Silence. It speaks, louder than words, softer than wind. Music comes out, a mix of sounds, no music instruments. Aces of Base’s “all that she wants” assault my senses. Odd, why is this song playing? Is that even the right song? Sonya has never said if she likes that song, she barely talked of it. My head is towards the window. I see darkness, the lights of skyscrapers tease me, busy night. Below are small lights of yellow and red, the blocks of gold decoration, each trying to outdo one another, compete. Sky is pure darkness; small dots of white blot it out, reminding me of Monet’s work.
If I step back, will I see the complete picture? Will I see why all this has happened, why have I met her, why I have fallen in love with her? It seems only yesterday, I was seven, and I started to play with her. I have fallen in love with her.
Memories return, ones I want to erase, no longer remember, change.
-Episode Two: All that she wants: Ace of Base-
Walls of white stare back, a bed of numerous pillows cushions him. This room is too big, he thinks. It feels lonely. Scenes roam across his eyes, same old scenes. A knock. “Come in,” he says.
Light creak, his uncle enters. “Dinner will be ready,” he tells him. He sees his uncle, a tall man of narrow shoulders, his eyes large, and his hair long and in a ponytail.
“I know,” he responds. He stretches, feeling the insides of his body stretch, a good feeling spreading over him.
“What are you doing here?” His uncle asks. Angelo turns towards the window, his eyes noticing the mounds of green leaves, waving gently, somehow cocooning him to sleep.
“It’s my room, you said so yourself.”
He is still watching the wind shake the trees lightly, does not turn to his uncle. He doesn’t care if he is not respectful. His uncle abandoned him in an orphanage and now he wants him back? A sigh, from his uncle. “Angelo, our family has dinners together. You don’t have a choice but to join us.”
I’ll be down,” he tells him. Does his uncle think he’s still five? He’s wrong, Angelo thinks. I am ten years old.
The door closed. His uncle has disappeared. Angelo knows he has no choice, but still, he walks up to the window, his fingertips lightly gliding across the glass, feeling the white smoothness. The sunset washed out gold, no reds, and clouds absorbing light. Sounds of crickets are heard; the streetlights turn on, one by one. Sonya, he thinks. How are you without me? Are you all right; is my group all right as well? I hope I am not making a mistake. I hope I have made the right choice. Her face appears in front of him, the large dark eyes that sparkle light stars, the curly dark hair, the creamy white skin that makes him think of vanilla.
I will go down as soon as the sunset is gone, as soon as the night begins. Scenes begin to change, to when she kissed him goodbye.
Sky of sunlight pierces his eyes, the clouds a radiant white. An itchy feeling permeates his body, his hands are crossed, he looks up, just for a moment, to see what he is leaving, and then sees her, running towards him. What is she doing, he asks himself. He watches as she approaches him.
His uncle stands beside him. “What are you doing here?” He asks her, his voice hinting at irritation.
“I just came to say goodbye,” she replies.
I want to say something as well, to say goodbye, but I cannot, he thinks. He remains silent, wondering what she will do. She is nearer now, almost at his fingertips. Her lips touched his cheek. He is surprised. What is she doing? Why didn’t I walk away? Someone could’ve seen her!
“Get away from him!” His uncle screams. He watches as his uncle grabs her arm and pushes her away. Sadness wells up inside. It was a nice kiss, he thinks. I just wish she hadn’t kissed me in front of uncle. Why didn’t she do it in private? She runs away, he wonders if she is crying. “Get in the car,” the uncle orders him. He does. He buckles up. His uncle drives away, Angelo looks back, watching as the orphanage disappears, as his old friends are gone, as well as Sonya. The orphanage, large in real life, is becoming smaller and smaller, a tide of life pulling it away from him. Finally, it is gone, nothing left but a memory.
The sunset went down, he shakes his head, clearing it of memories. He stands up, and goes down, to where his new family is sitting.
The stairs are dark, no light shining to show him the path. Gently, he crept down, careful. Tunnel is wide, and dark. He looks around, noticing the light from the room and walks towards the door. Perhaps it is the dining room, he cannot remember. He opens the door and sees his uncle, the wife and his uncle’s two daughters sitting down. The room is large; a small wooden table decorated the room. Oil paintings of sunsets and oceans hung around the room. The walls are pure white. His uncle’s wife, Susan Lee is tapping her fingernails across the wooden table. “Where were you? I am starving!” She scolded him.
“I am sorry, aunt.” He tells her.
“Ugh, James, have you known that having sons will be so much trouble? Our daughters are never late!”
“I’m sorry wife.”
“My meal is ruined! How dare you ruin my meal, you miserable rat.”
He bows. “I am very sorry aunt, uncle and Henrietta and Samantha.” The girls’ names were Henrietta and Samantha. Henrietta is the oldest at four and Samantha is three. Henrietta, her hair long and in braids, says, “You miserable rat! Come here and eat! My meal is completely spoiled thanks t you!”
“Good, In-Soon,” Susan praised her. He sighs, feeling the air escape his lungs. It is not hard to see whom Henrietta Yi takes after. Her mother.
He sees the kimchi adorn the table, meat as well. He picks up the chopsticks and stacks food on his plate. He doesn’t eat though.
“Are you feeling unwell, Angelo?” Uncle asks him, putting kimchi in his mouth, his lips sucking it in.
“I’m not hungry,” Angelo tells him.
“I don’t care, just eat it, Angelo.” His aunt orders him.
He takes some in his mouth, lightly chewing it, wanting to get rid of food as soon as possible. Memories of Sonya come back. He remembers the time he has a picnic with her, the smiles both shared.
He continues to eat, hearing his uncle speak about his day. Susan speaks about her day. Angelo continues to eat, not wanting to speak about his own day, not wanting for anyone to know of the pain inside his heart. After dinner, without saying a word, he goes upstairs, back to his room.
Even if it is seven in the night, he decides to go to bed, not wanting to be downstairs with his new family.
Tears fall from the sky; an inky night spreads out, bolts of lightning flash occasionally. The trees shake in anger, no stars are seen. Thick glass is in front, smudge from fingers stains it. “Yay!” He screams, watching the angry storm. “It’s raining!” He claps in excitement, his feet defying the gravity temporarily. “I want to go outside, to run around…” But he cannot. He is trapped. His index finger draws five pointed stars, and faces. He is not a good artist however. “Its boring,” he says loudly. He walks away from the storm, the rain drowning the earth in life, the lightning flashes, and the heavy wind. What can I do? He asks himself. Ever since Angelo left, it’s boring! The group broke apart, no one speaking to one another. But I have to be happy for him, he tells himself. I have to be happy, for it is what he wanted for a long time. He thinks again of what he can do, and decides to taste the rain. But how to sneak out? How to get away from here? He stands up, feeling the wrist of his left hand in his right palm, his feet moving in a circle. Back and forth, back and forth, a continuous circle. He comes up with a plan. He’ll enlist Sonya’s help! She’s a year older than I am, I’m sure she’ll come up with better plans than me.
A loud knock on the door. He stops, his head turning towards the left, to the source of the sound. Who could it be? He wonders. He comes up to the door, and opens it. “Sonya!” He shouts. She is standing there, taller than he is, her eyes focused on the ground, her hands clasped in front, a dress of blue adorns her slender body.
“May I come in?” She whispers.
“Yeah,” he says. She shuffles in, her footsteps slow and clumsy. What is wrong, he thinks to himself.
“I’m sorry to walk in like this, but I feel sad.”
“Its okay,” he tells her, not wanting her to be sad, wanting for her to be happy, to smile the way she used to with Angelo. “Are you hungry?” He asks.
“Yeah,” she says. She continues to stand. He walks over to a dresser and takes out his favorite snack; a box of chocopies. He opens it and sees only one left. Dang, it was going to be my dinner…he sighs, feeling emptiness in his stomach, a craving, almost a desire for a chocopie. Maybe I’ll sneak in some tomorrow, he thinks to himself. He looks back, and makes up his mind.
“Here,” he says, giving her a chocopie.
