By Madeline Cincala
Lacuna /ləˈkjunə/ Noun: An unfilled space or interval; a gap I was born in Hubei, China in May of 2002 left at the hospital soon after birth with no trace of my own identity. My birthday, an estimate, my name, given by my parents? I can’t say. I’ve never gone by that name. I was adopted in 2001, before I was even me, retrieved by mom in June of 2003. My name is now Madeline Qi Cincala. Qi- the last connection to whom I could’ve been. Qi holds meaning, it is by definition, a circulating life force. Yet I am no force of any kind. I am tired and lost disconnected from one of the biggest parts of me. I celebrate Lunar New year, one of the most important Chinese holidays, not with nin gao and bountiful parties, but with westernized take out: General Tso chicken and lo mein tweaked to cater to the American palate lacking in spices and authenticity. I once dreamed of someday wearing qipao, traditional Chinese wedding attire: brocade silk, colred red for good fortune, adorned with intricate golden embroidery, yet I feel I am unworthy of such privilege. I am a whitewashed Asian, as they say— I know not of the culture, or of its significance. So, do I really deserve to wear such beauty? The whiteness instilled in me has made me ignorant— oblivious, blissfully unaware of Asian struggles. My privilege has shielded me—blinded me. So, do I really deserve to have a say in it? Despite my many efforts, the language and culture of China becomes beast of its own— a beast in which I lack the resources to know and understand in full. So, does that make me a bad Asian? Maybe I’m not trying hard enough. Not trying hard enough to know the language not trying hard enough to learn the culture not trying hard enough to meet what people would expect of me as an Asian. No, I don’t speak the language. No, I don’t know the culture. No, I don’t eat dogs or cats. No, I’m not good at math. No, I’m not stingy with money. No, I don’t put chopsticks in my hair. No, I don’t want to be a doctor. No, I don’t fall into your stereotypes. I am more than that. I am a middle ground between my heritage and my upbringing. I know little of my culture, yet still I am targeted for micro-aggressions, racism, stereotyping and fetishization. I am my tanned skin and my coarse black hair that is too stubborn to style. I am my small frame and stature that is so often fetishized. I am my ‘almond-shaped’ eyes that have always been a target for racist remarks and gestures. I am a burning curiosity for whom my birth parents were whose smile I have and whose personality I take after. I will forever long to know if I have a brother or sister if my family still thinks about me. Was I just a mistake? Who could I have been? I am the guilt I hold inside for wanting to know more for expressing my longing for writing this poem. I do not want to sound ungrateful. I have been given so much. But curiosity killed the cat, and satisfaction brought it back, and I know I will never get my satisfaction. I am Qi Chun Shan a name I have never gone by. a name that’s lost its meaning. a name that is still mine. I am my heritage, and my upbringing— my longing and my curiosity. I am my guilt and my passion— my struggles and my strengths. I am Madeline Qi Cincala, and I am Qi Chun Shan. Maybe then, I am a force of some kind.