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Almost-American Immigrant

Rachel Rui

November 24th, 2017


“The first day is always hard,” they tell me. Icy dust and twilight on cold, metal subway tracks—the snow was their first impression of America. Perhaps they should have known right then that Liberty’s torch did not blaze as warmly as they had hoped, illuminate so brightly their paths. Yet, their midwinter souls perceived only the empty canvas of tire-streaked, glowing white. They’d take what little light they could, no matter if it scorched them.


“The first day is always hard,” they tell me. Inability to recognize impending danger, as they drowned in black and the brightness only further blinded. It was impossible to tell if it was 5:30, on the verge of burning sky-light or 5:30, falling into all-consuming night. Painful wishes fall upon shooting, crashing, burning stars, and desires dissolve into tears in their throats. The darkness burns: coals with dusky flames under moonlight. They chase a paper sun in the sky of shadow-fire.


“The first day is always hard,” they tell me. Brittle silence and chilled fingertips fill their memories. English words on their niece’s books, silent voices still broken. They live with cold tears unwarmed by the American sun, but souls burned by its chilling, white fire. Fluent in hope, in love, in tradition, but not in the language of this new world. The half-formed letters don’t sound quite right dropping off of an unfamiliar tongue. On paper, hands tremble for the lack of the fiery, radiant warmth they were promised.


“The first day is always hard,” they tell me. Their whispers felt thunderous. Their broken English weighed their voices down, made them heavy, fragmented shrieks. Flashes of white, flashes of color, flashes of voice. Transient letters formed: no one hears. Their lungs feel like shattered-powder bones and scarlet tears. And tearing their fragmented hearts off their sleeves isn’t hard with thread-thin gossamer veins. Eyes desperately closed, echoing screams, violent prayers, and half-hope dreams.


“The first day is always hard.”

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