“Thanks. What about you?”
“I’ll be fine,” he tells her. “You owe me though. You’ll have to come with me tomorrow so I can get more.”
She unwraps the chocopie and begins to bite it. At the sight of her eating, a bear growled inside. “You steal?”
“Yes,” he says, finding himself smiling. “There is a monopoly on food. Tougher kids get more. Sometimes there is no more food left, so the youngest kids starve…”
“How do you steal?” She is almost finished with the chocopie; the aroma of chocolate and flour is drifting through the room like fog through streets. His stomach is very frustrated.
“You have to be pretty small to do it, and very lucky as well.” He turns his head away from her, unable to watch her finish his meal.
“Yummy, that was pretty good, thanks.” She says. Her fingers hold on to the wrapper.
“Do you want to go outside?” He asks, bored.
“Yeah, when the rain won’t be so bad. It looks like it’s going to flood everything, don’t you think?”
He agrees with her. “Why are you here?” His question more curious than menacing.
“I’m not sure why,” she says. “I started to think about Angelo, and I felt alone.” He watches as her fingers tear at the wrapper, shreds appear to mar it. “You know him, know about him.”
Nod of head from him.
“I thought you could help me.”
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I miss him too. It’s hard to believe, but its true.”
“I believe you,” she responds. “How can you miss someone less? I don’t want to miss him anymore. It hurts.”
“I don’t think you can. I think it takes something to stop missing someone.”
“Are you an orphan?”
“Yeah,” he says. “My mommy and daddy died when I was three. I’m an only child.”
“Do you miss them?”
“No,” he replies, his fingers picking at his shirt. He sits down on his bed, feeling the rigidity of his mattress. He hates sleeping in this bed; he likes soft beds, comfort. He hears a thud and sees her sit down.
“Why not? I miss my mommy and daddy.”
“I didn’t know them,” he says. “I don’t remember them even.” He lies down, feeling lumps dig into his back, into his neck. Small waves of pain emerge. “For as long as I remember, this is my home.”
“How do you know about your mommy and daddy?”
“This is the only orphanage that I ever stayed at,” he tells her. “I asked Caretaker Lee once, and she told me what she knew; that my mommy and daddy died when I was three, that my last name is Kim. I don’t think I have uncles and aunts. Even if I did, they probably see me as a cursed child, and wouldn’t take me.”
“Oh. How did you meet Angelo?”
“For as long as I remember, he was always at this orphanage.”
“He struck me more as a runaway.”
“This is probably his third orphanage or something, I don’t know. He is ten years old,” he finds himself reminding Sonya. He turns his face towards her, drinking in her delicate beauty. She is very pretty, he thinks to himself. It’s a pity that all she cares about is Angelo. I don’t even know why she likes him. I wish she’d ask more questions about me. Its annoying talking about Angelo!
“Thanks Lucas, I think I have to go now.”
“That’s fine,” he says. “I’ll see you later.” He watches as she stands up and leaves his room.
He groans, just thinking about Angelo is starting to drive him nuts already!
Voices greet him this morning, his uncle shouting his name, his aunt’s breakfast, and the tiny voices of their two daughters. He finds himself sitting on the bed, the softness enfolding him like a cocoon. He feels the strands run through his fingers. Too bright. It is too bright, and too early. White covers the sky, the sinister darkness at the edge, threatening to engulf. It’s going to rain today, he thinks to himself. He looks outside, noting the lack of activity on this Sunday. Where is everyone? He continues to stand, his finger tracing a circle continuously. “Angelo!” He hears his uncle. Footsteps come closer to the door, and it opens with a bang. “What are you doing standing? We are already late to church!”
“Church?” He asks. He remembers the mandatory attendance at the orphanage. He always skipped out on church.
“Yes. Church. Get ready, your aunt is in a foul mood already.”
“Uncle, did someone die?”
“No, where did you get a stupid idea like that? We go to church every Sunday.”
“Why?” His uncle repeats. Angelo notices that his face became redder, and the eyes much more menacing, much more angrier. “So Jesus Christ can forgive us for our sins! We sin every week, Angelo, and we have to ask forgiveness from Jesus.”
“How did we sin?”
“No more questions. Get dressed, we’re going.”
“But I don’t want to go, uncle.”
“You’re going. You know you have to listen to your elders, Angelo.”
“I know uncle.”
His uncle tosses him a black suit. “Put it on and get downstairs promptly.”
“Uncle, I am hungry.”
“We will eat after church.”
His uncle left. Angelo stares at the suit, noticing the stiff leg pants, the jacket. How am I supposed to put it on? He thinks to himself. While at the orphanage, he never had to dress in a suit, never had to wear it before. He is tempted to call for his uncle, to ask him for help, but decides against it. His uncle will be angry and won’t be happy.
He takes off his pajamas and puts on the pants, feeling the stiffness. I don’t think I can sit in them, he thinks to himself. He finds himself in a dilemma. How is he supposed to bend down and put on his jacket? He bends down, his legs aching from the stiff pants. An itchy feeling enters into his body. He mutters curses under his breath. His hand reaches for the jacket and he puts it on. He buttons it, and feels the squeezing. Can I breathe in this? He wonders silently. It’s too small!
“Angelo!” His uncle shouts once more. “Are you ready?”
“Yes uncle!” Angelo responds. He opens the door and walks out. His uncle stands by the staircase with his wife, and their small girls.
“About time!” The wife shouts. “You’ve made us wait forever! Now everything is ruined, I’ll look like a fool in front of everyone! All thanks to you!”
“I’m sorry aunt.”
“Sorry, sorry! Don’t you realize the importance of reputation? Are you an idiot, huh? Everyone will think I’m not popular! Bad enough I have to compete with Madame Song, and now I have to apologize for my husband who adopted you? Oh I think I’ll faint! Husband! My smelling salts!”
Anger is inside his veins, burning like a fire. “Let us go aunt.”
“Husband! Help me walk! You two my precious darlings.”
Angelo walks in the back, his hands stuffed in pockets. He notices the minute cracks on the sidewalk, hears the patter of steps, the hurried delicate ones of his aunt, the loud wide ones of his uncle, the timid ones of the two daughters.
A happy family, one of his uncle’s is in his eyes. He is behind, not part of the family. I don’t want to go to church, he thinks to himself. The only time he was in church is when his mother was being buried. A memory from the past is pressed on his mind.
“Button up that suit, Angelo.” His uncle orders him. He is four years of age, his fingers clumsy and untrained. He tries, but cannot. He sees his uncle looking in the mirror, somehow not here. He doesn’t see me struggling, Angelo thinks silently.
“Where are we going, uncle?”
“To church.” His uncle is straightening a white bowtie. He reaches for the black hair comb and lightly brushes his hair.
“Is mommy going with us?”
He stops brushing, the brush stuck in the middle of his head. “Yes.” He finally answers. His voice is choked.
“Where is she?”
“She’ll be there.” He answers. He continues to brush his hair. Silence enters the room, enfolding them into its embrace. Awkwardness is created. He finds himself unable to talk, to ask questions. After what feels like hours, he buttons up his suit. “Are you ready?” His uncle asks.
“Yes, I’m ready. Is mommy ready?”
“She is.” His uncle responds. He feels his uncle’s hand around his tiny one, and the two walk out to the car.
He sees the redness around his uncle’s eyes, the sadness on his face. “What’s wrong, uncle?”
“Nothing.” He says. Breathing is heavy.
“Why is mommy not coming with us?”
“Angelo. There is something you have to know.” He stops. Angelo stops walking as well.
“What is it uncle?”
“Your mother has died.”
“What? What do you mean uncle?”
“I’m sorry. She is dead.”
No matter how much Angelo pleaded with him, his uncle refuses to tell him anymore. What does death mean, he thinks to himself.
He remembers the church, the pale minister who simply read out the eulogy. His mother, a devoted Christian, wanted to be buried the Western way, not the Korean way. He learned all of that later. Throughout that time, he remembers the tears on his uncle’s face.
