«Contemporary Plays by Women of Color is a compelling collection of new and recent works by African American, Asian American, Latina American and ...»
HAI I do not mean it like that. I mean… I love you.
Dinner with Father
DAD Bless this food we’re about to eat to the use of our bodies.
NARRATOR It’s another Sunday dinner with the folks. Dad’s at the head of the table saying grace.
DAD Thank you for our health. Thank you for my wonderful family. We ask you to bring us a quick victory in Viet Nam so cousins Larry, Dickie and Bobby can come home. Amen.
MOM AND KIDS Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen, amen… DAD Brenda Jean? Say Amen.
BRENDA I’m not gonna ask God to help us murder people. Especially people who look just like us!
DAD Brenda Jean, tonight we will have a nice, peaceful, family dinner. Is that understood?
MOM Well, Beesas!
NARRATOR It’s Mom.
MOM What did you do today?
BEESA l We can’t tell you. Cuz Brenda Jean said she’d kill us if we told you.
BEESA 2 Ho! Ho! Ho Chi Min! NLF is gonna win! We’re gonna be on the 6:00 News, Mama!!!
BEESA 1 AND 2 Ho! Ho! Ho Chi Min! NLF is gonna… 36 BRENDA WONG AOKI DAD Wait! Stop! Not at this table! We are Americans!! Brenda Jean! What kind of example are you setting for these kids? You’re the onesan. I never seen such a bitter perverse person. You hate everybody! White people! Rich people! Buzzy! Forget the store! Dave’s Pharmacy is dead! I love working at Lucky’s! Mama’s thrilled with her job at the cafeteria! So what happened to you? You used to be so sweet. Now, look at you! You buy everything at the Army Surplus. What are you, a soldier? What’s wrong with looking like a girl? And why are you wasting all that money on rent? You got money to throw around, throw it at your family. It’s that Vietnamese room mate. She’s perverting you. I want you to move back home right now.
BRENDA Home? This doesn’t feel like home. Hai’s more family than you are!
DAD I am your father!
DAD Move home or you are no longer part of this family!
NARRATOR A few months after the break with my family, Hai’s cooking dinner—Vietnamese style beef noodle soup with cilantro. Uuummm! When Rosie comes by… BRENDA Rosie! Luz! Come in. Want some soup?
(ROSIE looks like she’s about to cry.) BRENDA What’s wrong?
ROSIE I miss my mom, my brothers. I can’t stand living like this. One minute Bullet’s such a good Daddy and the next, he’s out on the street getting fucked up with the boys. I can’t stand it. Always watching your back. Hitting the ground everytime a car backfires. I don’t want to live like this. It’s not good for the baby.
(LUZ gurgles) ROSIE I love Bullet.
(LUZ gurgles) ROSIE I know he’s your daddy.
(LUZ gurgles) ROSIE We’re family por vida. But he says he can’t live without his homeboys.
They back each other up. He couldn’t survive without them.
NARRATOR I’m thinkin’, “God, this could’a been me n’ Kali…” So I say… BRENDA Rosie, he’s a father now. He’s got to grow up. And you, you’re smart. You could be somebody. Tell Bullet. It’s you or his boys. He loves you.
He can change.
ROSIE You know, sometimes I think about me and Bullet living in a place that’s quiet at night. Where we can take Luz to the park and not worry about getting blown away.
THE QUEEN’S GARDEN 37
NARRATOR A few days later, on the street (KALI gives Westside whistle.) BRENDA Kali! It’s been… KALI Four years, tree months, two days… BRENDA You look great. You’re a man!
KALI (He scans her.) You too.
BRENDA Yeah, well…What ya been up to? You married?
KALI You like go out tonight?
BRENDA Hai! I’m going out tonight! Kali—remember him?! (Undresses while singing Sly Stone’s “Different Strokes”) “There is the black one,”—army boots. “Who won’t accept the red one,”—fatigues. “for living with the white one,”—Mao jacket. Che Beret. “Different strokes for different folks.” Swsss!
(Takes shower) “And so on and so on and scooby, dooby, doo wa…” (Washes hair) Hai? Remember Kali? He’s the guy who freaked ya out in High school. He gave me my first kiss. “We gotta live together!” (Swsh! Opens closet door, looks) Thank you Sherry for the ole green satin! ‘And so on and so on and …” (Unlocks door) Well, how do I look? Do I look like a woman?
HAI The most woman.
NARRATOR And even though it’s evening, Hai makes us Vietnamese style coffee in two blue porcelain teacups.
HAI For you Brenda, and one for me. (Pause) So, you want to be Vietnamese… BRENDA What?
HAI If you end up with Kali you’ll be like the women back home… BRENDA Which is?
HAI Plant the rice, make the babies, feed the men, and run.
BRENDA God, Hai, you are so full of cheer.
HAI If you have to have a man, find a rich, white man.
NARRATOR Ding-Dong. Kali’s standing there, in a white Italian silk suit, with a bunch of red, red roses. Big as cabbages.
KALI From Mama. She say, “No forget your Aunti Mary.” NARRATOR He turns to Hai… KALI Hum nai angh Guayahum?… NARRATOR Hai turns, walks to her room and slams the door.
BRENDA Kali, what’d you say to her?
