[Media prompt] ""Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." THIS is America." Leela Daou on Twitter.
Yearning to Breathe Free
When Li Aidong got home, slamming the front door behind him, the first thing he did was go into the study to ring the number on a piece of paper pulled from his pocket. He was on the phone talking excitedly when his wife came in, her apron white with flour and smelling lightly of steamed dumplings. It’s time to eat, she mouthed silently, standing next to him for a moment to listen. He raised a finger; one minute, he said.
Afterwards, at the table, she asked him why he was so angry. He ate another two dumplings, resting his chopsticks on the bowl. I remember what it was like when we first came here, he said. Do you remember? Of course she remembered. But I don’t like to think of bad things, she said. He slid a hand across the table, which she stroked softly. Our life is okay, she said. He took a sip of tea, shaking his head. If we don’t defend this street, things are going to be worse, he said.
Li Aidong’s wife sighed. It’s not our business, she said. This was a familiar topic. She knew things were getting worse, but her instinctive response was to let sleeping dragons lie. He pulled the piece of paper out of his pocket, unfolding it and ironing it flat with his hand. Jinping gave me this today, he said, orienting it so she could read it.
You know it’s true, he said. Every time we talk with your brother, he says the same. They’re animals. She nodded. Her brother was in Africa protecting Chinese investments and his stories frightened her. They weren’t even fit for factory work.
Twenty years ago we drove out the Mexicans, he said. If we didn’t… He let the thought hang in the air. They both knew the consequences of Hispanic domination; every Chinese person remembered the El Paso Massacre as though it were yesterday. And now that estate agent has sold the Chen’s house to niggers. Li poked at the piece of paper on the table between them. He picked up another dumpling, swirling it in sauce. Once one of them moves in, you might as well give them your house, he said, popping the dumpling into his mouth.
There’s one thing I learned from whites, he said, pushing his plate away. Enough, he said, when she tried to tempt him with more. I learned one thing, he started again. And that is do not, under any circumstance, let Jews control the property market. They will dilute a neighbourhood every time. It’s what they do.
He went to the bathroom, coming back out into the dining room wearing his suit and mask, a gun slung across his shoulder. She remembered the old days, and felt glad she had a husband to protect her. It shouldn’t take long, he said.
After he left, she cleaned the table, pausing for a while to read the flyer again, crumpling it in her small hand when she finished. Her mouth felt dry. She tried to convince herself it was the salty dumpling sauce, but she knew it was the thought of murder. The men would take care of the blacks first, then the Jewish realtor. She didn’t like it, but they had come to America because they yearned to breathe free, not to live like Africans.