Her picture. On my desk. Her curly brown hair, her large dark eyes. Ray of light, burned out. Dead. The sun sets, darkness returns. I do not turn on the light. I sit in the dark. I would cry, but cannot.
Today. It happened today. The phone call, voice on the other line, telling me she’s dead. Today. My room fades, memories of those times return. Her voice, light as a bubbling creek, her teasing eyes. So much full of life and sparkle. Not anymore.
Who has called? Voice is mysterious, unknown. None know. I asked mine secretary. She does not know. None have called me today, she tells me. If none, then whom have I talked with? She doesn’t know.
The radio, I turn it on. Her song, it plays. Janet Jackson’s someone to call my lover. “Back on the road again, Feeling kinda lonely, And looking for the right guy To be mine…” The song continues. Her song. She always played it. It used to irritate me. But not today. It’s an exception.
I walk over to my CD collection; all sorts of music catching my eye; from popular to unknown, and there I find her CD, lost amidst the pile. I’ll listen to it, just once. Just to remember her, to relive those memories I have.
I slip the CD inside, and close my eyes. She is no longer far away; she is close, very close. My situation is gone, and the past has begun.
-Someone to call my Lover: Janet Jackson-
Twenty Years ago…
Shadows deepened, day is night. Lights weren’t on; they wouldn’t turn on for another few hours. Trees whistle carelessly, the building behind dilapidated and broken down. Home. Orphanage. Small sandbox laid to the side, small children inside. One is a boy of six; small for his age with a mop of black hair and very intense black eyes.
His hands, with unusual control, run over the sand castle he was building, his black eyes scrutinizing every single grain of sand. “Its not right,” he says. “I have to redo it.”
Loud groans are heard. He breaks down his sandcastle, and using a plastic shovel, begins the building process again. Sand grains stick to his shirt, the wind whipping his face. Yet he pays no attention. He continues to build, to perfect. Finally, it is finished. He studies his work, running his hands over the tower, and finds it satisfactory to his standards. He stands up and glances over his peers; two girls and three boys, all Korean like he.
One of the girls, short and slightly portly, wearing two braids, comes over. “Finally,” she tells him. He watches as she turns towards her playmates. “I told you asking him was a good idea!” She shouts. She is six, and is a lot taller than the boy. Her name is June Lee.
“He took too long,” Angelo Jang, oldest at nine, retorted. Angelo is tall, slim and muscular. He is known to wear a single baseball cap backwards, along with raggedy jeans and frayed shirt. He is recognized as a leader of the group.
“At least its perfect!” June retorted. “We’re sure to win if it’s perfect.” Angelo rolls his eyes and leans back. The boy studies his other peers carefully, noting the exhaustion on Hannah Oh’s face, a girl too tall for her age with glasses. Her nickname, the boy recalls, is the nerd.
The nerd speaks, treble in her voice. “If we win, do you think they’ll leave us alone?”
“They have to,” June insists. The boy sees her throw a look towards the last two members; brothers Samuel and Solomon Choi.
“Yeah,” The older, Samuel, agrees. He is eight, taller than Angelo, and almost skeletal.
Solomon, at five, is slightly taller than the boy, but way shorter than the girls.
“Yeah,” Solomon mimics his brother.
“Damn,” the boy hears Angelo respond. “The weather might blow the sandcastle.”
“What do we do?” June asks. The group got up with urgency, intent on protecting the sand castle.
“Make sure that nothing happens to it! Cover it or something!” Angelo orders. He stands up as well. “Younger brother,” he addresses the boy. “Get something to cover it.” Angelo and the boy were not biological brothers. It is a way of addressing someone.
“What can cover the castle without breaking it?” Hannah asks. Out of all of them, the boy sees there is no panic on her face, only calm. He wonders why.
Angelo thinks about it and runs off. The rest of the group tries to protect the castle from the harsh wind. “Think it will rain?” June demands. None answer. The boy knows it will rain; earlier he felt a raindrop fall on his shoulder. Damn Angelo, he thinks to himself. He’s the one that insisted they all be outside. It’s Angelo’s entire fault if the sand castle got ruined.
The boy feels the raindrops, at first a few, then gradually more. “We have to get inside!” He shouts to the rest of the group.
“What?” Samuel asks, “Lucas Kim, what did you say?” He screams.
Lucas Kim, the boy’s name. He repeats. “We have to get inside! Else we’ll get sick or something!”
“What about the sand castle?” Hannah asks. “Angelo ordered us to protect it no matter what!”
“I’ll make another one later!” He promises.
“Its all your fault!” June says. “If you weren’t such a perfectionist then we wouldn’t be standing out here!”
“Actually we would.” Lucas tells her. “The other group would still not come.”
Sky gets darker, rain becomes never-ending. Lucas finds himself shivering and wonders if he’ll have a cold next day. He has a very weak immune system and can catch cold easily. When will Angelo return? Doesn’t he realize that everyone is cold?
No one is talking; silence swallowed them up. “We have to go now,” Lucas insists.
The group groans. “Just give him one minute,” June begs. “Come on, he is our leader after all.”
“What if I’ll get sick tomorrow?” Lucas asks.
“Huh?” June asks.
“I catch cold easily, remember?”
“Go get him, rest of us will stay here.” She orders.
“Come with me,” he orders her.
She shakes her head. He rolls his eyes. June is very stubborn, and never listens to him. She does listen to Angelo and Samuel.
He covers his head with hands and begins to run through the pelting rain, the wind that seems to go on forever, the storm itself; deadly. Without warning, the ground gives away, and he wonders if he is flying, when without a warning, hard ground meets his hands and face. He finds himself crying out.
Quiet pain begins to throb in his foot, close to his toes. He tries to stand up, but falls. Damn, he thinks to himself, how is he supposed to get Jang Chae-su and remind him that the group is waiting? Everyone is counting on him.
A shape appears, dark, but he recognizes the shape. A girl. “Over here!” He shouts. He watches as she walks over to him, rushing. “Help me,” he asks her.
He sees that she is not Korean, not even Asian for that matter. He finds himself intrigued. Who is that mystery girl? She leans and stretches out her thin hand. Lucas doesn’t pay attention to the details of her. “Can you stand up?” She asks.
He shakes his head.
“Wait here, I’ll get someone,”
“Wait!” He finds himself calling out. No answer. The girl already runs off. He finds himself lying on the cold pavement, still raining, the rain droplets soaking into his large shirt, adding extra weight to carry.
Maybe he can stand up himself, he can just try. Again he raises his head, his intense eyes marking the details, noticing the rain, his palms flat on the asphalt. He tries to move his leg, the pain becomes worse.
It is hopeless! He tells himself. Hopeless! Damn, damn, how could he be so careless as to slip and fall? He wonders what is going with June and others. How are they holding up? Why do they follow Angelo? Lucas doesn’t see Angelo as a good leader. Angelo is too careless and sometimes irresponsible. Yet, he is the oldest, and he does have more life experience than anyone else. “If it weren’t for you, I’d be inside!” He screams to the shrieking winds. Just something to do, to keep waiting for the mysterious girl’s return.
No response. Tiny gravel bite into the fleshy areas of palms marks of red. Pressure builds into his hands, then pain. How long does he have to be here? He doesn’t know. Cannot find a response.
Irrelevant thoughts slip in, then out, warmth returned, he no longer shivered. Why? He can’t find reasons to why. Footsteps. “Hey, you there?” Voice from the north. The mysterious girl! It is she!
“Yeah!” He shouts in return. “I am here.” He looks to the north, and he sees her, and next to her is a caretaker of the orphanage.
The orphanage, the girl, everyone and everything begin to fade. Footsteps approach. Two sets.
Everything disappears, it is no longer raining. He feels himself being lifted and carried. Cold blasts him with a frosty breath. “Are you here?” He mumbles.
“Yes,” the girl’s voice. “Be strong.”
Last words he hears. Everything fades, then returns, but not as themselves.
Rain. Never-ending rain. He is lost, without direction, but he has to survive, has to make sure the sandcastle is protected from harm. If not…he would rather not think of consequences.
He stops running. The earth is still, the rain continues. Wetness seeps in, inflaming him inside. He finds himself no longer cold. Where is the door? Vision fades. Think, he orders himself. Think, think, everything depends on you. Finally, it clicks. Vision returns and he runs opposite of where he ran.
