Before arriving in New York in that snow-full January, I had never really reconciled the “hyphens” of my own existence – born as an Indian citizen, I grew up entirely in the southern African capital of Botswana, eventually moving to Abu Dhabi for university at the age of 18. I knew I had grown up and formed a slow identity while straddling more than one culture, both of which I had not really learnt to accept or love, but just sit in, perplexed into a discomfiting stasis between them. Going to America has burst that still yolk of a bubble…

I was on my way to visit my grandmother in Pasuruan, a five-hour bus ride from my tiny hometown Caruban. Every school break, my mother and I spent a few days in the countryside. My father took us to the square, dropped us off at the gate, and reminded me, while my mother was busy buying snacks and water for the ride, to protect her and myself on the bus…

Jollibee is more than just a Filipino fast food chain. It is to me what McDonald’s is to many of my friends from other places—a staple. I have known Jollibee, both the chain and the mascot, since I could barely eat solid food. I’ve attended birthday parties, caught up with family and friends, and reflected on my personal growth with Jollibee. This bee might even have brought me closer to God…

I’d like to say I met a wonderful guy during my teenage years who disproved this notion, made me feel lovable, or that I somehow reached a higher level of consciousness between bell choir and Latin class and decided it was enough to love myself. I didn’t. It would take about fifteen years, when I moved outside of the United States, for a significant shift in my thinking. During the in-between years, despite beautiful friendships, academic accolades, and moving to college in New York City, my weight consumed me…

On the day my grandmother turned sixty-seven, we found her sprawled in her living room—eyes wide open, mouth gaping, hands half-clutching the golden knob of a wardrobe she was trying to open. Her floral blouse was smeared with coffee stains, and her body smelled of stale urine. She did not budge when we barged into her house…