Breathing in Your Box

by Gabriella Yokoyama

“What are you?” you asked today, though I had never met you and never seen you before; you asked because you had to know. I wanted to be surprised that you had asked me a question that felt like a penetration, but I couldn’t because a person gets used to just about anything if it happens enough. I thought about a lot smarmy answers I could have given you: “Human,” or “Martian,” or a doe-eyed stare and, “What do you mean?” But my instinct to be polite and nonconfrontational took over and I told you calmly what you needed to know. You promptly told me I was wrong: “No, you look more Chinese than Japanese, I thought you were just a white girl, not at all Hawaiian, because you really look like a French girl I once knew, and you have an oriental eye when you look down, and what a flat face; of course who would have such big lips if they weren’t part Black?” I sat quietly with a polite smile while I watched your question penetrate to tell and not ask, and you hovered over me to inform me that I liked it, you were going to solve my problems, and then you walked away happy with a some fraction of me that ordered your world and splintered mine.


Gabriella Yokoyama is a writer and poet currently living on the Big Island of Hawai'i. She graduated from the University of Southern Colorado with a degree in Social Science and English Literature. She also works for at-risk Native Hawaiian youth with limited resources.