Superking Son Scores Again

The Magic Johnson of badminton

Etienne Courtois, Untitled. 2014, archival inkjet print. 33½ × 42". Courtesy of the artist. © Etienne Courtois.

Superking Son was an artist lost in the politics of normal, assimilated life. Sure, his talents were often sidelined, as the store forced him to worry about importing enough spiky-looking fruits every month. (There were only so many Mings he could recruit to carry suitcases filled with jackfruit, bras padded with lychees, and panties stuffed with we-don’t-want-to-know through customs.) Sure, he reeked of raw chicken, raw chicken feet, raw cow, raw cow tongue, raw fish, raw squid, raw crab, raw pig, raw pig intestine, and raw — like really raw — pig blood, all jellied, cubed, and stored in buckets before it was thrown into everyone’s noodle soup on Sunday mornings. When we walked into the barely air-conditioned store, we pinched our noses to stop from vomiting all over aisle six, which would ruin the only aisle with American products, the one with Cokes and Red Bulls and ten-year-old Lunchables no one ate. (Though the Mas would shove their shopping carts through the vomit without blinking an eye — they’ve seen much worse.) And sure, Superking Son wasn’t nice. He could be cruel, incredibly so. Kevin won’t talk to him anymore, and Kevin was our best smasher last season.

Still, even with this in mind (and up our nostrils), even with it creeping through our common sense, and even with our aspirations for something more, we idolized Superking Son. He was a regular Magic Johnson of badminton, if such a thing could exist; a legend, that is, for the young men of this Cambo hood (a niche fan base, admittedly). The arcs of his lobs, the gentle drifts of his drops, and the lines of his smashes could be thought of, if rendered visible, as the very edge between known and unknown. He could smash a birdie so hard, make it fly so fast, we swore when the birdie zipped by it shattered the force field suffocating us, the one comprising our parents’ unreasonable expectations, their paranoia that our world could crumble at a moment’s notice and send us back to where we started, starving and poor and subject to a genocidal dictator. Word has it when Superking Son was young, he was an even better player, with a full head of hair.

Yes, to us, Superking Son was our badminton coach, our shuttlecock king. That’s who he would always be. But what was he for everyone else? Well, it’s simple — he was the goddamn grocery-store boy.

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