At the immigration station, Sisowath and I looked through the same eye: curious: fearful: determined: relieved: beckoning: there were formal men reckoning us. Their English ran quick as their documents and ink stamps: they would pick which ones to remain, which ones to return. I hovered like a colossus between two continents: back and forth: how I did yearn to stride there forever: the bronze sheen of my face homeward to each sun. They told Sisowath and me to stay: I sighed, signed my English name as Samnang had taught me, rode a train to Los Angeles: nowhere filled my mind.
Some comfort: the cockroaches seemed smaller at the Vista: the Mexican landlord Rodriguez resembled my long deceased shoemaking brother: Sisowath grew plumper, taller on the rice Domnang poured into our closet feedbag. Mr. Ching let me take Sisowath to his store: the local Asian market where I bagged groceries for his family. Mrs. Ching looked after Sisowath for me: the Chings had no children: they had lost two to war: their cheeks sagged like pouches of rice: they craved laughter. Mrs. Ching bought Sisowath a teddy bear: love wavered over the market floor: unsteadily.
Years later, Sisowath finger-painted a tree in kindergarten: called it maple: Ms. Lewis taped it to the front wall: we saw it at Open House: Ms. Lewis dubbed Sisowath bright. When she said it, I thought of Sambath: memories hit hard still: the moon, sometimes, still triggers agony. We stood for the pledge at the assembly: by heart, I knew most of the words: they lit up the bare air, lingered, then drifted away, toward everywhere we had been.
Roger Pao is an intern for the Common Sense Foundation, a progressive public policy think tank in Raleigh.