The scenery moves again, trees seem to run backwards, their branches clawing at the sky angrily. Damn rain! Spoils everything! If it weren’t for the rain, then he is sure that the older group will visit, and then his group won’t be bullied around anymore.
I wish someone else could be the leader, he thinks to himself. How tired I am of always taking care of everyone and everything. Even at the tender age of nine, Angelo feels the strain of life.
The wind is much stronger, he notices. A shriek, and Angelo ducks. What was that? He finds himself thinking. The wind. It has to be the wind. Wait, he orders himself. He stops once again, the fingers traveling to his head. His baseball cap! It is no longer there! Damn! It flew away. His most prized possession!
“Damn!” He screams. He scans each direction, his alert eyes trying to be careful not to miss.
A streak of red flying up, along with the winds. He begins to run after it, his feet leaving the ground briefly to catch it, unsuccessfully. His height can’t help him either. He continues to run, and at that time, the wind dies away slightly.
The baseball cap begins to fall. Angelo begins to run into the direction, watching as the altitude decreased. Still, it is too high for him.
The wind continues to die away, baseball cap at the mercy of winds. Finally, Angelo has a chance at catching it. He decides not to pay any attention to the scenery, and jumps up, his fingers grazing it.
Yes! He got it!
The wind still has power, strength. Before Angelo knows, the cap is torn away from him. Damn! He thinks to himself. A strange shape appears before him, a really weird girl.
She is shorter than he, her skin as white as snow, her eyes sunny and bright, and her hair a mass of dark curls. Her eyes are large though, and they do not possess double eyelids. She looks like an American.
His beloved baseball cap lands in her hands. “Miss,” he greets. He points to a baseball cap. “That is mine.”
Her lips curve upward, she seems to be part of the sun. “Here,” she says as she outstretches her slender hand and gives him the baseball cap. “I’m sorry. I am new here. Maybe you can help me.”
“Yes. I am looking for Miss Lee, a caretaker.”
“Do you know her full name?”
She shakes her head, her curls tremble lightly. “I am new here.”
He says nothing, and gently takes his baseball cap from her. What could he tell her, he wonders. How this is the one orphanage that you don’t want to be at? How dark the future will be? He studies her, and gets an impression that he doesn’t need to tell her anything. She already knows.
Where did she come from? He wonders. What is her name? He clears his throat. “Hi,” he says. “I am Angelo Jang, and you?”
“Sonya Lightner,” she replies.
His throat constricts. He wonders why, for this has never happened to him before. “Let’s go inside,” he points to the nearest door. He walks quickly, in a hurry; he sees that she is walking leisurely, considering her footsteps carefully. They don’t talk. He wants to though, to talk to her, to find a kindred spirit. The words he uses, they die in front of her, right before his mouth, his lips.
When was the last time I talked with anyone? He questions himself. It has been a long time. Very carefully, he places his baseball cap backwards.
Unbidden, a memory returns, changes the scene, what he can see. Sand covers the whole field, the sun a blazing inferno. He is small; about five years of age. A tall man stands beside him. “Here you go, Angelo,” the man tells him. Angelo knows that the man is his dead mother’s boyfriend.
“Thank you Uncle, I’ve had a great time today.”
The two walk, the uncle holding on tight to his hand. Angelo senses tension in uncle’s hand. “Angelo,” uncle says. He stops. Angelo remains silent. Angelo feels happy in uncle’s presence. “Here,” the uncle hands him a red baseball cap, in front is Korean flag. “Keep this.”
“Wow, where have you gotten this from, uncle?”
No reply. They get inside the car. “Angelo,” the uncle begins. “You know that both your mother, and your father, you know that they have died.”
He nods his head. Of course he knows it. Why would uncle think he wouldn’t know that?
He opens the car door window, feeling the breeze past him by. What a happy day this is! He likes his uncle, the gifts that uncle buys for him. “Angelo,” the uncle begins again. “You know that I am getting married, right?”
“I know, uncle.”
“I have talked with my wife to be about you, and she doesn’t think it’s a good idea if I should keep you with me.”
“What? Why not?” Angelo turns sharply towards him.
“You are not my son, Angelo. I only take care of you because I promised your mother I would…”
Angelo doesn’t say a word. He watches the scenery whizzing by. He knows where his uncle is taking him. To an orphanage. He doesn’t protest. What could he do?
He stops reminiscing. Its all part of my past, and past doesn’t matter anymore, he tells himself. He takes a quiet look over Sonya. What pain has she been through? He asks himself.
They continue to walk forward, until they reach the door. He opens the door, and lets her in. She enters. He follows. A caretaker comes over; short, overweight woman. She is taller than Angelo, but around the orphanage staff she is the shortest. Her name is Caretaker Soo. “Hello,” she greets Angelo and Sonya.
“Good morning Caretaker Soo.” He greets her back.
“Who is this, Angelo?” She asks, placing her plump hands on her hips. He looks down on the floor, studying the pattern carefully.
“I found her outside…” he begins. “She is a new ward, Sonya Lightner.”
He watches as the caretaker walks over, and gives Sonya a once-over look. “I see. I am not in charge of her.”
“I know,” he replies. He continues to stand.
“Seek out Caretaker Lee. She is in charge of Sonya.”
“Where shall I find her, Caretaker Soo?”
Caretaker Soo shrugs. “She is probably in a bathroom or elsewhere.”
“Thank you.” He bows, and walks towards the staff room. He hears Sonya’s quick footsteps. Rain droplets become a barrage of bullets against the windows. He hears a gasp and turns towards Sonya. “What’s wrong?” He asks. She doesn’t reply, but runs outside. His eyes follow her path, running up, and then kneeling. Silently, he is behind. He sees where she kneels, and a young boy catches his eye. Lucas. Only then he remembers the errand.
He must have gone after me, Angelo thinks. And here I am, forgetting my responsibility. He hopes that the group will forgive him. They must, he makes up his mind. We all have to get out of here, have to grow up until we can leave.
After a minute, he sees Sonya running towards him. “I-I must help him!” She screams.
“That guy, he broke his ankle! Angelo, do something!”
Angelo thinks for a minute. “Get Caretaker Lee, she’s in the staff-room. The staff-room is upstairs, room S256”
“How do you know?” Sonya demands. She crosses her hands across her chest, and her right foot is crooked.
“Just trust me,” he insists. Now is not the time to get into details. “I will run to my room. I am needed.”
Stairs are near. Sonya races upstairs. Angelo runs towards his room, and groans when he sees his room; paper is strewn everywhere, along with clothes and suits. His roommate’s things, crossing the dividing line. Why couldn’t he clean up? Why must he make things more difficult for me? Quickly he begins to throw the clothes over to the other side, and then spots the needed container. He grabs it and runs out.
He sees Sonya trying to calm down Lucas; apparently the poor guy sprained his ankle, Jang Chae-su jumps to conclusion. He can tell just by looking at the injury. A gift, of sorts. He waits until the two are gone and then races outside, towards the sandbox.
Hannah, June, Samuel and Solomon are guarding the castle, their expressions grim. “Hey!” He screams. They all see him.
“There you are!” June calls out.
“Here’s the container,” He tosses it towards Lee June and she puts it over the castle. It is safe! At last something is going right. “Let’s run guys!” Five of them run towards the entrance, and they make it.
Angelo breathes a sigh of relief when he sees everyone inside. He decides to go into his room and change. “Angelo,” he hears his name called. He sees June following him.
“What is it?”
“I meant to ask you, why were you late? I know your roommate is messy, but still…”
He decides against telling them the truth. “I’ve lost the container, and had to find it.” He lies.
June seems to accept it. “Do you think we can play airplanes today?” Airplanes is one of their favorite games, similar to tag, except you have to catch one another using paper airplanes.
“Its rainy,” he points out. “Anyways, I feel tired. I think I’ll go in for a nap.”
“What about school?” She demands.
“Don’t worry about it,” he calls back. Angelo knows he has no future. At best he’ll end up working in a grocery store for the rest of his life. At worst, in a prison.
“Angelo,” June tries to argue. He waves her aside.
He is lost in his thoughts, actions. I can’t think about school, he tells himself. I need to make sure that everyone else survives. Only then I can think of myself.
As he is walking, he sees the weird girl again. “Angelo,” she calls out, her voice high, without trembling.
“What?” He asks and the stops.
“Thank you. Are you going to eat?”
“I’m going to nap. You’re welcome to come along.”
“I’m going to eat. I’m hungry.”
He finds himself silent once more, words dying at his lips.