He is back in real world, not in the past. The family walks to a black car waiting for them. His uncle opens the door and everyone gets in, including him. He sits as far as he can from the two girls and their mother. I do not see them as my family, he thinks. I don’t trust anyone here. He shuts the door, and simply looks out the window, not talking to anyone.
No one makes the attempt to include him in the conversations. The wife complains again of the wrinkling of her dress, the two daughters giggle and laugh over seeing their playmates. They gossip over various girls and boys. He hears his uncle talking about the weather and how he is looking forward to the sermon. Something inside his heart doesn’t feel right, he realizes. I don’t want to go to with them. He still remembers the only experience he had in church, playing it in his mind without end. I didn’t feel comfortable then, but why? He is unable to identify the feelings, the experiences.
They finally arrive, the car slows down. The chauffer gets out and opens up the door. They all exit, not even thanking the poor man. He thanks him.
A large building with crosses all over greets them, light brown in color, the windows painted of a brown haired man wearing white. Is he mourning someone?Angelo wonders. He counts twelve men, painted differently. He doesn’t know who they are. “Angelo!” His uncle shouts. “Come on, we’re late enough already!”
They open the door and enter. He looks around quickly, and again that feeling of being unsettled is inside. He can hear the prayers and songs. He doesn’t want to go further. He feels tightening around his hand and sees his uncle. He pulls hard. Angelo has no choice but to follow him.
They open another set of doors, pews of wood greet him. They find a seat and sit down. He sees the minister preaching, animated. It is the same minister that buried his mother! He wants to escape. I hate being here; I hate seeing that man here. Another memory creeps over.
He exits out of church, his uncle yanking him. The minister is inside. He wants to cry, watching his mommy being underground. The minister stares at the ground, his face impassive. Afterwards, he goes inside. Angelo runs after him. “Sir, sir!” he shouts. The minister continues to walk. Angelo yanks away from his uncle and runs inside. “Why did you put my mommy underground?”
The minister stops. He watches as the minister takes out a small rectangular box and opens it. Inside are tubes, white but the edges are painted yellow. “Listen, child, she is dead. That’s why. If a person is dead you have to bury them.”
“But sir, why is she dead?”
A shrug. “I don’t know. I was simply paid to do the eulogy. If it makes you feel better, she is in heaven.”
“Something you’ll never reach. You’re an orphan, aren’t you? Heaven is shut off to orphans. You have done something to cause your mother’s death.”
Angelo feels the tears welling up in his eyes. Oh how he wanted to punch that minister, but he can’t. He hears a voice. It is his uncle calling him. “There you are!” His uncle says. He comes up to the man. “I am very sorry. Thank you for the eulogy.” The behavior of the minister changes.
“Ah, you’re welcome, no problem. I have to attend other matters, now if you’ll excuse me.” The uncle bowed to the minister low. Angelo stares at him, anger inside.
They went home then.
The service is over, finally. He sees everyone stand up and exit. The minister walks over to the family. “Ah, hello. I am glad to see you here, James.”
“Likewise, minister Ki.”
“I see you have a new member. Congratulations on your successful adoption.”
“Thank you minister Ki. This is Angelo.”
“Oh, yes, I remember him clearly. A small boy when I met him, very lively.” He laughs. Angelo feels pain in his palms and notices that subconsciously his fingers dig in.
The two continue to talk. The minister walks over to him. “Hello,” he greets him.
“Ah, hello Angelo. Nice to see you again. I am happy that you will become a Christian.”
Angelo remains silent. I don’t even want to be a Christian, he says to himself silently. I might become one only because of my uncle. “Its an interesting faith,” he says.
“You will enjoy it, I’m sure of that. Now come back next week for baptizing, okay?”
“Yes sir.” The minister walks away. The family finally stands up and walks away. He feels free when he walks outside, seeing the menacing gray move in the sky, closer and closer to the church. Inside his heart, he hopes that a lightning bolt will hit that minister. The family finally gets inside the car and drive away.
The minute he is home, he walks to his room and yanks the suit off, his skin relishing the freedom from restrain. He lies on the floor, his eyes move to the ceiling. I don’t think it’s the church that has mother, he thinks. It didn’t feel the same, but the man was the same. He hopes he will not have to go back there, but knows he has no choice, that his uncle will force him to go back.
Footsteps, the sounds across the pavement, the air cool and chilly, the smell of flowers, of vegetation, the honking of cars, screeching of brakes, a large traffic light hanging on the wire, the color red, a myriad of sounds and smells greet him like a long lost lover. He continues to walk, Sonya beside him.
They are walking towards the grocery store. “I’m nervous,” she says. He sees her looking towards the traffic. He wants to squeeze her hand, to reassure her, but cannot. She wouldn’t feel better if I do it, he thinks to himself. She likes him, she likes Angelo.
“Don’t be,” he tries to reassure her. “Everything will be okay.”
“Don’t you feel bad if you do it?”
He stops. No one has asked him that. She wants to hear that I feel bad, but how can I tell her that I don’t feel bad at all? He looks at the sidewalk, the concrete beneath him, the tall trees lined up in a row. “You don’t have to do it,” he finally tells her. “Just wait here, I will come back.”
“No, I’m coming with you.” He sits down on the sidewalk, relaxing. He wonders if someone is after them, because he and Sonya left without permission. She sits beside him, leaning against the store. People walk back and forth, talking and silent. His hands go around his knees, his chin resting on top. He looks up, the stark blue sky meeting his eyes. It’s so clear; I’ve never seen such a clear sky in my life.
“Why do you want to come with me?” He asks.
“I ate the last Chocopie, it’s the least I can do.”
Silence. He hoped for a different reason. “Oh.” He finally says. He gets up and dusts off his long black coat. It is too big for me, he thinks. But it’s the only coat I have. “You don’t have to do it Sonya. I offered you the Chocopie.”
“Please let me do this, Lucas. I don’t want to owe anyone anything…”
She stands up with him, her face a mask of pain. Why is she doing this, he has to wonder. It has to be more than feeling responsible. “Come on,” he says, motioning her with his hand. He walks forward; she is behind, her footsteps slow and deliberate. She is dreading this, he thinks. But yet she’s doing it.
Minutes pass, the scenery passes slowly, a snail’s pace. I cannot say anything, cannot say any words. My mouth is frozen. She is also silent, somehow thoughtful. Does she miss Angelo, is that why she is so insistent? To forget about him? Thoughts crowded his mind.
They are finally here. “You stay outside,” he tells her. “I will be out quickly.” He enters before he can hear her protests.
Inside, he sees a large crowd, people shopping, and forming long lines to buy all sorts of food, from American to Korean. He goes to the desert aisle, searching for the box of Chocopies. He hopes to be quick, to be out of this store in a few minutes. Is Sonya worrying about me? He finally sees the box of Chocopies, a red box with chocolate mini-pies drawn on it. He creeps up slowly, taking mental notes. He checks to see if there is a camera anywhere. No. He checks if there are any people in this aisle, workers and non-workers. None. He puts mittens on, and a hood with sunglasses. Now none can recognize him.
Carefully, he picks up the box of Chocopies and stashes it inside his coat. He runs out of the aisle quickly. He stands not far from the long lines, watching as adults exit. He needs to pretend that his mommy is close. He sees a short woman, wearing sunglasses and a long coat exit. He runs up to her and follows behind her. She doesn’t see me, he thinks. Good. It would be bad if the woman saw him.
He is finally outside, the woman walking away to her life, and begins to look for Sonya. He sees her standing beside the store, her head lowered, choked noises coming out from her throat. “Sonya,” he calls out her name.
She turns to him. “What?” She asks tearfully.
“Why are you sad?”
“I miss him, Lucas. I miss Angelo. I can’t stop thinking about him, about the fun times we shared.”
He steps forward to where she is standing, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I wish there was something I can do, to make you stop crying.” He says.
He doesn’t hug her. He doesn’t want to make her feel worse. She continues to cry. He notices the looks that people give them looks as they walk past them. A burning feeling in his cheeks creeps forward. “Please lets go.” She says. Somehow she composes herself, and with him walking, both walk home.
