I ate cherry tomatoes the day my language came back to me.

It was after my morning online classes, and I’d taken to waking up just in time to join each lecture ten minutes late while I lay half-conscious between my sheets. The filmy skins coated my tongue and the seeds burst between my teeth. I spat them out like the Cantonese words I tried to speak with my Mom.

Not something I was used to being on campus every day just the week before.

I should’ve brushed my teeth before I trekked to the pharmacy. Behind my face mask, I felt tomato bits stuck in my mouth. But I couldn’t let anybody know they were there. I had to prove myself through the fluency of my English that I was from here just like everyone else. That I was not the other.

My tongue was stained red after I got home and took off my mask. Luckily, that’s not something my family cared about. Although I felt hyper-aware of the words I was becoming re-accustomed to, my Mom stuck her tongue out at me without a second thought.

I spoke red for the rest of the day.