Creative Nonfiction: Heavy by Cherry Lou Sy

“Return it to me when you’re done,” Kim said. Heavy be a red book with big bold letters. Heavy had swagger like you wouldn’t believe. You open it like you open a man up, right between the head. “Forget dick,” she said, even though she liked dick so much she started sleeping around with strange men she picked up from dive bars when she pushed her titties up and let them hang so the strange men would be mesmerized by the pendulous bulbs hanging in front of them like balls. She did this cuz her ex broke up with her because he was an asshole and when she was broken she wanted to break everything else. But not good old Heavy. Heavy was her man. Not the kind you fuck. Not for her anyway.

If Heavy were a man, he would be the kind whose mind you fondle and whose heart you don’t fuck with. You lay deep with him. He says things like “I got off my knees and asked God to help y’all confront the memories you were running from.” He says things that made you believe that Heavy is in you and you feel that shit in your chest and you look at people dead in the eye and say, this is me. All of me. The good, the bad, and shit-I’m-scared-ugly. Because Kim was a big girl and she told me how big girls like her don’t get no love. And because she’s Asian she got people calling her fat. And her cousin bullied her and called her fat. And she let that shit roll off her like melted butter while flipping her hair saying “watch me rise.” She felt this book deep in her bones.

Of course, I never got to return him to her. She’s long gone. Turned to ash and resting on her parents’ bookcase in Revere, Massachusetts. That’s how Heavy became mine. How I pick up Heavy lapping up wisdom between the pages: “I just think sometimes we don’t do the best we could have done, and it’s impossible to know that if we’re scared to remember where we’ve been, and what we actually did. I don’t think either of us did our best. I know I didn’t. Do you really believe we did?”

I never saw her body because her family decided to burn it asap, so sometimes I wake up thinking she is still around. A phone call away, still listening to Lizzo and BTS on repeat.

If I asked Kim who the book’s for, she would say herself. But she and I both knew that this is a story about bodies. About weight and feeling like shit. It’s for Black men who have turned their backs on their bodies. It’s for Black men who look for softness. It’s the kind of story that’s so specific it’s universal.

“We both Asian,” Kim would say. “Don’t sound white. Don’t sound black. Sound Asian.” I can’t ask her now, but maybe the phantom Kim can answer me somehow. Kim, here’s my question: how do we Asian?

Now the book takes a new weight. It’s from Kim’s hands. It’s from Kim. An accidental inheritance. There are other books, other stories. Where are they now, I don’t know. But here is Heavy, and it is mine.

How she came upon the book, I’ll tell you as she said it to me. She got it from one of those bookstores. Books Are Magic in Brooklyn because she liked indies and books are fucking magic, really. And Heavy was something important to her since she met the author who changed her life when they met at Vassar when she was an undergrad playing sports, while white girls in creative writing class made fun of her for writing over and over again about Polpot, the genocide in the Killing Fields, of her mother surviving in Thailand, of her Khmer roots.

I want to ask Kim, like in the good old days: how do we Asian?

I look for her in pages of books where she lived word per word.

Here, Heavy tells me, I’m here.

And I don’t know if it’s Kim, it’s Kiese, or my voice speaking in tongues through my tears.

Cherry Lou Sy is a playwright, performer, and writer originally from the Philippines. She teaches in the English and American Studies Department at Brooklyn College, where she received her MFA in Playwriting.

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