Honor Society

Twelfth grade was going ok. I was busy with college applications, I had a girlfriend at White Station, and we were having a winning soccer season! Everything was great… except for one thing.

Art class.

I walked into the art room and quickly found my way to my desk. The art room tables were situated in a circle that filled the entire room and it afforded us the opportunity to talk and observe each other’s work. Normally this would be a fun and stimulating atmosphere to be a part of. Normally.

Hey Chink,” a voice from my left side slid in to interrupt my peaceful thoughts. I knew the voice all too well. This same asshat had been tormenting me since the beginning of the school year and was determined to get under my skin. You know how adults love to claim that “if you just ignore it, it will stop?” That’s bullshit. It never stops, particularly when you are an Asian going to an 85% black school in Memphis Tennessee. From my experience in life, you’d better buckle up because it is going to be a bumpy 13 years.

“Why do Asians wear sunglasses? Aren’t your eyes tight enough to act like natural shades? Damn you’re ugly.”

“Why the fuck are you checking me out for? Isn’t your little friend there cute enough for you, dickhead?” I snapped back finally losing my patience and cool.

“Ohhhhhh watch out! The little chink is mad!” He and his friend began chanting.

As I got up to deal with my daily nemesis, the fire alarm suddenly started going off and put a temporary end to our squabble. It was only temporary and as soon as we got outside it began again. It escalated.

By the time the fire drill had ended we were both angry enough to kill one another. We continued to verbally spar as we walked back in, I’m no bitch and gave as good as I got. But I was also alone, the only Asian fighting a racial war.

As we walked back into the art room I barely saw the fist that was headed straight for me. My world exploded and I saw Chinese fireworks before my eye.

This motherfucker just hit me! I thought to myself as my body reacted on its own. I felt my own fist wind back and I strike out blindly where his nose should have been. I felt his face squish with a satisfying connection and blood gushed from his nostrils. Suddenly I was jerked backwards and found myself face to face with my soccer coach who had followed us after seeing what was going on and had yanked me back out of the fight. I was dazed and just happy the bright lights had stopped.

We were both rushed to the office for judgement and punishment. We were equally guilty in the eyes of my educators and because of that we were both handed board suspensions.

I lost my senior year national honor society because of my suspension. I then lost all my scholarship offers as well, all except one – in state UTK, and that is where I ended up going. I guess I hadn’t needed to fill out all those fucking applications after all.

I remember one day after the fight, while I was serving out my board suspension at home. My mom walked into my room with a card. She knew I had been having a hard time… even if I hadn’t shared my daily details with her. Why would I? At 17 years old you begin to realize that life just sucks sometimes… and parents are for comfort. They can’t fix everything.

I opened the card and my eyes began to water. It said –

You will always be in my honor society. I love you.

I thanked her with more than just my words. I thanked her with my heart and I felt the weight lessen slightly.

You see she got it… she did understand.

-Opinionated Man

Jason C. Cushman



Stonewall Street

Stonewall Street was named after General Stonewall Jackson and is located in midtown of Memphis, Tennessee. My family loved this street so much that we lived in three different houses on the exact same road! In between the stop lights of Poplar Avenue and North Parkway lives an unwritten memoir starring an unsuspecting Korean boy in search of daily adventure. Countless tales of bravery, stupidity, and choose-your-own-backyard-adventure took place all around this block that was my life.

It is almost impossible for me not to reminisce about Stonewall when I think about my childhood. There were so many things, places, and events that occurred on that street that I felt were milestones in my life. I remember the first home we lived in and how small it felt looking back at it in comparison to the houses we later lived in. My father was a young doctor and we were new to Memphis at the time. The church we were a part of, St. John’s Orthodox Church, was also in midtown and so that is where most of the congregation decided to plant their roots. We grew up inside a city that we remained apart of in many ways.

I sometimes miss that old home and the countless pages of memories recorded there. I wonder if the new owners ever found the skeleton key I found and quickly hid under the third stone in the backyard near the dogwood tree. The same dogwood tree I would climb daily and from which I fell one day when the branch of opportunity I was hanging from suddenly saw the opportunity to break. That was definitely a memorable day as I gasped to my sister to “run get mom!” because I was probably dying. It was just another day in the life that was my life really. I wasn’t always getting into trouble, but sometimes it sure felt like the calendar turned according to my transgressions.

Lying there waiting for my mom I probably had time to spy the rope swing that wasn’t a rope swing next door. My neighbor was a carpenter who had a workshop behind his home. It was technically a second home in my book because the “workshop” was larger than my house… as was their main home. I sometimes suspected that the only reason anyone would have such a large work space would be due to actually being Santa Claus in disguise. I never confirmed my suspicion because he was sneaky and would leave for his yearly run when I finally fell asleep. I honestly to this day wonder how he knew whether I was asleep or not.

That rope swing got us into a lot of trouble. It wasn’t a rope swing at all actually, it was a pulley system to lift wood to his second floor. What eight year old would ever contemplate such a use for something that was obviously meant to be swung on across the large river of lava running beneath it? Isn’t that just an obvious prop for such an adventure? It seemed so to me until my idiot friend swung too hard and broke it. According to the Dragonlance code though I had to do the honorable thing and take the blame. I can’t remember whether perceived honor actually followed through or not that day…

I was lucky and fortunate that my next door neighbor was a kind man. Most carpenters are actually. I wonder if that is a jesus thing. Anyways, the reason this was such a good thing for me was because he was the source of all the wood I used to create my cache of weapons. In the daily life of Jason the Asian Dwarf weapons were a necessity for most of the plot line. Since my father was a doctor and totally against guns of any sort I became a lover of the wooden sword. It beat running around with a fake BB gun and the shed in the back was where I kept my weapons. The only way into that shed was with the skeleton key that I had hidden under the third stone.

I sometimes walk into that backyard mentally still to this day. I can smell the grass and see the dogwood trees in full blossom. I can hear the shouts of triumph, joy, and curiosity in the air as adventurous children roam from the front and back in search of a lost treasure or a lost cause. They walk and run with a lightness of foot that defines the freedom of childhood. I sit back and allow the memories to wash over me with an appreciation for those memories I still have. A time free of worry and concern over the past or future. A time when I was possibly truly happy. I look back and then I set my eyes forward on my own children as they live their moments without worry and appreciate the wonder of each moment. I watch as they create their own memories which they will consider in another point of their life, and I can only hope that they will treasure them as much as I do mine.

Jason C. Cushman

-Opinionated Man