A breath of fresh air. All that he needs now, all that he deserves. He sighs, his hand picking up a picture. Her picture, Angelo’s mother. You’re still here, he thinks. He doesn’t see the dark skies, the lights shining as beacons, as guides to the lost. All he sees is the world inside, the world inside himself. Are you watching your son, watching him run away from me, watching him hate?
He doesn’t have to say it in words. His eyes are enough. He is acting suspicious. What is he up to, I wonder. Is he going back to that white girl? He remembers that day, when he finally adopted Angleo, how that girl ran up to him. Disgusting! She even dares to kiss him in public! But still, the emotion Angelo showed in his eyes is surprising. Can he fall in love at such a young age? And why with that ugly white girl?
His fingers trace the photograph, the smiling young woman. She is wearing a hanbok, her hair in a traditional hairstyle. Eugene Song, Angelo’s mother. Blank background. Black and white photograph. Do you remember me in netherworld, the love I held for you as well?
Just for a minute, I’ll remember you; I’ll reminisce about you. Darkness surrounds him, everything fades, but old appears. Leafy trees are around, the building three stories tall. He is ten years when he sees her for the first time. Her hair is long and loose, a smile decorates her face. She is wearing a white blouse, dark blue skirt. A uniform at their school for girls. She is standing close to the trees, talking with some friends. The final bell hasn’t rung yet. He decides to introduce himself to her, to make her notice him.
Slowly, he comes up to her, careful not to make noise. She is still far from him, about ten feet away. He touches the trees, the one with cherry blossoms. Rustles are heard around him. He sees that the girls stop talking. Silence falls between them. They turn to him, the smiles disappear.
Flush creeps into his cheeks. He freezes and much to his embarrassment, continues to smile. The girls’ bow to him, he bows back. “Hi.” He says.
“Hello,” the girl he is looking over greets him. She is about his height, maybe slightly taller and is very thin. There are two other girls, he remembers. One is about his height, wearing glasses and her hair tied in a ponytail. She is wearing the same thing as the first girl, and in her arms he sees children’s books written in Korean.
The other girl is short and thin. To Yi Jae-Min’s eyes she lacks both beauty and grace. She is trembling slightly, and he sees that it’s from excess of energy. He loses his voice to speak. “I’m Eugene Song,” she says.
“Oh, I’m James Yi.” he tells her. “It is nice to meet you.”
“I’m Heather Han,” the one with the glasses greets him.
“I’m Jill Shim,” the energetic one comes over, almost interrupting Heather. He told the girls his name as well.
He and the girls were not in the same class, it turns out. He walks to his class, somehow hoping that he will see the girls again.
The past fades, and future begins. He sighs angrily, staring at her picture. I hope that your son is not planning anything. I am scared that he’ll run away from here, I’m scared that I’ll break my promise to you, and that you’ll never forgive me. I was selfish back then. I never should have done what I did.
A slam of the door brought him to his feet. “Susan!” He screams. “Susan!”
Footsteps, loud and anxious hurry to his direction. “What!” she screeches when she opens the door. “What!”
“What just happened?”
“I don’t know! Ugh Angelo is so uncaring! Not very loyal!”
Her hands touch her coiffure. Fire is in his blood. Oh how he wants to shake her, to make her care about the boy. Each time he tries to, it ends in a failure. “Where is he?” He asks.
“Ran away, thanks goodness! I can’t stand having
’s son here! He is so disruptive! What if my little girls will be influenced badly by him? What will I do? What will you do?” Eugene
“He knows the responsibility. He is their elder brother.”
“Its not fair! Why did you bring here? Don’t you care about me, about my feelings at all?”
“Susan, he is an orphan. He has no parents, no brothers or sisters, no relatives to look after him. Have pity on him.”
She walks over to the nearest, one closest to the window, sits down and cries. A desk is close by, the telephone close to his fingers. He decides to call the police, to ask them to find the boy. When I die, what will I tell his mother, he thinks to himself.
He picks up the phone, ignoring her cries and calls the police.
A sea of yellow falls from the sky, brief light shining the way. He follows it, hoping to come back, to see the one he trusts. How long, he wonders, how long must I walk? He wonders briefly if his uncle called the police, and inside he hopes not. I will return, he tells himself. I will, I just want to see Sonya; I want to see Lucas as well. Night covers the world, a world without the moon.
Stark gray clouds are all over. Will it rain, he wonders. Maybe I’ll be outside, dancing in the rain, I’m not afraid of it. Boom, the drum from the sky, a slight static tone. Thunder, he thinks to himself. He stops, his eyes seeing shadows of all sorts. Quick flash of light. Lightning. He sees the orphanage; it is close, he thinks. He begins to run towards it, the drops of water falling like a wave on the sand.
Quick cry grabs his attention. He turns to its direction, and sees Sonya sitting on the steps, her eyes focused on the sky, her hands folded on her knees. “Sonya!” He calls out her name. A jerky movement. He sees her turn towards him.
“Angelo,” a whisper, barely audible. He sees her stand up and run up to him. “It’s a dream, isn’t it? I’m dreaming, right? That you’re here with me?”
He wants to laugh at her questions. “If it is, I’m having the same one.”
Her laughter begins to ring. “I’m happy you’re here.”
No reply from him. Drops of water from the sky, light ones. He looks up, the swishing noise in his ears. It is raining, he thinks. He forgets about her momentarily. His hands extend, the raindrops a gift from heavens. How much I want to tell her, to share with her, but I cannot.
“Why are you here?” She asks. “It is late to be visiting.”
“I’m not sure.” He finally says. “Let’s dance, have our own dance in the rain.”
“What?” She is startled, he notices, her eyes glance towards him, narrowed in the middle, crinkled in the corners.
“Let’s dance,” he says again. He walks over to her, his hand gently grasping hers. He pulls her forward, into his arms. He sees her face, a smile, her eyes are stars.
“Are you serious?” She asks.
“Yes.” He says. He presses her close to him, feeling the warmth; his head rests on top of hers. The two of them began to dance, a light drizzle continues. The rain, it is not cold, but tropic somehow, a splash of water brings stickiness, the air around heat. He spins her around, her giggles and laughter ring out like tiny bells.
“This is fun,” she says unnecessarily. He agrees with her as the two continue to dance.
Puddles of water are around them, unseen but felt. He doesn’t care, and knows that she doesn’t care either. They stop suddenly, as if on cue. He doesn’t say anything, sensing that she wants to speak.
“Let’s splash each other,” she says. She runs to the nearest puddle, he following her. She splashes water on him, laughing loudly. He laughs with her, feeling the wet cloth absorbing water. He runs after her, finally cornering her. He scoops up some water and splashes it on her. She shrieks loudly from fun.
The two continue to splash one another. He loses track of time, forgets about everything, about his uncle, about how he ran away. His focus is on her. Perhaps one day I’ll kiss her, he thinks to himself. Like the guys do in those dramas to girls they like. Perhaps one day, but not today. Today, I just want to have fun with her.
Sirens blast onto the scene, the silence disrupted. Oh no, he thinks to himself as he watches the policemen get out. His uncle did indeed call the police and they tracked him down. He knows he has to go; yet he is afraid. What if next time I’ll visit her, she won’t be here anymore, but will be far away, where I can never reach her or see her. Both stop their play. “Goodbye,” he says, his voice choked. She goes down on the grass, crying nosily.
“Please don’t go, not yet.”
“You will be okay,” he tells her. He doesn’t say anything, fearful to break her down further. He gets inside. The car drives forward, he watches from afar. First she is big, he could see her features, her face, her smile, but then she is smaller, almost fading, barely recognizable.
Will it be like that one day, he wonders. That he will remember her clearly, and then, as time will go on, she will fade from his mind, until nothing is left, and it will be as if she never existed? He hopes that that will never come true, will never happen.
Yet she is fading now. He waves, knowing that she can’t see him, and feels silent tears fall on his cheeks. Goodbye, I will see you again; he sends her a silent message.
Soon, she completely faded.