“Can you tell me where I can get food?” Maybe I’ll get something to eat with her, he thinks.
“I am hungry as well,” he tells her.
A smile forms her lips. They start to walk towards the lunchroom. White walls pass by, barren, empty. Only doors are drawn. No creativity of pictures or paintings or anything else.
Angelo hates living in the orphanage. I will never get used to the life here, he thinks. Never, ever.
Seconds tick; he can’t find words to speak, can’t find words to tell Sonya. Her name isn’t American, he finally decides. If not, then what is she? He studies her carefully, and finally speaks, forcing each word out. “How old are you?”
She jumps, and stops. “What?” She asks.
“How old are you?” He repeats his question. He stops as well. He sees her lowering her head down, her eyelids covering up her eyes.
“I’m seven,” she replies. “You?” She asks boldly.
“Nine.” He replies.
“Nine,” she repeats. She starts to walk again, slowly, and carefully. “Will you be ten?”
No reply from him. Is she serious, or joking? He cannot tell. She remains silent, and follows him to the cafeteria.
How can she be happy? He wonders. She seems to have no troubles, no problems on her spirit; she is cheerful, and bright. How can such a person exist here? What is her secret?
His life is dark, full of mysteries, of holes. I want to bask in that light, he realizes. To know what it is like. Will she let me though? Will she be my friend? What if she won’t? What if she’ll go to another group, and two of us will be enemies? I can’t bear that thought.
“You’re a silent one, aren’t you?”
He turns to her. “What?”
“You’re always silent.” She observes. “Its boring.”
He doesn’t apologize. Why should he apologize for the way he is? He stops then, and watches as she stops as well. “I have to go now,” he tells her.
“Oh? Where to?”
He shrugs. “Don’t worry, if its fate, I will see you.” He turns in opposite direction, and she fades from him.
Few days later…
Day of beauty, day of calm, the maelstrom is gone. Trees wave their branches calmly, rustle of leaves, twittering and hopping of birds. Tall tree is to the north of sandbox, branches stretch one foot. He sits underneath, eyes darting like deer through trees from hunters, watching out for bullies.
Few feet away he watches as Hannah, Samuel and Solomon, June, and Lucas play in the sand. Today. Today would be judgment day. It should have been three days ago, he thinks. Unfair. But they were too busy judging other sand castles. Too busy, yeah right.
They are lying, he thinks to himself. The group that judges the sandcastles, they are known to ruin kids’ chances of leaving the orphanage.
For a while, Angleo watched the group, memorized their movements. “You have to know your enemies better than your friends,” he says out loud. Where has he heard that? No idea.
Weather is calm, the sun a welcome respite from the rain. Few clouds of white are in sight, harmless, just passing by. Movement catches his eye; he sees Sonya come out from the building, her hair in a curly ponytail, her hand gripping the pail. She moves her head to the side, and their eyes lock.
“Angelo!” She calls out. She waves her hand. He feels light fire burning in his cheeks. He doesn’t respond to her wave. Idiot girl! Why is she calling out his name? Does she want for him to be seen by others? “Hey! Over here!” He raises his hand, and waves backwards, motioning for her to come over.
She begins to skip gaily. He crouches, and shades his eyes from the sunlight. His other hand touches the worn baseball cap. He continues to watch over his charges, to make sure they aren’t being picked on. There’s June, to his right in the sandbox, grand gestures with her small hands. That one is going to be a movie star one day, he thinks to himself. As far as he knows her, she is very bossy and dramatic. Her nickname is ‘liar’. Footsteps are near. Sonya. He stands up. “Hi.” He says.
“Hey,” a smile adorns her face. “What’s up?” She asks. He sees she is clasping her hands, her curly hair lying on her left shoulder. He touches his baseball cap, unable to find words.
“Hi,” he says again.
“Can’t you say something other than hi?” He hears annoyance.
Words cannot exit. She begins to move her feet in different positions. “Sorry.” He finally says. “Why did you call out my name?” He demands.
“Is it against the law?” She asks. He studies her briefly; noting the restlessness, frown on her face.
“No,” he replies. His hands seek pockets, something to hold on to. I don’t feel comfortable talking to her, he realizes. But why?
“Good. I wanted to have lunch with you. I brought you some food.”
“Aren’t you hungry?” She asks. He looks up, towards the sky, the tall branches shielding it.
“A bit.” He admits.
No words are spoken. Angelo doesn’t even try to prolong the conversation with her. I don’t hate her, he thinks. It’s just that, it’s hard for me to talk with anyone, even someone like her.
“I’ll be going,” she tells him. She turns around and leaves him. He watches her walk away; a heavy weight is placed on his heart. He doesn’t try to stop her.
An exclusive shop, elegant dresses along with suits everywhere, classical music, likely Vivaldi is heard. Next to a dummy dressed in han-bok, a man, close to 6’4, wearing a customized Armani suit on his muscled frame, with coiffed hair and hands that are familiar with lotions. He stands, talking on a cell phone.
He is here, with his wife, Susan Lee. “My wife must not know what we are talking about,” he tells the other man on the phone. “She doesn’t know what I am trying to do.”
Pause. His free hand travels to feel the smooth silk of han-bok. His fingers grasp it, and gently tug at it. He is not conscious of his actions. “She is buying dresses,” he replies. “She won’t overhear us.”
Another pause. “What do you mean he’s not there? Isn’t he at the Happy Orphanage?” Grumbling. “How can he not be there? I dropped him off at that orphanage four years ago!” More grumbling. “Well find him! I don’t care what you have to do, but find him!” Sound of a tear. He stops and looks at his free hand, where he has torn han-bok. Damn it! How could I be so careless? He asks himself. He wasn’t concerned about the money; he had plenty of it.
“Husband!” His wife’s voice.
“Yes?” He calls back. A petite woman of 5’3 enters, her dress customized in
, her hair short and cut around her small ears. His wife. Italy
“Let us go, I didn’t find anything I needed today.”
He quickly says goodbye into the cell phone, and closes it. “How was the shopping experience, my wife?”
“Eh, boring. Can you believe it? No good dresses! Not even a decent one for the party tonight. Madame Song will be so happy when she sees me wearing an old worthless dress.”
Madame Song and Susan Lee are enemies, he recalled. Madame Song tried everything in her power to outdo Lee Soo-Yun. She even gave birth to a son, while Susan tried everything, and they still ended up with two daughters.
He loves his two daughters, but he needs a male heir to pass his company down to. And girls will not take good care of it. All they care about are trends. They don’t understand the value of money.
He recalls that few nights ago, he tries to discuss more children with her. She balks from that idea, what else can he do? “Two girls are enough, no more children!” He isn’t able to convince her.
He sighs, feeling the breath coming out. Life never gives easy answers. An imported car waits outside, the chauffer next to the door. “Are you finished Chairman Yi?” He asks.
“Yes, Chauffer Go.” He replies. Chauffer Go moves to the backseat and opens the door. Lee Soo-Yun steps inside, her right hand holding on to the skirt of the dress, making sure it does not become wrinkled. He follows.
“How was the shopping experience?” Chauffer Go asks as he moves to the front and gets inside.
“No good dresses,” Susan says as soon as Chauffer Go moves to the front. “Honestly, they call this an exclusive store? Poppycock!”
He grits his teeth as he listens to his wife’s complaints. Susan is never satisfied with stores, or with anything for that matter. She always goes on and on, never saying a happy word. “I am sorry to hear that, Madam Lee.”
He sees that she turns towards the window, and closes her eyes. The car begins to move forward, normal speed. “Too fast!” He hears his wife scream. “Can’t you move slowly? My dress will get wrinkled if you move that fast!”
“Terribly sorry, Madam Lee.”
He doesn’t pay attention to the rest of his wife’s chat. If I was back in time now, I wouldn’t choose you for my marriage partner, he thinks to himself. How was I supposed to know that it’s a mistake to marry her? No one told me.
The car drives, he is lost in thoughts. I made a mistake those four years ago, what if, once I’ll find him, he’ll never forgive me? What will happen then?
Kids are young, he tells himself again. I’m sure he’ll forgive me sooner or later. First, I just have to find him.
Branches move slowly, relaxed, the sun is going down, its ray touching the surface of a lake. Quacks fill the air wildly. Gray clouds appear in the sky, blocking the sky. “Hey!” Loud scream. “Over here!” Toss of white bread, patter of webbed orange and black feet.
