You Can't Scare Me

by Michelle Penaloza

My tita texts me a picture
of a t-shirt that reads
You Can’t Scare Me
My Wife Is Filipino.
A mid-flap Filipino flag frames
You Can’t Scare Me My Wife Is
while a cartoon machete punctuates
the oversized punchline
My tita texts to ask if I want one
for my white husband
and for a moment I picture him
as one of the white men at Fil-Am BBQs
Oh no, I’ll just stick to the lumpia
getting sunburned and drinking Coors
whispering to his wife to tell her friends
to only speak English when he’s around
and I hold down the HAHA button on
my tita’s text, my “laughter” bubbling
next to her question and I reply
I don’t think he’d wear it, but
thank you! And I don’t write
but remember all the times I’ve
heard her say We’re not Filipino,
We’re American and how many times I’ve been
asked when I came to this country and what it means
for the whole of your life to be determined
by having been born in one place and not
the other and my tita replies OK everyone else
wanted one and I don’t know if she means
my other titas each wanted one for their
white husbands too or if the white men
they married, my uncles, each wanted one
for themselves, but the more I think about it
the more I think about what a woman might
want a machete for. Clearing a path of balete roots.
Scaling fish. Opening a coconut. Keeping a man
an arm and a machete’s length away from you.

Last updated December 17, 2022