Something in Between

Something in Between
by Franchesca Liauw

Once upon a nightmare my grandfather darted through the jungle. Dodging guns and shovels. Eating sweet potato as he marveled at his ribs. How tight the skin can become. How easy grief can be curbed by fear. He befriended shadows, befriended oppressors who learned what it was to be oppressed. He was Chinese. They knew it. He knew it. And so, he waited for the end.

In school they make us check boxes. Check gender. Check age. In school I checked other. Wo pu che tau. I don’t know. No sabes nada. Now there are other boxes, more boxes. And still, I check other.

Somewhere on the other side of nowhere there’s an island of emerald and crystal. A beach vacation. A territory. Coffee plantations and sugar cane. Yo soy Boricua, they scream. But no one listens. Not even the island. The island does what it has always known. What it’s learned. What it’s become. After all, you can’t be free if they want something from you.
In the end, they always want something.

At home I draw lines. Chilli and rice. Krupuk and tofu. Lines in blood. Coquito at Christmas. Tostones too. In history. In everything I’m told I should be. I hide between their rules, I bend to their dreams. I stretch my eyelids till it fits their desires. I straighten my hair to affirm their beliefs. I become all the things I’m meant to be but will never be.

Because we will always be something in between.


Franchesca is a writer living in London. She has a PhD in creative writing from Brunel University and an MA from the University of Kent. Her work has appeared in publications such as Mslexia, and in 2021, she was shortlisted for the Future Worlds Prize for writers of colour.

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