Ducks come over. His special place, one where he can relax and just feel the worries melting away from him. He sits on the damp grass, feeling of wetness permeating through his old jeans. “Its nice to be here,” he says loudly. It is just he and the ducks. Ducks grab wildly at the torn pieces of bread, some resort to fighting. “Be nice,” he tells them.
They don’t listen. Quack, quack, they keep going on, some using their bills to fight for food. The noise stops, and without warning, he sees them spreading wings, and flying away. What happened now? He wonders. He turns around, and sees Sonya. She smiles. He stands up and brushes his hands against his jeans. What is she doing here?
“Sorry,” she apologizes, her eyes focusing on the ground, her curly hair lightly flowing in the air.
“How did you find this place?” He asks, curious.
“I followed you,” she admits. “I wanted to know where you were going…”
He finds himself speechless. She followed him? “Sit down,” he tells her.
“On the grass?”
“Of course, where else? I don’t have a jacket for you, Madame Lightner.” He mocks.
She raises her skirt slightly, and sits down on her knees. “You’re not a prince charming, are you?”
He laughs. “What’s that?”
“You know, from fairytales?”
In truth, Angelo never even heard any fairytales. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what you are talking about.” I’m not even trying to make you angry, he thinks. I do not remember anyone reading me fairytales that you spoke of.
“You’re serious?” She asks, surprise in her voice.
He nods his head.
“Do you, do you want me to tell you some?”
“Sure, why not?” he replies. “But first, let’s just look at the sunset.”
He lies on the grass, unheeding of the cold, and his eyes follow her movements. She is wearing a yellow dress, her dark hair loose. The dress is old, a hand-me-down. He sees a few tears on the dress. She follows his lead, and her eyes go up to the sky.
The sun a pale gold color, large light gray clouds obscure its light, moving slowly across the sky. The light gives strange hues to the clouds, causing them to stand out on the sky. Noises of birds, of crickets are heard everywhere, and soon, noises of frogs, calling to their mates, filled the air.
Ducks settle down, swimming lazily across the pond. His place, where he can think and dream. His place.
Sky grows darker, taking on a violet hue, the sun takes on more colors, becomes golden, orange and red, the clouds are that of the sun, gold-hued. It is almost nighttime. If only I could live here, instead of there. What can I do to do that? He thinks. He turns to see how she is doing, and finds her asleep. He chuckles. Oh, to be seven again! “Hey,” he whispers, leaning towards her. “Hey, wake up.” No response. His right hand touches her shoulder, again, no response. He has no choice, he realizes. He has to carry her over to the orphanage.
As best as a nine-year-old can, he scoops her on his back, leaning slightly to make sure she doesn’t fall, and his fingers touch back of her legs. Slowly, he begins his walk towards the orphanage.
The day grows darker, sun has almost set, a tiny sliver of yellow, red and orange in the sky. Stars have already came out, tiny guides of light. He walks slowly, carefully looking both ways.
In the distance, he hears a loud honking; he looks to the side and sees two glaring lights, almost angry, looking back. A car! He is in the middle of the road! He can’t run though, Sonya is on his back, her breath is clearly felt.
There is not enough time to run to the safety, he realizes. He has to do something! He crouches down, allowing Sonya to slip off his back, and puts his arms to the side, wide. He begins to wave crazily. A loud screech, and the car stops, an inch within hitting him.
Freedom floods back into his heart, and he sits down next to Sonya on the road. Car door opens, and a man come out; tall and muscular. To Angelo, he looks vaguely familiar. “Why did you stop Chauffer Go?” A feminine voice.
“We were about to hit someone!” The man screams, his face away from Angelo’s.
“So? You honked! You should have kept on driving! They heard you honking!”
“Susan!” The man screams. “Let’s just be humanitarians and check to see if the people are hurt!”
“I don’t care! My clothes are ruined now!” He hears the woman wailing. The man sighs loudly.
Footsteps are slow and purposeful. Angelo continues to sit, his hands on his knees, his head down. “Hey, kid, are you all right?”
He shrugs. He looks up, just to see how this man looks like, and sees a familiar face. “Uncle,” he mutters.
“Hmm? Who are you?” The man asks.
“Oh, I’d knew you’d forget me,” Angelo says. “I’m Angelo Jang, remember? You used to take care of me…”
“Oh!” He screams. “Come on, stand up, I’ll give you a ride home.”
“Was I bad? Why did you give me up?”
“Where do you live?”
“Wait, I have to get my friend.”
“Oh? Where is your friend?” Angelo stands up and points towards Sonya.
“I can carry her,” he tells him proudly.
“I can give both of you a ride back. Where do you live though?”
Very quickly, Angelo gives him the address. “I’m sorry if I was bad, uncle. Please forgive me.”
Angelo hoists Sonya on his back again, and walks over to the car. He sees his uncle’s wife; short height, her hands across her chest, her face an expression of annoyance and anger. She is dressed in furs, her dress a silver color. “You just have to make us late for Madam Song’s soiree, don’t you?”
“Susan,” uncle says. “Have a heart, these two are orphans.” She sighs.
“I thought you donated the check once a month towards these brats!”
“Susan,” the uncle repeats. “It will only take us a few minutes. This party is no big deal…”
He places Sonya inside the car, and then climbs inside. A smell of perfume is inside, strong, inescapable. Angelo coughs from the stench. “What are you coughing at?” She retorts, her angry eyes going straight to him.
“There’s too much of the smell!” He yells.
“You’re forgetting your station, boy!” She screams. “You are not to talk to me unless your status is the same as mine!”
“I am sorry,” he quickly apologizes. She turns forward, and he hears her giving complaints to the chauffer.
Angelo hopes that the ride would end soon, he is tired and exhausted, and hearing her complain grates on his nerves. Why can’t she shut up? He wonders. How does uncle put up with her?
The ride lasts for centuries; Angelo wonders why wrinkles aren’t appearing on his skin. Finally, they get home. “Thanks for the ride, uncle.”
“Bye,” the uncle says. His wife is mute, for a change. Angelo takes Sonya and goes inside the orphanage.
He carries Sonya to her room, and gently puts her on the bed. He goes to his bedroom, and falls asleep.
The scenery flashed in fragments, James pays no attention. All he sees is Angelo; the long lost Angelo, trying to protect that white girl. The voice reverberates inside his head; “Oh, I’d knew you’d forget me.” Pause. “I’m Angelo Jang, remember? You used to take care of me…” his eyes are walls, blocking inside. James never has seen eyes as hard as his. I was hoping you would be adopted by now, he thinks to himself. I was hoping a family would take care of you, and love you. But I am wrong. That is not to be your destiny, was it? Now you ran into me again…
“Husband!” A loud screech echoed, breaking the silent reverie. “Husband!” His wife, Susan. “Honestly, you cannot pay attention to me? What are you thinking about?”
“Hmm, nothing.” He replies. He continues to see the fragments, broken puzzle pieces of life. He does not turn towards her.
“Nothing? Then why are you ignoring me? Can’t you think of the party for once? How I will defeat Madame Song with my new dress?”
“Honey, how would you feel about a son?”
“I told you, I don’t want to bear another child! Your two daughters are enough! They are very demanding, always wanting attention from me! Can’t they understand that I’m too busy for them?”
“No, I mean,” he pauses, searching for words. I wanted a son for a long time, and I feel badly for what I have done to Angelo. Perhaps it’s a sign, a sign that I can still make amends.
A lengthy pause, his fingers tap on the car seats, material is scratched gently. “What do you mean?” She asks, her tone impatient and angry.
Finally he collects his words. “How do you feel about adopting a boy?”
“Adopting? You’re mad.”
“Susan, I need a male heir, you have to understand the situation.”
“Hmm, and who will you adopt?”
“What about Angelo Jang?”
“Him? That ragtag rat?” Pause. “Surely, surely you’re joking. Why not adopt another boy? One more worthy? Perhaps pass the company to a son-in-law?”
He remains silent, and thinks. I still haven’t told you about his mother; about the promise I made to her, and broke it in the process. I still haven’t told you the truth. “Susan,” he starts again. “We need to talk about something.”
“What about? Can’t it wait until after the party?” The fragments disappear, and her face appears, to the side, her eyes dark, dead, her polished hands putting on powder from a small container encrusted with diamonds.
“No,” he says. “In fact, we’re not going to the party.”
A sudden snap, the container leaves her hands. “James Yi, surely you’re jesting. Do you have any idea what will happen to my reputation?”
