immediately. he cried intermittently throughout our one week stay, saying he wanted to have fun but was too sad knowing that we had to leave soon. he insisted on taking me and owen to one place—the old spaghetti house.

i was the little girl laughing so hard she cried when owen tossed the spaghetti in the air. i was my mother, cooking dinner for her kids at sixteen years old. i was my grandmother, insisting that we eat spaghetti at every birthday. “noodles for long life!”

in college, i called my dad and asked him about fatherhood. he said, “i didn’t ever know i wanted to be a dad, but when i held your brother in my hands for the first time, i knew it was my purpose.”

i’ve been thinking about making plans and saying prayers. i told tory about how some guy sold me his laptop for really cheap out of the goodness of his heart and she said, “i’m so happy about that, sara. you deserve this, i really think it is karma coming back to you.” but i thought about my sweet and loving father, thousands of miles away. his children swept away by diaspora. his inability to move on from love, loss, and the storms that come with living on the islands.

i used to think that each man was every man (in the way that all matter is the same). i liked to imagine time as planar and infinite—with all of my brothers as little brothers and big brothers simultaneously, with me as my grandmother and mother and daughter. i liked to tell myself that everything was beautiful & connected—that my skin was made from stardust.

i like to think that seeing things like your mother’s attempted suicide or your parents’ marriage dissolve is part of growing up. or being raped or beaten or left for dead doesn’t take away from you, but makes you capable of surviving more. but who knows. when i called my papa many years ago, he admitted, “if i could have a hundred children, i would. just to fill their lives with love. i think it’s the most beautiful thing in the world.”

but he was never able to raise me and my brothers. he and my mama fell out of love and we scattered west in the wind. far from him and each other, still waiting to be filled with love.

when my papa drinks, he shakes his head and laments, “i wish you still spoke tagalog. i know you moved here when you were young, but you were good with our language.” my brother tries to comfort me. “your english words are rich and beautiful,” he offers.

make a home in queens, in brooklyn, in boston, providence, los angeles. make a home in the hearts of those you love.

“no man is an island,” a white man said, but he never met you. make a moving, dancing home on your journey of fragmented self. archipelago—archipelaga, you are a chain of islands, the landscape of your body with mountains and hills of hips and breasts, your back a vast expanse of flesh, warm and golden like the desert, endless waves of hair like the ocean. you taste of salt like the sea.

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