Transparent waves roll endlessly, ready to engulf the world. The pounding on the gold, the grains of sand moist, wetness underneath his feet as everything becomes blacked out. He hears the roars, feels the water touch his ankles.
Cries of seagulls, echoes of wails pound his ears. He laughs, seeing everything again, the pure blue sky, a deep blue, mirroring the ocean, a sun in the distance, made of gold, no clouds touching the horizon. His hands rise up to the sky, fingers outstretched, as if he can touch the sun. He cannot. He sits down, silent, feeling the cool water pool around his body, his legs. A light mist hits him every few minutes, the particles spraying into his eyes. Sharp pain stings him. He wipes it with his shirt, blinking it away.
He continues to sit, to watch, his hands holding his knees. Laughter catches him, a giggle. He knows who it is. Sonya. “Over here!” he shouts.
She comes, a short skirt on her slender body, a tank top as well. Her skin, the pale white color of vanilla has slight redness to it, he notices. Sunburn, his mind says. “Hey, this is a nice place,” she says. He sees as she looks up, her long curly hair dancing lightly. He feels the wind himself, silent, but strong.
“You’ve never been here?” He asks, putting his hands behind him, stretching his legs out to the waves.
“No,” she says. She sits down beside him on her soles, her back not touching the sand. “Why did you take me out here?”
“I wanted to make you happy,” he says. The waves tickle his feet, the water splashes on his body. He does not worry. The heat comes down, a slow warmth of light. He wants to take off his shirt, to feel the coolness return again. But he does not dare. I don’t want her to see me naked; don’t want her to laugh at me.
“I’m not happy?” She asks. She looks at him. He turns away from her searching eyes, and sees the fading of the nature.
“You don’t look happy,” he tells her. “You always look sad. You don’t want to do anything. You just sit beside the window and stare.”
“I thought if I brought you here, you’d be happy.”
“It’s beautiful here,” she admits quickly. He turns towards her, watching as she got up. “What can you find here?” She asks. “When do you usually come to this place?”
“There are seashells here,” he admits. “I search for them often. There are some beautiful ones here as well.”
“Oh really? Can you show me?” She bends down, her hands rubbing the sand away. He stands up and walks up beside her.
He begins to scoop the sand away as well, watching the grains become like a waterfall of gold, dropping back to the beach. The sound of waves continues same sound, same frequency.
Something warm and hard touches him. He stops, seeing her palm on top of his. Light burning in his cheeks, he smiles in embarrassment. He doesn’t look up though, doesn’t see her face, but he focuses on the sand, the pounding of waves.
Minutes pass, her hand on top of his. He looks up at her, the inquisitive eyes, and a gentle tug on the lips, no smiles or laughter. “Sorry,” she finally says. Quicker than a lightning, the hand is gone.
“It’s okay,” he responds. A prickly sensation in his nose, he itched it.
“You’re very easygoing, aren’t you? Always happy and smiles, ready for an adventure,” she says.
He sits down, the shells forgotten. “I am,” he admits. “You should be happier too.”
“I’m trying to be, but it’s hard, oh so hard.” She sits down beside him, her hands clasping one another.
He is at loss.
She continues. “You’re so different, very different than Angelo. He looks like he needs some happiness; he’s known too much sadness. You seem as if you have never known any sadness.”
“Everyone knows sadness, the difference is in how much is hidden and how much is revealed, how it’s handled.”
“You must hide it very well then,” she says. She scoots closer to him. He continues to stare at the sea, noticing the seagulls moving towards the sun.
“I just try not to think about sad things. What can you do about them? I can’t change that my mama and papa are dead; I can’t change the fact that I don’t have a new mama and papa. So I don’t think about it.”
He feels her presence, a light of warmth radiating from her. “What will you do if someone you know dies? How will you feel about that?”
“I ‘m not sure,” he responds. “Why do you talk of sad stuff, Sonya?”
“That’s all that seems to be happening right now, just lots of sad things.”
“What about happy things?”
“What about them?”
“Can’t you think about them instead? You know, there’s much more happiness than sorrow. The fact that you’re here, spending time with me, is that not happiness?”
“Its hard to think of happiness when there’s sorrow,” she whispers.
A heavy feeling entered his heart, feeling of pain that she is hurting. Before he knows what he is doing, he puts his arms around her, his chin on her shoulder. “Please don’t be sad,” he says. “You still have me to listen to you.”
“I’m sorry that I ruined everything,” She tears away from him and runs away into the distance, crying.
He sits on the sand, a fire snaking inside. His hand begins to play with the sand, the palm and fingers drawing. He becomes engrossed in the task, carefully studying the shapes. He draws himself and Sonya beside him; happy, smiling Sonya.
I thought for sure that bringing her to the beach will make her happy, he thinks to himself. He and Sonya walked at least an hour to get to the beach, he unable to get the money to take the bus. She was sad all the time, he continues to think, almost wilting and dying. I hoped she’d forget about Angelo, but nothing is easy, is it?
Footsteps are heard, he continues to draw. “Lucas!” Sonya’s voice calls out.
“Yes?” He calls back.
“How about we head back? Its getting late and we have an hour of walking.”
“Okay.” He stops drawing and begins to walk with her.
Emptiness surrounds him, noises absent, the voices, clattering of dishes. No one is home. “You cannot go outside,” his uncle reminded him a few hours back. “You are still grounded.”
He is silent, standing before him, his pockets inside his jeans. His eyes do not see him, they see the floor.
“Hey, what did I just say?” His uncle reminds him. A shove.
“Why are you so difficult, Angelo? I have not done anything wrong! Why are you like this? You don’t want to be part of our family anymore?”
Bubbles, water cooking over fire inside. “You left me in that orphanage,” he finds himself saying. “You…” spasms overtake his body, the ground rushes quickly, unheeding. “I cannot forgive you,” he whispers. He wonders if his uncle heard him, but doubts it. He hopes his uncle didn’t hear him.
The smooth wood, warm against his cheek, the wetness from his eyes mixes in. He tastes it. It is salty. Tears, he concludes. “I didn’t have a choice,” his uncle says. He sighs. “How many times must I tell you that?”
He looks up, a giant in front. His uncle. He wants to stand up, to run back to his room, run to Sonya. “There aren’t any excuses for abandoning me, uncle. None.”
“Stand up,” his uncle commands him. Arms wrap around him, pulling him up. “Come on, don’t be a baby, stand up like a man!”
Angelo continues to lie down, his palms flat against the wood. I don’t want to stand up, he thinks. I just want to leave here. I don’t want to live with my uncle’s wife, don’t want to live with his two daughters. “I’m going,” he says. His uncle released him.
“You are not to leave, and since tomorrow is Sunday, you know we have to go to church.”
“I don’t want to go there, its boring. I hate that priest.”
“Stop being a baby, you are ten years old! You are worse than my daughtersAngelo! And they are half your age! You should be ashamed of yourself! An older brother doesn’t act the way you do.”
“I’m not their older brother, Uncle. I’m nothing to them, and nothing to your wife.”
Carefully, he watches his uncle’s expression, the brows furrowing in the center, hands becoming fists. “Go,” his uncle whispers, “go, before I whip you into shape.” He is very angry, Angelo thinks to himself. Good. He leaves, going upstairs to his room. It is dark when he enters, but he doesn’t turn on the lights. He likes it dark, likes watching the movements below.
He sits across the window, his fingers on the glass; a shadow glares at him, sitting across the other side. Sometimes he thinks about alternate worlds, alternate universes, and often imagines a gateway behind the glass, a gateway to the world he wants. In there, he would always have lived with his uncle; he would never have been in an orphanage. His mother would also be alive, along with the father he never knew. His uncle would look after him, there would never bee any unhappiness.
Cool glass kisses his face, the shadow is more noticeable. “He took me in just because, he doesn’t love me,” he says out loud to himself. His uncle’s family left already. “I feel like a burden sometimes, and it doesn’t help matters that his wife often reminds me of my status. I wish he’d leave her. She’s a witch.” He wonders if someone hears these words. He wonders if God perhaps hears them. He questions religious belief in God, in the trinity. “I don’t believe in them, I just believe in God, maybe.” He sighs, watching the white cover the glass. With his fingertip, he writes Sonya’s name, in Hangul.