“Susan, listen to my story, and then we will go.”
He turns forward and snaps twice. A signal. The speed slows down, and the car finally stops. James begins his story then.
The car speeds up, and Susan complains about her wrinkled clothes, her chipped nails. “Fine,” she says, her fingers checking locks of hair. “You can adopt him, if you wish. But do not expect me to be a mother to him.”
He smiles towards her, his features relax, and he seems to almost sink into the car seat. “I wouldn’t have it any other way, sweetheart.” It is decided, he thinks. He will have a chance to make amends towards Angleo, to be a father towards him. On the way to the party, his heart feels clearer, more lighter, as if he could fly to the sky, and be accepted for himself.
Few Days Later…
White covers blue, it is not radiant, the vision becomes unfocused, then focused. “Good job,” he hears someone say. “But you know, that doesn’t save you from us.” Anger.
“You wanted a sand castle, Crimson Leader, and we have delivered, as we have promised,” he says. A tall boy, as tall as an adult, overly muscled, stands in front of Angelo. His head is shaved, his eyes large. He is known as Crimson Leader, leader of the Crimson Gang.
Crimson Leader turns towards the sand castle, and sits on his knees. His hand, trembling, fingers tapping the ground, slight tremors. A plastic shovel is close by, small, yellow handled. His fingers move closer and closer to the plastic shovel. Angelo knows what will happen next; the sandcastle will be destroyed.
Damn, he thinks. I’ve worked so hard to protect this sandcastle. I promised my group harmony, now I shall get none, I have lied. Lucas got a cold because of it. Something is crushing his heart, but he doesn’t recognize emotion. Is that a new form of sadness? He asks himself.
I could just attack him, but he has an advantage of height, weight, growth, and muscle. Just about everything. There’s nothing I can do. “This will be fun,” Crimson Leader says.
“Destroying it you mean?” Angelo retorts. He doesn’t attempt to keep his voice down. It makes no difference.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“You can’t, Angelo. You’re too young to ask questions.”
Damn him. He sees those fingers wrap eagerly around the plastic handle, as if he found millions, instead. His hand rises high, much too high for Angelo to wrestle the shovel away, and like a falling airplane, the shovel comes down hard, breaking the sandcastle into tiny golden pieces.
“I’m done,” he announces. He stands up and leaves.
Only the base remains; spires, towers, everything is broken. My last chance, Angelo thinks.
Now he and his hooligans will really get us into trouble. I have failed to protect my group. They already see me as an ineffective leader, and now, they will no longer look up to me.
“Hey,” a high-pitched voice. Her voice! Footsteps are quick, and close together. He doesn’t see her run up to him, but he feels her close to him. He turns around, but doesn’t offer her a smile.
She is holding a small picnic basket with both hands, her hair in a yellow ribbon, her dress the same yellow color.
“Hi,” he greets her. He doesn’t say anything else. He remains standing, hands at the side. He doesn’t extend the conversation, just allows it to stop. She, he sees, accepts nothing of the sort.
“I have lunch, kimchi and bulgogi, if you’re interested.”
He shrugs. “Sure.” She turns around and moves quickly. Is she paying attention to the nature, he wonders? Does she see the colors of brown, of green, of life? How rich the life is, all the colors around, something exciting for the eyes. Or does she never see the nature; never see the beauty of colors and their representation?
She walks to a tall tree, an oak, and places the small picnic basket on the grass. She doesn’t use a towel, but instead sits down on the grass. “Do you like Kimchi or Bul-go-gi?” She asks as she opens the basket, her quick fingers revealing a fork.
He shrugs. “Neither.” He is honest. Kimchi and Bul-go-gi remind him of that life, that past life he doesn’t want to remember.
“Oh. What food do you like then?”
“Mandoguk soup.” He replies.
The leaves on branches offer a shade from the sun. “I’m sorry, I thought you’d like Kimchi and Bul-go-gi.” She says, reaching for the plates of Kimchi and Bul-go-gi. She gently places them on grass.
“Its fine,” he replies. “Do you have chopsticks?”
A nod of head from her. Yes. She reaches inside and gives him chopsticks. Slightly square on top, the points not very thin. Korean chopsticks. He sticks them between his fingers and begins to eat kimchi, trying to be careful, not to let anything fall.
Despite the efforts, bits and pieces of food slip out, falling on the grass. Giggles are heard, her giggles. Don’t laugh, he begs inside. I am trying my best, but it seems as if everything is falling. Light burning on his face. “Laugh a little,” she says. He turns her attention towards her. “You’re so serious all the time, why not laugh a little?”
He doesn’t respond.
She puts down her fork and scoots closer to him. A feeling of escape enters. She is sitting too close, what is she doing? “I don’t think you’re bad, just that you’re too serious. Its okay to laugh, to let loose. You don’t need to have clouds over you all the time, Angelo.”
He doesn’t say anything. I don’t know how to share myself with her; I don’t know how to trust someone again.
“Did you say something?” She asks.
Oh no! He had spoken thoughts out loud! “I…” pause. “I think I need to go.”
“Wait, Angelo!” She calls out. He stands up, but makes no effort to walk away. “You can trust me,” she tells him. He feels something warm on his shoulder. “I, I want you to trust me, Angelo. I promise I’ll never leave you. I promise I’ll be your friend forever, no matter what.” His face turns towards her, and he sees the sincerity in her eyes, in her face.
“You’re not lying,” he says.
“No,” she confirms. “It’s hard to trust people, especially here, but you can with me.”
There is nothing else to say, he realizes. Nothing. She sits down, her hand holding a slender fork, and he follows the suit, sitting down, and picking up chopsticks.
For the first time in his life, he laughed at himself, at how the kimchi kept slipping out of his chopsticks.
Colors recede into background, the oranges, reds, yellows disappear. Blue is deeper, darker. Stars come out, bright as the moon. Everyone is inside at this moment, few brave souls are outside; those who dare to sneak away.
None are allowed outside, none after dark. Yet, he rarely followed that rule. He liked the night, the mysterious darkness, fading colors, black paint thrown carelessly on the canvas. He likes it. An ethereal beauty.
Outside. A loud sound, half screaming, half crying, emerged. He wonders what it can be, and if it can be a monster. The lights from the orphanage fade dim into space, into nothingness. He continues to walk forward, the noise grows louder. His hands swing from side to side, sometimes his fingertips touching his precious baseball cap. Don’t let me lose it, he prays silently. Don’t let me lose it.
Insects of the night surround him, noise is around, dark trees appear, and then disappear, as if they are seen once. No air for breath, it is taken away by nothingness. The noise gets louder, a screech can be heard.
Should I keep going, he wonders, almost stopping. What can it be, this far away? He stops, and looks around. Why, he is at the park! Only the moon is his guide, few streetlights are around.
The water is placid, calm. Ducks are not here, they are sleeping. No ripple passes through this place. As if he is in a photograph. His eyes become searchlights, seeking the source.
Darkness, shades of dark blue and black meet his eyes. Shadows. “Hello!” He calls out, cupping his mouth and looking at the sky. “Hello!” he calls out again.
Sobs meet his voice. No greeting.
“Hello! Is someone here?”
They stop. No sound.
He is silent as well; his fingers are fists, lightly jerking back and forth. “Come out, please!”
“I promise not to hurt you.”
Footsteps are heard, heavy. A person walks up to him; shorter than he, curly hair, and a child. He recognizes who the person is. “Sorry, I thought none will be outside,” almost a whisper, quieter than a wind.
“Its all right. Why are you crying though?”
The person clutches the left elbow, the eyes on the straightness of the hand. “I miss my family, my old life. No one likes me here…”
“That’s not true,” he protests.
The eyes move up to his. “Besides you, I don’t have any friends here…”
Silence again. He continues to stand, his hands seeking the comfort of pockets. He always wears jeans, always jabs his hands into pockets. A grounding is felt, something to stop him, to give him a surface.
“I followed you here, once, saw you here, alone. You and the ducks. How do you handle it, Angelo?”
“I don’t know,” he replies. He turns away, his eyes seeking the moon. This is too personal for me, I’m not used to talking this way.
“You can give me strength to handle it.”
A chuckle, from him. “Strength. I can’t give you that, you have to find it within.”
A sigh. “Can I tell you of my family? Of what I miss about them?”
