“You are not Chamorro”

“You are not Chamorro,” my grandpa Lorenzo Batangan says to me across the kitchen table.

I wipe beads of sweat away from my face as I nod, humoring him.

There’s no air con at his house in Liguan Terrace, where he’s lived for over 40 years.

“What do you tell people you are when you’re in Calipornya? Do you say you’re Chamorro,” he asks, laughing.

“I tell them I’m Filipina,” I yell at him, so his 90-year-old ears can hear me, past the damage of firing machine guns in World War II.

“That’s right,” he says with a smile.

He picks up the newspaper and shows me a story I wrote, proudly pointing out my byline “Chloe B. Babauta.” It was important to him that I include Batangan, my middle name and his surname.

His words roll around in my head on my drive back home to Santa Rita. I make a point of visiting him every few weeks (maybe once a month now — I hate myself for that). I think about him sitting alone in that house, now that his cat has died.

You are not Chamorro. You are not Chamorro.

It hurts to hear this, even though I know that wasn’t his intention.

I struggle with this every time someone laughs at me for not being able to pronounce a word in Chamorro. Every time someone asks me where I’m really from (I sound too haole). Every time I hang out with people who are *really* Chamorro and I feel out of place.

“I’m home,” I call out to my grandma. I set my keys down on an ornate wooden table.

Shannon Murphy smiles at me from the couch, where she’s watching Stephen Colbert and playing Freecell on her new MacBook Air.