He waits, watching as the white fades, along with her name. If only I could see her one more time. I don’t know when she’ll disappear forever. I just want to spend as much time with her as possible. Perhaps next time I’ll escape, Sonya, I and Lucas can go to the ocean. I haven’t been there in ages.
“I like making my uncle mad,” he says loudly, to himself. “I don’t know why. It makes me feel good. Am I a bad person for liking that?” He blinks a few times, feeling the moisture in his eyes wanting to escape. I’m strong, I won’t let myself cry, and I’m not a baby anymore. My uncle is right, I behave like a baby. I’m a man; I have to act like one.
The sky gets darker, stars are not there, neither the moon, he only sees pure darkness. Down below, the lights flicker, people are outside, walking in a hurry. Sea of yellow and red on the road, cars driving, far in the distance he sees skyscrapers, more buildings.
Mountains capture his eyes, blue velvet in color. It’s hard to see their real colors in darkness, he thinks to himself. Hard to tell what they are when they are hiding in the shadows. He often hides in shadows too, doesn’t want the exposure of light. I don’t want for people to see the real me. I’d rather be rejected for my fake self than real self. He moves himself away from the window. I don’t want to turn on the light. He thinks on what to do. In the end, he decides to go to sleep.
Perhaps one day I’ll be in the light, but not today, not now, he thinks as he covers himself with a blanket. Sleep stole over him. Everything is blocked out but darkness, the one thing that none can escape from.
Soft sounds of flute, violin, saxophone, gentle sounds intermixing until a harmony is achieved. Dim lights, wallpaper of soft gold with tones of violet, a fork in his hand poking the red meat in front of him, the smells. “It is nice here,” he hears her voice. “Why don’t we come more often?”
“Girls, eat up.”
He watches as his wife cuts up the steak, the girls old enough to feed themselves. A sigh escapes his mouth. I should be enjoying this meal; my wife is not complaining, my two daughters are here, yet why am I unhappy? A pause, his thoughts stop. I know why, he resumes silently. It’s because of Angelo. Tentatively, he picks up a piece of steak, the smell of herbs invading his nostrils. In the past, he would’ve taken that small piece in his mouth, savoring the juices and tastes coming from such a small piece. Today though, he cannot eat it. Why, he asks himself once more. His wife is preoccupied with talking to the girls, scenery changes quickly.
He sees a room with a single window, a small boy crying. The room is empty, sterile. “Angelo,” he calls out the boy’s name.
“It’s not fair,” Angelo says. He studies the little boy. He couldn’t be more than four, dressed in a severe styled suit.
He stops, uncertain. What do I say to someone who just lost their mother? What do I say? A prickly feeling in his neck. He scratches it. He continues to stand, watching the little boy. I still have not lost my parents. How do I comfort someone who is an orphan? Who is without a father and a mother?
Angelo continues to sit, his fingertips pressing against the glass. “Mommy,” he calls out. “Please come back!” James continues to stand, doing nothing, as Angelo begins to cry. I don’t have a heart to comfort him, he realizes. What do I do?
“Angelo,” he finally says something. Instant attention, the dark eyes turn towards him.
“Uncle,” he whispers. “Please make mommy come back. Please tell her that I’ll be a good boy, that I’ll never make her sad if she comes back.”
He groans inwardly. How do I start this conversation with someone who’s four? How do I tell him that he’s an orphan now? Yet words, those damned words continue to pour from him. “Jang Chae-Su, listen to me carefully. You’re an orphan. That means you don’t have neither a mommy nor a daddy.”
Silence from him. He watches the little boy’s hands glide over the glass.
“I know.” He finally says.
“That also means—“
“I know. Mommy told me. I will be going to that place.”
His fingers feel his hair, the black ink on the sun kissed skin. He tugs his hair, his feet shifting constantly, an itch. He is unable to find his comfort spot. I cannot deny his words, he realizes. He speaks the truth. Again he sees the small boy, the tousled black hair, the dark eyes, and sadness written all over it. Angelo sits on his knees. “I can adopt you,” he offers.
“You’ll leave me.” He says. “Bad idea. You’ll leave me like mommy left me.”
Again he groans. Its irritating talking to him. I cannot lie to him at all. He can tell lies from truths, can’t he? “I promise I won’t ever leave you,” he tells the little boy.
Angelo says nothing.
“You’ll never have to go to that place…I promise Angelo.”
Again, no words come for the boy’s mouth.
Cautiously he approaches the little boy. He sits down, his hands wrap around the tiny body. Loud sobs are heard. He says nothing, letting Angelo cry. He deserves it, he tells himself. He’s an orphan.
It fades, that time. He is back in restaurant, observing his wife quietly. They are continuing to eat steak.
Again he sighs. If only I could’ve kept my promise. Then things would’ve been different.
Golden sky, clouds as well. No red anywhere. Gentle swells of foam. He watches as they roll, trying to grab on to the sand. In front of him, Sonya and Lucas. “This is fun!” He hears her shout.
She is sitting down, her curly hair loose, blowing in the wind. She faces towards the endless blue. White dress with thin straps is seen, ending at her knees. Her palms face towards the ocean, ready to catch the elusive foam.
The wet sand clings to his hands, tiny grains digging into the skin, lightly scratching it. “This is much more difficult to dig,” he hears himself mutter. One would think that wet sand is easier to dig, but it is not. It seems burdened somehow.
“Are you still looking for seashells?” He hears her call out.
“Yeah,” he replies. So far no luck in finding seashells for her, and he has been looking for an hour.
“Can I help?” Her voice is much more nearer. He looks up and sees her, clasping her hands in front. Her eyes are lowered, and her hair is settled.
“Sure,” he says curtly, unable to find more words. She sits down, cross-legged, her hands beginning to dig into the sand.
“I’m going to make a necklace,”
He says nothing. “A necklace out of what?” He finally asks, curious.
“Seashells,” she answers. “Seashells that you and Lucas will collect, it will be a pretty necklace too, I bet.”
He grins. “What if I won’t find any seashells?”
“Then I won’t make the necklace.”
He laughs. “Then I’ll find some seashells then, for your necklace.”
“Thanks.” She leans forward, her eyes focus on him. He turns his head towards her, her lips close to his. He closes his eyes, and before he knows it, something wet touches his lips. It is she, kissing him. His arms wrap around her body. He continues to kiss her. At first wetness meets his lips, something unpleasant, but then it becomes more pleasurable. He breaks it apart then and stands up quickly. Light burning in his cheeks. He wonders if anyone had seen it. He hopes not. She continues to sit, a sad expression on her face.
“What’s wrong?” He asks.
A sigh escapes her mouth. “I will be adopted in a week.” She says.
Nod of head from her. He sees tears on her face, transparent. “I’m sorry. I will be gone soon, Angelo. Gone, for forever.”
“You mean, you won’t live here?”
“No. I will go overseas, and I might never see you again.”
He sits down, an all familiar feeling of grief wraps around him, ready to squeeze him, to kill him. Why does it have to be so soon? He begins to think to himself. Why not never? He turns away from her, unable to look at her now, to face her eyes, the face. Unable to face her, the one that is leaving. I want to cry, to run away with her, but I can’t, can I? Anger is here, as well as a desire to cry out unfair.
“Hey a seashell,” he hears her cry out. He stops digging, looking at the seashell. It is wide across, an open faced palm with slight ridges. White on the inside, but a light peach pink on the outside, with darker shades, a very beautiful shell, he has to admit. “It’s so pretty,” she whispers. He hands the shell to her. “I’ll always wear it, Angelo. I’ll never ever forget you, no matter what.”
No answer from him.
“Let’s take a picture,” He hears Lucas’s voice. He looks up, seeing his friend with a Kodak type camera. He is cheerful, he thinks to himself, but something is off about his voice. But what?