He freezes, the weather changes to winter, cold water is splashed all over him. I don’t know what to tell her. Don’t know what to answer her. What if she’ll expect me to talk about my family? I can’t do that. I can’t tell anyone about my family! “I, I have to go soon. Maybe another time.” There.
“Angelo, please, please don’t go.” She begs. He is about to walk away, when he feels her hand on his shoulder. Warm liquid radiates throughout his body, giving life when there is death. He stops and turns towards her.
“Sonya,” he says her name. “What has happened?”
“I was giving the cleaning duties today. I had them few days ago.”
“Oh. That isn’t right though.”
“I know. When I told my roommate, she says they don’t care who gives the cleaning duties…”
“Who is your roommate?”
“ I see. Are you sure she would say that? I know her, and she is very warm and loyal.”
“I’m sure, I’m not lying…”
No more words are said. He feels himself standing, in the center of the universe. It never ends, he realizes. It keeps going on and on, deeper and deeper into the mysteries of life. Beyond the stars, the planets, the moons. Beyond life. That’s how my life should be, he thinks bitterly. It should be like the universe, never ending, yet never having a place to start. Loose, expansive.
Her hand slips away, the warmth leaves. Their voices do not blanket the field, they are hidden. “Let’s go home,” he tells her.
“No,” she says. “I’d like to stay here.”
“Sonya, both you and I will get in trouble if we stay here.”
“I don’t care. I just want to talk with you, Angelo. I want to get to know you better. You always deny me those chances.”
Torn in two. I want to leave with her, to go back to the orphanage before it is too late. But I can’t. She’s younger than me; I’m responsible for looking after her. What can I do? He sits down, cross-legged, dampness seeping into his shorts, his fingers touching his baseball cap. There is no way I’ll lose it again, he vows.
This is too precious. “You don’t have food, do you?” He asks, feeling his stomach growl from hunger. He rubs it gently, his eyes turn towards her, still standing, a grim expression on her face.
Her hands move to her pockets, and she takes out bread. She hands a piece to him. “Enjoy it.”
“Thank you.” She sits down, also cross-legged and her head goes up; he looks up, sees the stars twinkling.
“Do you trust me?” She asks, putting the bread back to her pocket, her hands then going behind her, grounding her body.
“I don’t trust anyone,” he replies.
“A long story. I don’t think I’m ready to tell you about it.”
“If I tell you mine, will you trust me?”
“I don’t think it works that way.”
“I still want to tell you.”
“Sure, go ahead.” He tells her.
“I used to have a hard time trusting people too. My mommy and daddy said they’ll be with me forever, then next thing I knew, both died the very next day here.”
“Your Korean is very good.” He observes. The first time I heard her speak Korean, I am surprised that a foreigner knows our language.
“Thank you. I was born here. Mommy and daddy lived here. Mommy and daddy are not Americans. I don’t know where they’re from. I had a younger brother, Max, but he was taken away from me too. When mommy and daddy died, I had to stay here. I have no other relatives besides my brother Max. Max and I stayed at a different orphanage, but then he was adopted, and I was left alone. I was angry all the time; at mommy and daddy, at Max, at anyone.”
“Are you still angry?”
“Yes.” He sees her thin arms hug the knees, her chin resting on top. Her curly hair blows gently in the wind. “I miss Max. He is two years younger than me. I miss mommy and daddy too.”
“Maybe someone will adopt you from here,” he says, trying to be hopeful, to be positive.
She shakes her head. “I don’t know. I want my own mommy and daddy, I don’t want a different mommy and daddy.”
“They’re not coming back though.”
“My own mommy and daddy will come back. Just watch, Angelo.”
The scene changes, the night disappears, daylight, heavy scent of flowers. He is four years of age. His whole skin itches, he wants to scratch everywhere but doesn’t dare. “Stand still,” someone tells him. He looks up, and sees his uncle. “Stand still.”
The priest, a short, old man, starts talking about his mommy in Korean. He looks around, sees tears, streams of salty water, in everyone’s eyes. He wonders why. His mommy has to come back. Why didn’t she come back yet?
Surely she’ll come back now. “Uncle,” he whispers.
“Angelo,” his uncle says. “Please don’t talk.”
“Will mommy come back?”
The uncle takes his hand, and walks over to the wooden pew. There the uncle sits down, picking him up, and sitting him down on his lap. His uncle’s hands grasp him tightly, the fingers placing his head against his chest. “She’ll come back, you’ll see her in dreams, she’ll be with you in spirit,” he answers.
Angelo doesn’t dare to ask any more questions.
Day turns to night, and his uncle disappears. He looks towards Sonya, sees those tears in her eyes. “How old were you when your parents died?”
“Five,” she whispers. He wants to hug her, to give her comfort, but finds himself unable to do so.
“My mom died when I was four, my dad died a long time ago. I don’t know when…”
“What do you do though?”
“I look for them in dreams. Sometimes I dream of my mom, and my uncle. I pretend that they are my guardians.”
“Could I do that to? Pretend that they are here with me?”
“Yes.” He finds himself unable to tell her that they should go back to the orphanage. I want to stay here, and just talk.
Perhaps she and I are kindred spirits.
He feels his clothes, including his shirt, become damp from the dew; the grass rustles with the wind, and very gently, his hands hold on to his baseball cap. The vision of the moon and stars fade, and different hues take the place instead.
There he sees himself beside his mommy. “Mommy, you’re here!” he screams. White clouds are everywhere; he has to wonder if he himself is in heaven, or has died and traveled to heaven.
“Of course I am here, where else would I be?” The sky is light pink, gold is around the edges.
“I thought you died, and left me.”
He sits beside his mommy, his hand travels to hers, gently clasps it. “I did die, Angelo.”
Silence lingered on, nothing else to focus on, but the brightness of the sky. “Am I in heaven?”
“You are, but you are not dead. You wanted to talk to me. So here I am.”
“What did I want to talk to you about?”
A chuckle. “I’m not sure. But let’s enjoy the moment my son. Let’s be happy.”
“Why did my uncle abandon me?”
“He will tell you that later.”
“Honey, he wants to adopt you. He has no sons, and his wife refuses to become pregnant.”
“What will be my future?”
“I cannot tell you that, unfortunately. Your future is your own to make, my son. Just remember, you and I will be reunited soon.”
“You will come back to earth?”
“Can I meet my daddy?”
Shake of head. “You cannot. I cannot find him here. I don’t know where he is gone to.”
They continue to sit, side by side. Centuries pass. Neither talks, neither know how to talk with another. Finally, she starts.
“You must come down to earth, my son. Your dream is over, you cannot be here anymore.”
“I’ll miss you mommy,”
“I’ll miss you as well, my son. Farewell.”
The image fades. The sun, with the rays of light, greets his eyes. Red flashes in his eyes, and after he opens, spots of different are in front. Then they disappear. He turns towards Sonya, and sees she is asleep.
There is time to come back, he thinks. Time. He decides to let her rest.
Night, at last. Skies of darkness, without color, no signs of stars or the moon. He is there, in his bedroom, without his wife. Peace, he thinks. Stretch of his arms, towards the sky, his fingers grasping the air. Peace, he thinks again. Why did I marry her? But he knows why. Always knew why.
I should not have listened to my father, or to my mother. I should have married Eugene Song. Kim Eugene, Angelo’s mother. His only love. I should have married her, before she died.
Time creeps forward, a snail slithering through, leaving trail of ooze in its wake. He walks towards the windows, sees the neon colors of lights, darkness everywhere, cars moving, and buses. The nightlife. Time when secrets unfold, come out from hidden crevices and cronies, burst like fireworks in the sky.
The vision has died, and time creeps backwards, to the time he was happiest, to the time he was dating
, and met her son, Angelo. Eugene
Daytime. The sun hiding behind the clouds, its rays teasing and light, white chairs made of metal, a dark green umbrella on the table, covering him from the sun. People walking by, cell phones beside their ears. Noises crowd the sidewalk, of different voices. He is sitting, his hand grasping the Starbucks cup. Where is she? He thinks. She is never late, a perfectionist. He remembers that she tells him about a small surprise. He sighs. It has been a long time since he has seen his childhood friend, Eugene.
Minutes slither by, slow and repetitive. He thinks of calling her, of asking her where is she, why is she not coming. Perhaps she has changed her mind, he thinks. Perhaps she doesn’t want to rekindle the affair.
