Red Lines

I remember learning about an ancient Chinese legend in my elementary years; it says that each person is born with a destined lover, and pairs are connected through invisible red strings. The red string of fate.

In America, I grew to become more familiar with a different type of red strings though: the jagged, red underline that seemed to have grown very fond of my name as I type. It follows my name like an uncanny shadow.

No, not my English name. Microsoft Word acknowledges the existence of that name. My real name, the legal one on my student ID card that my friends would attempt to learn how to pronounce correctly.

“We named you after Mencius,” my mom once said thoughtfully over the roar of the kitchen exhaust fans: another feast in the making. “Oh, and the latitude,” she added while struggling to remove a stubborn cleaver that lodged itself into a stern squash.

“What made you guys think that it is a good idea to name your kid after those boring lines running through our globe?” I questioned in return.

“Well,” she wiggled the cleaver free, a nearly victorious smile beaming upon her face. “It is meant to be a…blessing, that you will be moral, fair like a ruler…that you will be one with integrity.”

Does that even matter when Microsoft does not have the integrity to recognize this blessing as a word?

Or maybe, there might come a time when I can see the little red squiggle as a part of a larger cord that latches my unaccepted name onto me for all of eternity.



Their mouths moved rapidly, words came in melodic rivers that drowned my ears. I was just getting the hang of this. I was beginning to comprehend. I was almost done climbing over the Tower of Babel.

I was so close to breaking that language barrier.

For now, I merely conquered the heights of a kitchen stool as my mom fixed dinner. With my English textbook in hand, I would find large words that I don’t know.

I took a deep breath, as though to begin a recital, “Hey mom, does this sound right? ‘Uh-pi-phony (epiphany)’ ”

“Can you say that again?” My mom’s eyes remained fixed upon the toast recipes that she was studying.


“Is that end sound even supposed to go up like that?”

“No, that’s because it’s posed as a question, mom…”

So, I read and read and read and read. Then I copied lines that I liked, things that sounded nice. Eventually I wrote stories with those lines, swapping words with other words.

Maybe one day, just maybe, I will be able to talk in rivers, too, and I will be pulling those whose ears are drowning into safety.