“The three of us?” Angelo manages to ask, a choking feeling in his voice. He didn’t want for Lucas to feel left out.
“Yeah,” his friend replies. “I’ll go find someone to take a picture of us. One minute.” At that moment, he ran off, leaving the two of them alone.
“You’ll have a good home, Sonya, don’t worry.” He told her.
“It’s not fair though. I don’t want to leave, I don’t want to move. Why couldn’t they find me parents that want to stay here?”
No answer from him.
“Angelo, please answer me. Stop acting so high and mighty; it’s so annoying sometimes!”
I’m not acting that way because I want to. I just don’t know how else to act, he thinks to himself. I don’t think ahead; don’t plan my life ten years from now and so on. And I know you do.
At that moment, footsteps are near. He looks up and sees his friend, and a tourist. “Three,” Lucas says in Korean, and holds up three fingers for emphasis. The tourist nods his head. He is tall, Angelo notices, and American most likely, wearing
flags all over. USA
Sonya is in the middle, Angelo to her left, and Lucas to her right. She holds hands with both of them. All three are smiling widely. He takes three pictures, and walks away, giving the camera to Lucas.
“Thank you,” Sonya says. “When will the pictures be ready?”
“In a few days,” he tells her. “Hey, Angelo, I’ll give you your picture too. Can you give me your address?”
“Sure,” he says. He writes out the address and hands it to Lucas. “I have to go now. My uncle doesn’t know I left, and I think he and his family will be back any time from the party.”
“Oh. Is it a long walk?”
“No, I don’t think so.” His eyes meet Sonya’s. “Goodbye, Sonya.” He leaves then. As he is leaving, he overhears Lucas telling Sonya all about the seashells that he found.
Darkness settled in, taking away the colors. Yet he is outside, fireflies before him, chirping of the crickets. Wood digs into his butt, sharp angles marking him. Black has its own shades, he thinks. There is no singular black. He looks up, seeing the moon. I remember the fairy tales of the rabbits living on it, he recalls. His thoughts jump from place, unsatisfied frogs that jump from Lilly pad to Lilly pad.
He stands up, begins to walk, a habit out of anxiety. I don’t know what to think, to do anymore. He continues walking, the orphanage growing dimmer behind him. Why didn’t she tell me? Didn’t let me know? I almost embarrassed myself in front of Angelo. He stops, watching the cars pass him, honking loudly. Where are they going? Why? He imagines that the road continues goes on, endlessly. It traces the whole world, he thinks to himself. All I have to do is walk on it. Eventually I’ll see the whole world.
The landscape of the city, the trees on every corner, traffic lights of red green and yellow, benches and trashcans everywhere, skyscrapers reaching for the sky, flowers of metal.
It is time, time to meet Angelo, to give the promised picture to him. The only memory of Sonya, he thinks to himself. He takes out a box from Chocopies, remembering the time he gave Sonya his last one. Stones crush his heart, yet it is still an endless hole. Almost anxiously, he takes out the pictures, seeing the three of them on that day in the beach.
He is on the right, his hand gently holding hers in a loose grip. The beach is behind, waves the color of sapphires with foam, the seagulls cawing, endlessly searching for fish to eat, the sand of gold, a paradise. He is smiling, in the picture, smiling, and a happy child. I wasn’t happy, not that day, he remembers. She never told me, just decided to tell him first.
She is in the middle, holding his and Angelo’s hands. She is lovely, a free spirited girl, the type that rushes headfirst into everything, without thought to consequences. His thumb traces her face, a splash of water drops onto the picture, onto his side. Is it raining? He wonders. He looks up, no rain. Then, he realizes it is his tear, as salty as water in the ocean.
He hears a noise and looks up, seeing Angelo. “Hi,” Angelo greets him sullenly.
He waves his hand back. “I got the pictures,” he says.
“Did you know?” Angelo stops in front of him, his hands in his pockets, unwilling to take them out.
“No. You’re the first to know.” He gives him the picture. “Here.” He says.
“You’re mad about something,” Angelo observes.
He doesn’t say a word. Its better I don’t tell him.
“What are you mad about? Can’t we talk?”
“Sonya loves you,” he says, walking to a bench. He sits down, feeling the moist wood dig into his bottom. He spreads his arms to his side, his Chocopies box safely tucked away.
The click of footsteps, then he sees his friend sitting down as well. The picture is gone, safely tucked away, he assumes. “I see. And you’re jealous, huh?”
“You don’t have to be jealous anymore, Lucas. She’s leaving both of us. Neither of us shall see her again.”
“How’d you feel about it?”
He shrugs. “I can’t answer honestly.”
“You must like her, since you let her kiss you, and all those times I caught you together with her. You wouldn’t do these things for anyone, not even June.” Lucas points out.
“She caught me by surprise,” he says defensively.
“Yet you didn’t push her away.”
“Hmm,” he lapsed into silence.
“I’ve got to go now, Angelo.”
“What day is she leaving?”
“Why do you ask?”
“A final goodbye,” he says.
“She leaves this coming Sunday. I have to go now, Angelo.”
“Okay, you can go.” Lucas stands up, and turns around, walking away from his friend. I hope he won’t show up on Sunday, I hope he won’t see her. I want for her to forget him, I want for him to move on. With those thoughts, he walked back to the orphanage.
Endless night, the stars as bright as brilliants, the crescent moon, shape of a curved scythe poised to slice the world. His body in front, his eyes criticizing it. I’m too small; he thinks to himself, my hands are too skinny, too long. No wonder she doesn’t like me. Who would?
He sees his fingers, long and slender. In the mirror, a girl’s face is in front. There is no one else but he in the room! His mind slides backwards, to the days when other orphans taunted him. “You’re too skinny,” June used to tell him, her face a look of disgust. “Look at you; you’re too skinny, nothing like those movie stars.” She and other girls had an obsession with movie stars. “Your features are at odd with one another.” I tried hard not to let those comments hurt me, but they did, tiny daggers digging into my flesh. I wish I looked like Angelo. He has respect, has everything, even Sonya. I have nothing.
For a minute, a temptation, a desire to smash the mirror, to stop seeing the truth in front of his eyes, that he is nothing. Seven years of bad luck, he recalls, continuing to sit there. No movement, not even breathing.
Will I grow taller one day? Maybe be even taller than Angleo? Then I’ll have everything. A knock on the door enters his ears. He ignores it, not even wondering who it could be. Once more it entered an intruder. “Come in!” He yells. He is surprised by the tone of his voice, how harsh it sounds, how angry.
She walks in. “Hi,” she whispers. “I’m sorry I intruded on you.”
“It’s okay.” He says. “What’s up?”
“I can’t sleep. Tomorrow I’m leaving overseas.”
No words escape his mouth. He ignores her.
“Can I sleep here, just for tonight?”
“Why don’t you go to your precious Angelo?” He demands, angry again. “You have a good relationship with him.”
“Lucas, please don’t be angry,” her voice drops to a whisper. “Can’t I stay here for the night, please?”
Seconds began to pass; he is watching her, noting the slight moving of her body parts. She is nervous, he thinks to himself. Anxious that I’ll turn her away. Even if she hurt me, I can’t do that to her. “Yes.” He says.
“Thank you.” She scoots close to him; he is surprised when she places her head on his shoulder. “You’re a good guy, you have a good heart.”
He says nothing. Is that what I’ll be known as, as only someone with good heart, good enough to take advantage of?
“I wish I could like you, but my heart doesn’t go to you.”
“Make it,” he says.
“I can’t. You yourself know you can’t force your heart to care for someone.”
He says nothing. Instead, he is surprised when his arm wraps around her shoulders.
Minutes pass. He is silent, very different than his normal extraverted self. He wonders if she is asleep.
“Lucas,” she says.
For a minute he is quiet, not willing to destroy the silence, to fill this room with words that meant nothing.
She says his name again.
“It’s nice here, isn’t it? I like it here; I always looked forward to seeing Angelo. I’m worried how he’ll be after I leave.”
“He’s a survivor,” he says. “He’ll be okay, don’t worry about him.”