He hears footsteps of a woman, hurried and purposeful. He recognizes them. It is she. They are from the north, almost running. He turns and sees her, a tall woman with a shoulder length haircut, her hair in a severe ponytail, glasses askew on her nose, a beautiful business suit on her slender body, her hand clutching a briefcase. Wait, he thinks. There is something odd about her. He sees a small face beside her neck, a face of a little boy. His small childish hands grasp the woman’s hair. He looks as if he is about to cry, he thinks to himself.
Finally she is here. He stands up, feeling his heart pound like a drum in his chest. “Hi,” he croaks.
She stops, her free hand traveling to the face next to her neck. “Hi, it has been a long time, James.” She says.
Nod of head. “How have you been?” He asks. It’s not easy to ask these questions, he thinks to himself. Especially her.
Sigh, from her. “You’ve heard the news, have you not?”
“I’m glad. I don’t have to explain it to you…” At that minute, he saw tiny hands reaching for her hair, grasping the silken strands, and then pulling them.
“Who is that?” He asks.
“Oh?” Her hand caresses the tiny hands. She grunts loudly, from pain, he surmises. “My son,” she finally says. “Angelo Jang.”
“How old is he?”
“He’s about two,” she says. She bends and gently whispers to him. “Come on buddy, please get off my back.” He is surprised that she is a mother, and more surprised that there is no light teasing in her voice, nor a smile.
The little boy, Angelo, makes a face and slides off. “Teddy?” He asks. She stands up and leans backwards, her hands on her hips.
“No Teddy.” She tells him.
He moves forward, his tiny hands looking for a playmate. James watches as the little boy bends down and picks up something. Angelo is wearing a straw hat, a white shirt with sleeves along with green overalls. All seem too large for him, second-hand. On his feet he sees a pair of sandals.
“Is he the surprise?” He asks her.
“Yes.” She replies. “Now, I have twenty minutes to have lunch, and then ten minutes to get back to work. I am already off schedule by five minutes. And those five minutes, I need them to drop Angelo back at a daycare.”
“I could look after him,” he volunteers.
Her features slacken, relax. “Could you? I know it’s too much to ask.”
“Its all right. He’s an easy boy to handle, is he not?”
“Yes. Very obedient and never questions anything.”
“What would you like to eat?”
“A salad,” she replies.
“Shouldn’t you look after him?” He asks. His eyes are not on Angelo. They are on
“He will be fine,” she protests. “What will you have though?”
“Oh. I see that you’re still working for your father huh?”
“Yes. He plans on making me the heir.”
A chuckle. “Does your father still hate me?”
“Yes.” He replies. He walks towards the white metallic table and sits down, his hand moves towards the Starbucks cup. He hears her footsteps. She is following him. He looks towards her and sees that she sits down, her briefcase beside her, her hands clasped tightly.
“Angelo!” She calls out. Instantly the patter of footsteps is heard, and he sees the little boy running towards
. “Stay here.” She orders him. He is silent, no protests emitting from his mouth. He is not a free thinker, James thinks. He is a follower. Eugene
“Look,” the little boy says. His tiny hands, closed, now open like a flower’s petals, and James sees a caterpillar.
“Let him go,”
protests. “Can’t you do something besides picking up dirty bugs on the ground?” Eugene
He kneels down, and lets the caterpillar go.
“James,” she says. “I think I’ll skip lunch altogether. You take Angelo and look after him, please. I will pick him up at seven.”
“Sure,” he replies. She stands up and walks away, not even glancing towards Angelo. He stands up and picks up the little boy.
“Mommy?” He whines.
“She’ll be home soon,” he tells him. “Come on, you’re going with me.”
Angelo doesn’t protest as they leave the little café.
The memory fades. He is in the dark, still watching over the nightlife. I will adopt you, he thinks to himself. Tomorrow morning, I will call the orphanage and adopt you. That way, I will make it up to you, and you will never be sad again.
With those thoughts, James tears away from the seductive scene, and goes to bed. Tomorrow, everything will change tomorrow, he thinks once again.
Few months later…
Blanket of white covers the brown; men of white, happy faces, branches for arms. Snowmen. There he sits, the moon as cold as snow, imagined warmth. Cold air enters, tiny daggers in his nose, numbing pain. Yet, he pays no attention. He kicks at the snow, watching it fly through the air, tiny flakes, landing far. What will change for me this year? He asks himself. I hope it will be different. I hope my wish for a family will come true.
A custom of his own, Angelo wished for a family every year. Every year, his wish didn’t come true. What have I done wrong? He asks himself. A noise. He looks behind, and sees Sonya. “Sonya,” he calls out. “Its cold, what are you doing outside?”
“I saw you outside,” she says. She walks forward, her hands hidden in her hanbok. She is pretty, he thinks to himself. Long dark hair is braided, her eyes cast to the earth, her fingers hiding in the sleeves of her hanbok.
“Oh.” He says.
Silence passes over them, Morpheus spreading his blanket over them. She is not one to keep silent, he thinks. She will start talking, and today, I don’t want to talk at all. “It’s a lovely night, no?”
“Yes.” He agrees, but doesn’t elaborate.
“Wasn’t there a New Years already? Why is there another one?”
He sighs. Why do I have to talk? Why can’t I be silent for once? Why is she so talkative all the time? “January 1st is based on solar calendar, and ours is based on lunar calendar.”
“Huh?” She asks.
“Koreans measure days by the moon. Others measure days by the sun.”
Finally, she is silent. Angelo studies her for a minute. His hands nervously play with his mittens, stretching the thumb areas. He looks over her, and sees the darkness in her face.
“Do you think you’ll be adopted?” She asks, out of the blue.
“Maybe,” he replies, continuing to stretch the thumb areas of his mittens.
“There are rumors that someone will adopt you.”
“Rumors are false,” he says. “You shouldn’t pay attention to them.”
“What if they are true?”
Angelo would rather not think of that. He wonders about what the group shall do, what Sonya will do. “I don’t know,” he replies. “Why aren’t you inside?”
“Its boring. They’re watching New Years specials, and I’m not in the mood to watch them.” He laughs. They have that in common.
Angelo stops playing with the mittens, and reaches inside the pocket. He pulls out a Chinese trinket he was given. “Here,” he says, his fingers tangling in the red string, colors of green, red, pink, yellow and royal blue stare back at him like rosebuds.
“A present, it’s supposed to bring good luck.” Her hands took the trinket and he watched her carefully.
Her hand touched the red silken threads. “Its exquisite,” she complimented him. “Very beautiful, I’ll treasure it forever.” Her face broke out into a smile.
“I have the same one,” he tells her.
Silence seems to stalk them. Angelo feels relief that Sonya drifts off into silence, unable to find anything to say. I want to say more to you, he thinks. I want to tell you that I’ll always be with you; I want to promise that you and I will be best friends forever. There is no exit for these words, for feelings. They remain stuck inside of him.
“You are always silent,” she observes. “You don’t hate me, do you?”
“No.” he tells her. “I do not hate anyone.”
“What you gave me, it symbolizes friendship, does it not?”
“It is simply a gift,” he tells her. “You can think of it however you want to.” He stands up. “Time to go inside. I do not want to get in trouble.”
She remains standing outside, her hands clutching the gift. “I don’t want to go inside,” she protests.
“Sonya,” he begins. “Please let’s go inside.” He comes over towards her and grabs her by her elbow.
She jerks away from him, and runs forward. Angelo groans loudly, at the thought of running after her, but realizes he has no choice. He has to look out for Sonya. Why is she upset? He wonders. It couldn’t be something he has said, could it? He runs after her, the heavy blanket seems to do everything to stop him and Sonya. He is careful though, always observant. Sonya, however, she is running heedlessly, he notes. He watches as she trips and falls. She begins to cry loudly. His heart jumps into his throat, and he runs forward faster. I hope she’s not hurt, I hope she’s okay, he thinks to himself. His insides are tense, made of metal, but the fire is reaching the metal, melting it. “Sonya!” he calls out. “Are you all right?”
She does not respond.
“Sonya,” he tries again. He stops in front of her, still on alert. “Are you all right?” he asks again.
“You don’t care if I’m okay! I hate you! I hate you!” She yells. Feelings of rocks crushing him inside.
“I don’t hate you,” he tells her.
“Then why don’t you treat me like a friend? Why do you hate me?”
“I don’t hate you, Sonya.”
“You don’t care whether or not I’m your friend!”
“I care.” He says. Why is she forcing me to say things I don’t know how to say? He gulps, feeling the saliva run down his throat. His hands reach out for her. “Sonya, I, I want to us to be f-f-f-friends,” he stutters.
