When Miyuki got up to teach I could feel the rest of us breath collectively in support. Miyuki spoke very little English. Very little. She frequently stayed after lectures to sit with our instructors with her electronic translator. She smiled and observed while the rest of us talked a mile-a-minute during the entirety of our 16-day training.
When my mom called to tell me that my grandfather had died, I was multi-tasking. Sitting in my bed in the bay window of my San Francisco apartment with a cat and a computer in my lap. It took me a few seconds too long to realize what she was telling me. I will forever wish that I had been in a clearer and distraction-free headspace to hear her with accuracy. Then again, would it have done any good?
The tiniest Cambodian woman I’ve ever seen rang me up for two magazines and a bottle of water at I Love LA, the news and gift shop in LAX’s terminal 2. She smiled so wide at me, taking her time as she looked at both my debit card and my ID, “Lie-la. No, Kayla. No, Lie-la. Yes, that’s you. Lie-la.”