“I can’t help it,” she says again. “He’s afraid of his own words, of his own thoughts. Can you keep him cheerful, just for me?”
“What do you mean?” He looks towards her, seeing the dark eyes, colors of tourmaline, staring at him.
“Please look after him; please be my eyes for me.”
“How do you propose I do that, Sonya? He’s in real world, I’m in this hellhole. How can I look for him?”
“Please,” she says again. “He’s your friend too. I’m sure he can help you if you wish. You can ask him tomorrow.”
“Wait a minute, I hadn’t given you my answer,” he finds himself protesting. A volcano on the rise, magma quickly heating up inside his body. I wish that she would worry this much about me, and ask Angelo to look after me. Why doesn’t she like me the way she likes him?
“You’ll say yes,” she says. “Because you have a golden heart.”
He hates to admit that she is right. That was his answer, yes.
“Thanks.” Minutes seemed to pass, the vision darker. He hears breathing, and looks towards her, seeing the rise and fall of her body. She is asleep, he says to himself. Asleep.
At last, he falls asleep himself, against his will. I don’t want to waste these precious moments, I want to take advantage of them, do everything with her. I shall never do anything at all with her, not anymore.
In his mind, they are connected; a long red thread connects the two of their hands to one another. You are mine, his mind says. He gives her a kiss on her cheek, his hands run gently through her hair, watching the blush of her cheeks.
He is not aware of passing of hours, only that they are minutes, rushing forward, and a train to pick up its passengers.
Something tickled his eyelids, the bright light; he opens his eyes, seeing the ray of sun lighting up a window, the harsh glow all around. He squints, everything distorting, blurring.
She is still here, his mind says, still asleep. Before he knows what he is doing, he gently kisses her cheek, feeling the soft creamy skin underneath his lips. He likes that feeling. He continues to sit, until she awakes.
When she does, no words are exchanged, nothing is said. She slipped out, as if she no longer existed. She is gone, for forever.
A bright sunlight, a new spring, the chirping of birds, singing to the sun, the day, almost a mockery to him, making fun of him, of the fact that Sonya is leaving, never to return. Leafy green trees, color of light emeralds. Above he sees the mountains, the green covering them like blankets. Heaviness settles in his heart, almost a weight. Yet he is here, at the orphanage. He hides behind the trees, seeing a foreign couple, a man and a woman walking outside, their voice ring with cheerfulness.
The woman is short, pleasantly plump with blonde hair and blue eyes. The man stands next to her, tall, muscular, an Abraham Lincoln look alike. Between them, Sonya stands, looking down, her feet moving the dirt. Her body is shaking lightly. She raises her hand, and he sees the water stains on her sleeves. She is crying, he realizes. He wants to cry as well. Don’t leave, he silently begs. The foreign couple gets in the car, yet the man doesn’t start up the engine. Sonya stands there, her face carefully looking at everything, perhaps looking for something, he is not sure. She begins to talk, her voice loud and clear. “Oh Angelo, if only there is hope that I should see you again, see you one last time before departing.” Here she pauses, a gulp swallowing her words. Her voice is no longer of the spring; it is sad, reminiscent of autumn. She starts to cry again, her dark hair spilling over shoulders.
He wants to say something as well, something to reassure her, but he finds himself choked up, unable to form a single syllable. Moisture runs down his cheeks, and he knows he is crying.
She bends down, her knees touching the ground. She takes out a Norigee that he bought for her last year, New Years lucky colors. “I’ll keep this for forever,” she whispers. “I’ll never forget you, never.”
She stands up, taking a deep breath. He sees her walking forward, almost a resolution, yet she is still shaking lightly. She gets inside the car, on the back seat, and turns backwards. The car speeds away, he sees her face, tear stained, her fingers gripping the seat as if they are ready to rip it into shreds.
He begins to run after the car, just to have a last glimpse of her, one last glimpse of her face, her features. He knows that he’ll get tired of running, he’ll fall, and the car will continue its journey, taking his love, Sonya. He is invisible; he knows she doesn’t see him.
“Sonya!” he shouts loudly. “Sonya! Don’t forget me! We might meet again!” The car becomes too fast for him, he couldn’t catch up to it. He falls, watching it drive away, becoming dimmer and dimmer, until it only is a speck in the dust. Dirt touches his fingers; his hands create a fist of it, yet he is still crying, dry loud sobs. “Don’t go away, Sonya. I promise I’ll do whatever you like, just so you can stay, please don’t leave me!” Yet she doesn’t listen, she still journeys forward, still leaves him.
Sunday, time for church, he thinks to himself, slipping into the uncomfortable black suit he has to wear. Restriction seems everywhere, from bending his elbows, to the knees. He can barely walk in it. “This looks nice on you, if you didn’t hunch over like a beggar half the time!” His wife scolds harshly.
“It’s too tight,” he complains. “You bought the wrong size.”
“Aish!” His wife says. “Wrong size indeed! Maybe you gained weight, husband. But I know for certain that I didn’t buy the wrong size.”
“Wife,” He begins to protest.
“Check on our daughters and your son.” She says, interrupting him. She turns forward to the mirror, her hand lifting up the necklace; tinkles of beads are echoed throughout the room. He watches the sunlight catch the sapphires he bought for her; watches the pools of blue light collect everywhere. She puts the necklace on. She’s not pretty in it, he thinks to himself rather harshly. He exits the room, only to notice his two daughters already dressed in old fashioned church dresses, ones with puffy white skirts, and swollen sleeves that reach beyond the shoulder. Both also wear white shoes.
“Good that you’re ready,” he tells them. “Where is your brother?”
“In the bed, moaning,” the eldest answered, lightly flicking her hair away from her.
“Moaning? What is he moaning about? Is he going to run away again, I wonder?” To him, it feels that every week, Angelo runs away, and every week he has to send police to find him. Already he is getting tired of the boy’s erratic behavior, and he considered often of sending him back to the orphanage, promise or no promise to his mother.
The girls shrugged. They didn’t know. He walks up to the boy’s room, and sees the eleven year old sitting outside the window, his finger writing in Hangul. He can’t tell what the boy is writing about.
The day is a beautiful one, with a slightly cool chill, the sun shining brightly, enough to add life, enough for children to explore the park and its nature. “Angelo,” he says the boy’s name.
Angelo turns around towards him, his eyes shaken. Instantly, he stops writing, hugging his legs to his body. He doesn’t acknowledge the uncle.
“You must hate living here, I understand that. Are you going to run away from here today? If you are, I am going to send you back to the orphanage, so straighten yourself out, and become a man instead of a boy.”
He says nothing, continuing to stare at the uncle. No words are forthcoming from his lips.
“Get dressed,” he orders, taking in Angelo’s state of undress, the long gray cotton shirt that goes below his thin knees, the unkempt state of his hair, as if he’d just woke up and didn’t have time to brush it. “We are going to church in thirty minutes and we expect you to be ready by then.”
With those words, he exits the room.
Thirty minutes later, Angelo, in a stylish suit, comes downstairs, frowning, his lips pursed in a thin line, his eyes dull and hazy. Yet he says no words, says nothing, only bites his lip now and then as if to shut off an unpleasant emotion.
Watching him, James feels the urge to flee, to run away from this boy. The gesture is similar to the one he used to do at Angelo’s age.
The song, it stops. For a minute, I wonder what is the next surprise, what song has Sonya chosen to follow?
I tap my fingers, impatience wracking my countenance. It doesn’t start. Then, it begins, bringing more memories of those empty days, of days spent imagining our encounters, the times at the beach, the time I gave her a chocopie, and even the first time I saw her, an angel of mercy reaching telling me that she will return, which she did.
I sigh, the trapped air escaping my lungs. I still remember those days afterwards, the sleepless nights I sat up, staring at the dark skies, seeing the bright lights of stars, a dark crystal ball of the moon.
Sometimes I reached up, imagining that if I can touch it, then I can get a wish. But I never could. The desire remained above me, far away, just as she as well.
A few months later though, my life has changed.
The End of Episode Two