I have these dreams: I live and breathe under water. It is light green air. Or our country is occupied. Though I never see the enemy, they are everywhere. We are resistance fighters who hide underground, moving and fighting. We live with the terror that we might be seen. Or I have learned to fly, a highly technical skill that I learn in a series of dreams. It is a secret I hide.
Before Victoria and I left on our five-month trip through India, I had another kind of dream. I am traveling with my woman lover to meet her people in a secret mountain encampment. We stop at a bar enroute. Some women are playing pool. One glances at me, turns to my lover and asks, "Have you told her yet?" "No", she says. Suddenly the dream shifts speed; I am inside and outside of it simultaneously. I know my lover isn't who I think she is. She is utterly alien. As she morphs into a hideous Kafkaesque creature, I think calmly, "at least I loved her first as a human. It will make the transition easier."
When I first read John Fortunata's Embracing the Exile, I cried myself back into exile, first as a lesbian and before that. As far back as I know, I have been white. Sometimes the Filipinas passing through the yard would say, "ay manika!" (doll) and pinch our cheeks. A manika: fragile, pretty, pale, precious. By sixth grade, I was not manika enough. My nose was too large, a body so restless, and my whiteness bright like neon in Quiapo, Paco, everywhere I went. I knew my passport's privilege but did not want to know how to be American.
We grew up in limbo, chaotic and alive. Home was a small family island in the Philippine Sea. The world teemed with queasy odors and sweet aromas, sunlight several degrees brighter and music several decibels louder than American life. I learned how to be Filipina, and that I was not one. My sisters and I were ex-manikas, "white monkeys," Manila girls in a world pummeled by typhoons, wildcat strikes, student riots, and then, in 1971, curfewed nights.
I lived with the name, white monkey, because it was cruel and true enough.
There are fish adrift in their aquariums with whom I have more in common than some friends. I am living under water again. I open my mouth to unshaped sound. And no one knows that I am utterly alien, that our world is occupied. No one knows this because I can't speak the language. I can't escape, though I can fly. And no one understands me when I speak, nor do I.