KALI I thought I said “How ya doing?’
Kali Comes Courting
NARRATOR We get in his car. White Cadillac. White leather seats. (Singing Donny Hathaway’s “Where is the Love”) We’re cruising PCH, Pacific Coast Highway. We pull up at the Five Crowns Restaurant.
KALI I like dis place. It’s ono.
NARRATOR This guy comes over and opens my door.
MAITRE D’ Mr. K! How nice to see you!
38 BRENDA WONG AOKI HOSTESS Mr. K? The same table as usual?
WAITER Mr. K, tonight I’d recommend the prime rib or the lobster. Take your time.
BRENDA Kali, this place is pretty bougie.
KALI You know Bren, I go by Darren now.
BRENDA (Laughs) Darren? I can’t call you Darren.
KALI Okay. But only you can call me Kali.
BRENDA Kali… Look! We used to go body surfing down there.
KALI Yeah…(Smiles) Hey? How’s your folks?
BRENDA (Shrugs) They’re okay.
KALI You know, my very first job was working at Dave’s Pharmacy! I loved that job. Folks would call your dad; tell him what they needed and he’d send me out with the deliveries. And that’s what I still do. I’m a “delivery boy.” NARRATOR Oh! Oh! There is no way I can get involved with this guy again.
KALI Hey, Bren, I’m doin’ good now. I live in a village where I sit with the elders. My house, I wish you could see it. On stilts over da wada. I get home, take off my suit, throw on a malo, hang out on the lanai and just watch the clouds floating in the wada. And I think, hey now, you graduated.
NARRATOR The meal’s over. We’re leaving. Kali and I stop to watch the sunset.
KALI (sings) You’re my past, you’re my pres… BRENDA Kali that was a long… KALI Kali con Brenda de Westside Barrio Longo…por vida.
NARRATOR And he’s got his arms around me. The first arms that ever held me.
KALI Hey girl, let’s not go home.
BRENDA Okay. (They walk into the sunset.) NARRATOR He was GOOD!!! He was fine. He was rich. He was dangerous.
So we start hanging out… I’m in love. Of course, we see things a little different but I can handle it. A few months later, we’re at a restaurant… KALI Hey girl! Ova at da bar. Isn’t that da kine, what’s her face? Your old teacha? Judy?
JUDY Brenda, look at you! All grown up!
BRENDA Judy! I can’t believe it’s you! I’m teaching now. At Poly! Can you believe it?
JUDY That’s good news. Good news. Give those kids everything you got… Give ‘em your love, your life, your youth… (Tipsy) Give ‘em every goddamn thing you…got!
KALI Ya know Girl, you’re going end up just like her…one wasted, dried up, drunk. Cuz what you’re doing for dose kids ain’t happening.
BRENDA Why, thank you! I just spent six months getting Bullet out of a gang, finding him a job, and you say it ain’t happening.
KALI It’s not real… You’re cutting him off from his source and without his source, he has no mana. Bren, you may not like what me and Smoke are doing, but we’re real and we’re at the center of our source.
THE QUEEN’S GARDEN 39 BRENDA What source? You don’t live on the Westside. Smoke lives in P.V.
and you live in Thailand!
KALI The Westside’s here (gestures)…with me all the time… It’s like Mama’s flowers… I smell dem and everyting comes to me since small kid time, and I feel strong. That’s the source. But cut the source, destroy the self.
BRENDA All I know is I’m working my ass off for these kids! What do you ever do?
KALI We take care of people in our own way—my ma, your ma…your fada.
Where you think he got dat job? Surprise, huh? We fight for them all the time. We’re warriors, ‘cept now we’re Westside Warriors multinational.
BRENDA Isn’t that a fancy title for drug dealers, Darren?
KALI I’m leaving in a week for Thailand.
BRENDA (Pause) Leaving?… Just like that?! God Kali, you’re great!
KALI Come with me.
BRENDA Why would I do that?
KALI Cuz Brenda, I’m your source.
NARRATOR I’m walking up my stairs and I hear…(Sound of wailing) BRENDA The whorehouse? (Sound of wailing) Hai? Hai!!? Are you alright? (A wail) NARRATOR Inside my apartment Rosie’s sitting on my couch, Hai’s rocking her and making this strange sound. (HAI gives a moaning wail.) Baby Luz, in a long white christening gown, is playing with her mother’s hair… ROSIE Luz, Lu, Daddy gave you that name. It means light. Because you’re the light of his life. Yes you are mija… Daddy’s safe now. Safe… BRENDA Rosie, what’s going on?
ROSIE Dey shot Bullet, twice in the head and once in the chest.
NARRATOR She stands up and she’s covered with blood!
ROSIE You killed him. You killed him!
ROSIE ¡Callete! Don’t touch my baby!
BRENDA Rosie. Rosie!
ROSIE Get the fuck out of our Barrio!
(Brenda backs away, wanders. She stops dumbfounded. Lights out.)
“If You’re Going to San Francisco” (musical transition) NARRATOR I moved to San Francisco. I got a quiet little job, a cheap apartment… I don’t know anybody, but that’s okay because I don’t have to be responsible for anybody’s life but my own.
Time passes. Then one day, “Ring! Ring!”