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  • Christine Ma-Kellams (bio)

At sixteen, your mother comes home with special news.

Ovarian cancer—ta-da!

You look younger than you appear but act older than your years, a perfect enigma wrapped up in a tight little Asian body, the kind of stuff wet, pedophilic, imperialist bucket lists are made of. At least, this is what you gather when you show up to your friend's house and her older sister's White husband mistakes you for one of his wife's girlfriends, and talks to you as such, until you mention the sats and he slinks away to the bathroom, embarrassed. You hear the shower running and wonder if it's a cold one.

When he comes out, he has the same sheepish look on his face, like he got caught reusing sample cups at Yogurtland. "Sorry," he says.

"For what?" you ask.

He walks away to avoid having to answer that.

"My mom's sick," you call after him. He is the only person you tell, but he is too far away to hear you. If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it, it doesn't make a sound. Perhaps the same can be said of cancer, you think, because you are still young and dumb.


You are walking down College Avenue in downtown Berkeley during a prospective student's tour when you overhear two guys in front of you talking.

"Every man has the impulse to rape," the one is saying to the other.

"It's evolutionary," the other one agrees.

You consider their slim jeans and faint, side-swept bangs, their opaque arms dusted softly with blonde hairs.

"I could probably overtake you both," you say, when you go up to them.

"Well, as long as it was one at a time," you correct.

You love it when people are speechless. Especially rape-happy strangers. [End Page 133]

Still, you get into a debate over the appropriate punishment for rape with a graduate student in neuroscience at Caffè Strada. You two collectively decide to limit the discussion to female rape.

"It's the functional equivalent of murder," he says.

"How would you know?" you ask.

"You are ending a life by forcing them to potentially take on another—yours," he says.

"You mean pregnancy?"

"Making a woman pregnant against her will? It's the ultimate fuck-you."

"How so?"

"One, giving birth is the leading cause of female mortality in all of human history, including in developing countries today. Two, you get to pass on your rapist dna and she gets to raise your rapist kids without any help from you. Three, she might've had other plans for her life," he tells you.

"I heard that conception is more likely when a woman comes, which is unlikely in the event of force. And anyway, the fertilization window is like what, two days out of the month? So you multiply those together and you're not getting a whole lot of rape babies," you reply.

The grad student looks at you with the kind of contempt you assume he normally reserves for Hummer drivers and people who litter. "Who are you again?" he asks, as he calibrates his level of irritation. He is tall with big forearms and matching calves, along with hair that reminds you of elves. He looks like he'd like to assault you right then and there, atop the wobbly teak bistro tables, just to show you a thing or two and shut you up, but his intellectual liberal card is a prison that he has willfully locked himself into.

"You can't, I'm in high school." You help him out by answering the question he is asking himself. You discover that people do not like being speechless. If you stick around long enough you will find out just how much they do not like it. Apparently, intellectual liberalism is a prison without keys, one that men can easily walk out of under the right motivational circumstances; the culpability of their actions is an afterthought, never a deterrent.


Later, just before takeoff, you ask your dad if every man is...


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pp. 133-140
Launched on MUSE
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