Hong Kong Suitor

by Dorothy Chan


At a bar in Kowloon, Hong Kong, 2011,
a boy in a business suit asks me,
“What’s your citizenship?” and I wonder
if this is the pick-up line of the moment,
like some new trendy cocktail with extra
cranberries everyone’s drinking
along with their trendy pizzas that are so expensive
in Asia but cheap as hell and much
much better-looking in America, until we’re all
tired and go back to gin and tonics
and lobster or Tsingtao Beer and hot pot,
and “What’s your citizenship?” For real?
Is this the question that all yuppie Hong Kong
boys with their perfect pedigrees
of tennis and Cornell and Diocesan Boys’ School
are really dying to know, and is there no
such thing as a mystery anymore, I wonder
as this suitor is showing off his start-up
company to everyone else at this damn happy hour,
and really, what else was I expecting
as I sit next to him, and he clinks his mojito glass
against my whiskey’s, promising to buy
me a dress to attend an Ivy League ball with him
in Tokyo, and yes, we just met,
and I could be swept off my feet, playing
the Asian Cinderella when he asks me,
“Is this going to be our love story? Will I only
see you once a year?” And sure, there is
something romantic about seeing a man
once a year, but I’m not about to give in,
after my mother’s warnings about boys like him
who have checklists stashed
in the main compartments of their brain
since birth—things like perfect height
difference and American status and a nice set
of teeth to go along with a designer wardrobe
picked out for you by his mother as you play
the part of the woman with a perfect
education who’s always ready in the kitchen,
who doesn’t talk too much, silent
during all meals, finishes her whole bowl
of rice, not a grain remaining, and will stay
at home if there can only be one breadwinner
in the family, and maybe a lot of girls
want to be Hong Kong royalty,
but not me, not me, and I wonder what it is
with these old school Chinese beliefs
as I walk towards the bathroom, he follows me,
trying to invite himself to my family dinner
at a Korean BBQ joint a little later,
and I shut the door on his nose, when he says,
“And I’m not family?” and I say no,
because I don’t give into love at first sight,
and Have a nice day. I’m on my way
to Korean BBQ. I’m ordering extra ribs.

DOROTHY CHAN is the author of Revenge of the Asian Woman (Diode Editions, Forthcoming March 2019), Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, 2018), and the chapbook Chinatown Sonnets (New Delta Review, 2017). She was a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Academy of American Poets, The Cincinnati Review, The Common, Diode Poetry Journal, Quarterly West, and elsewhere. Chan is the Editor of The Southeast Review and Poetry Editor of Hobart. Visit her website at dorothypoetry.com.