“Skin” by s.k.g. (Saquina Karla Guiam)

I want new skin, I say.
Why? my friend asks,
soy sauce staining her lips.
I want to have white skin, I say.
like the celebrities on TV.
Her brows furrow, her face a picture of confusion.
The pause is hot and heavy.
Ano naman kung maputi ka?* she asks,
finally, wiping her lips with a finger.
People will like me, I reply, not
touching the greasy fried chicken
in front of me. He’ll like me.
She clucks her tongue in disappointment,
frown unwavering. Do you like yourself?
I say yes, but she stares me down and I
squirm in my seat and she goes back to
eating the sinugbang tilapia**
as if nothing happened.

Cut to empty plates (on her end) and a
half-eaten chicken breast (mine) later,
she tells me, It is never good to lie to
yourself. Masasaktan ka lang.***
The waiter comes and hands the bill;
she takes it before I do. Dead heroes and
dead presidents spill from her wallet
and onto the little silver tray.
The waiter leaves, and it’s just us again.
She shows me a coin, Jose Rizal facing up.
He didn’t die for you to hate yourself are her
last words to me as she walks out
into the sun, brown and proud.

* Tagalog, translates to: “So what if you’re white[r than everyone]?”
** Barbecued tilapia.
*** Tagalog, translates to: “You’ll only get hurt.”

Bio: Saquina Karla Guiam (or s.k.g.) is a writer from General Santos City, Philippines. She’s currently taking up her Master’s degree in English at Ateneo de Davao University and writes poetry in her spare time. In her poems, she hopes to write of her country, of its mythologies once lost, and of her ongoing struggle with the facets of the Filipina identity (she is from a Muslim family in Mindanao). Her other interests are various myths and legends from all over the world, the cat her family owns, video games from the late 90s and early 2000s, and reality cooking shows.

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