house fire

meily tran

cw: implications of domestic abuse



My parents have those words hung up on a canvas right by the white grand in the living room. When I see those words upon returning home, my blood seethes.


If I were to write up the ingredients list for a family-sized serving of Huynh blood, here’s what I’d put:

a little bit crazy
a little bit of loud
a whole lot of


Inspect a blood sample from mom’s side of the family and that is what you would find. From my grandpa to my eldest aunt to my uncle to my mom, all of them have the same scorching crimson fury flickering through their veins.

It started with a house fire, the first embers hissing in their old home in the south of Vietnam, several years after the war. My grandpa, who had fought for the South, finally returned home from the new communist government’s lethal labor camps. It would be naive to think he came back a happy man.

No, he was burning, and he set the house on fire, enveloping it in suffocating smoke drifting from his third box of cigarettes. His blistering words seared my family’s skin with bloody scabs, invisible but not forgotten. He roasted them alive, and when he had enough of that, he snuffed out another cigarette under his shoe and went to see the only woman who could warm his heart and his bed.

Moving to America did not dampen the fire. California’s arid desert climate exacerbated the flames, fanned by the Pacific breeze that carried them over to foreign land. With a new generation came new scars, new dry straw to kindle the flames of their parents’ bitterness.

With a prayer under their breath and an incense stick wrapped tightly within their fists, they traced their unspoken burdens, abandoned dreams, fruitless hopes, onto their children’s skin, thinking the steamy anger would evaporate from their blood.

But you can’t fight fire with fire. You can’t light a match over a malnourished field and expect anything more than a bed of ashes. You can’t screech songs of curses and loathing, find your flinching buds hiding in the back of the closet, and brush it off saying that the music will compensate for the lack of light. The flames will only spread, dancing to the tune of a matchbox music box.

This anger that runs through my grandpa, my aunt, my uncle, and my mom is genetic.

The sparks of fiery fury boil in his blood her blood my blood our blood, bitter bitter bitter hot from the carpet burns my mom branded into my cheeks during a bumpy staircase rollercoaster, the spit out words my aunt hissed through the phone speaker, the disappearing dollar bills my grandpa took from my grantdma, the crackling thud of my uncle’s fist against the dinner table as my little cousins withered beneath his gaze.

Meily Tran is a high school senior and aspiring creative writing major from Southern California. Throughout her years in high school, she has contributed to her school's newspaper, creative magazine, and slam poetry club. Currently, she is working on expanding the reach of her work outside of school by submitting to competitions and literary magazines (and universities, if college applications count). Most of her works are first drafted at 1 AM and are inspired by her tragic sapphic love life, sporadic identity crises, and beloved pet chihuahua. Other than writing, she is interested in music, technical theater, and LGBTQ+ rights!

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