“Then act like it,” she whines.
“I-I-I gave you a p-p-p-present, it is a f-f-friendship one, if you want.”
She continues to cry.
“What is wrong?” He asks again.
“I don’t think I can walk,” she tells him. He goes down on his knees, and he looks over her foot. It is definitely sprained.
“I can carry you,” he offers.
“Climb onto my back,” he tells her. He feels her hands grab at his hanbok, the tiny body moving forward. Her hands wrap around his neck. “Ready?” he asks her. Her feet wrap around his waist. His hands grab onto her legs and he stands up, walking forward, feeling the light jiggle of her body. Don’t worry Sonya, what I may not say in words, I feel in my heart, and I’ll never leave your side, he thinks to himself, hoping that Sonya might have an ESP communication inside of her.
For a minute, he imagines that she does, that she knows how he feels about her, how he cares for her. I am dreamer inside, a romantic heart, and one that believes in love that survives the odds.
The building, lavishly decorated is near. The lights are on, sound of TV is heard, one of the specials. “We’re here?” She asks.
“Yes.” He replies. He bends down, allowing for Sonya to slide down.
“Wait, I can’t walk Angelo.”
He offers her his hand. She takes it; he feels warmth from hers, something that reminds him of his last day with his uncle, that special day of baseball. If only those days can last forever, he thinks to himself. She gets up, and he feels a hand around his neck. He supports her body as she walks forward, her steps awkward and full of pain.
They make it though.
Dark maroon stared back, tiny black polka dots like accusing eyes. A tattered chair, not new, very old. Walls with splotches of light brown color, a mold of sorts. Posters of classical paintings hung on walls, hiding the mold. Around, darkness, the curtain unused for years, plastic desk in front, three pictures to each side, small kids in them. James didn’t recognize any of the kids.
Creak, a woman enters, white hair in a severe knot, black lenses of glasses sit on the broken nose. Hanbok of light pink with tiny flowers sewn in adorn her thin body. She bows slightly. “Hello, James Yi,” she greets him.
“Hello Manager Kang.”
Her hands are clasped in front of her chest, veins are decorations, tattoos. A push, the door is closed. “I am told that you are here to adopt a child.”
“Yes,” he replies. His legs shift, switch from side to side, the edge rests against the cheap desk. His hands grasp the chair handles. I want to get out of here already; I don’t want to be here, he thinks. This room, it is small in size, almost the size of a closet. A claustrophobic nightmare.
She walks slowly, as if her feet pain her. Is she doing this on purpose? He does not know. Hurry up, he wants to scream. But he cannot do that. He must be respectful to his elders.
“Is there a specific child you want to adopt?” She asks, her footsteps small, almost nonexistent. All he can think about is his other pressing duties; a meeting with the workers about the new author he plans to introduce to
, then there is that party that he is required to attend along with his wife, and finally he has to check on finances in his company. Korea
“Yes,” he says.
“Who?” She is still walking, almost there, very close to the cheap desk.
“Ah, him.” She sits down and clicks her tongue disapprovingly.
“Is there something wrong with him?” He asks her, puzzled by her reaction. Her hands shake as they move to the folders, and pull out Angelo’s folder.
“He’s a troublemaker,” she tells him. She drops the folder, it opens, and a gaping mouth and some papers spill out on the floor.
A sigh. “He makes his own rules, never follows the rules of an orphanage. I’ve had a lot of complaints about him.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I would advise you against adopting him, but it is your own choice James Yi.”
“I will adopt him.”
“Very well, does your family know about your choice?”
“Well, my wife does, but not my two daughters.”
“Tell them before coming back here again.” A click of tongue. “I think it is a foolish choice, to adopt a troublemaker. You know, many other children need love as well.”
“How is Angelo in schooling?” He asks.
“Hmm, in school he is studious and serious. A natural genius if you will. But he is prone to inattention and skipping school. He doesn’t have a bright future.” Pause. She is waiting for me to say something, he thinks. But I cannot think of anything. “Shall I send for him?” She asks
“Yes.” Slowly, at a snail’s pace, her hand reaches for the phone. She picks it up and dials the number.
“Can you send me Angelo?” A question. “Yes, someone is interested in adopting him.”
She puts it down, her shaky hand moves to her hair. Light scraping is heard, he wonders if it is he or the woman.
Footsteps are heard, casual. Sigh. A creak, door opens widely, and a boy steps through. Angelo. He is silent, his eyes cold, and no glittering sparks within. “Sit down, please.” The director orders him.
He does so, without saying a word.
“Now, this is James Yi, I’m sure you have heard of him.”
Nod of head. Silent again.
“He is here to adopt you.”
“Thank you, director.” He says. A clear of throat, and she stands up.
“I need to do something urgent. I will leave the two of you alone.”
She leaves, much quickly than when she came in. Silence begins to linger, James feels something eating him inside. He is not good with silence. He takes a glance at Angelo. He is silent, motionless, and not alive. “Nice to see you again,” He greets the boy.
“Hmm,” he says. He notices the baseball cap on his head, the small hands playing with fabric, his fingers tearing it, exposing the insides.
“I am here to adopt you, it will be my honor to be your father.”
His fingers travel to the baseball cap and he takes it off. “You gave me this,” he says. He twirls the baseball cap on his first finger.
“Yes, it is good that you remember.”
A bitter chuckle emits from his throat. “Yes.” He says, but does not elaborate. What is wrong with him, James wonders. I have never met such a sullen boy in my life!
Minutes pass again. The director isn’t coming back. Perhaps I shall tell him of his new family. “You will have two younger sisters—“
“Uncle,” Angelo interrupts. Very uncharacteristic of him, James thinks. It is not typical for a youngster to interrupt an adult.
“Yes?” He asks.
“Why are you here, really? Why do you want to adopt me?”
“Umm, well, my wife and I have no sons. And I made a promise to your mother after all…” He drifts off on purpose, watching for Angelo’s reaction. He is disappointed.
Angelo stands up, and tosses the baseball cap away from him. His breathing is heavy, his hands clenched into fists. “You broke the promise,” he says. “You broke it. Once broken, a promise cannot be taken back, uncle.”
“Angelo, I’m very sorry for what I have done.”
“Too late, uncle, you’re too late.” Without a word, he leaves him. James sits in stunned silence.
Fire seems to live inside, a snaky sunset of color. His fists clenched he walks outside, fresh snow around him. Adopt him? His uncle wants to adopt him? How dare he! “He abandoned me, then he wants to take me back!” He screams, the voice reverberating around. Sky is cold, white cold, no peek of the sun. It will snow later on, he thinks to himself. His thoughts are puzzle pieces, uncertain of what to grasp, what to focus on. Fire continues to build; he is ready to become a volcano.
One clear memory passes through; the day his uncle said goodbye.
Sun is a mockery, clear green fields pass by, a lake with ducks is seen, each flash, each running back, the car is speeding forward. I have to say something, he thinks. Something that will make uncle change his mind. “Uncle, why?” He asks.
He turns his head towards uncle’s direction, watching the grimace covering his face, his eyes focused, his hands tightly gripping the steering wheel. “Angelo. I, I’ve been alone for a long time, I want to get married, to have children of my own.”
“What about me?”
“You are not my natural child, you are an orphan.” Small slivers of salty water run down his cheeks, his hand grips the baseball cap.
“Uncle, please,” Angelo begs. “Mommy won’t be happy if you do this…”
“Angelo, I’m sure your mother will understand why I have done this.”
“What about the promise?”
“Hmm,” he asks, not looking towards Angelo. Air is restricted, hard to take it in, to have his lungs fill it. Slight dizziness, as if he is flying, enters.
I want to cry; I don’t want to lose uncle, I want for mommy to be back. Thoughts scatter, his heart hoping that this is a mistake. Just as he is taught, he begins to pray to God, to let him keep his uncle, to let him have a new mommy. Please don’t let me go to an orphanage, he begs God. Please let me be with my uncle, to live with him.
The car continues forward, a broken building is growing nearer. Nearby, a sign, Happy Kids Orphanage. His new home. His hands grip the seatbelt. His uncle stops the car, and gets out, his hands touching the sky. The prayers have failed, he realizes. I will have to stay here, in this place, without my uncle, without my mommy. “Uncle, please remember it,” Angelo begs. “You promised mommy to take care of me. Now you’re breaking it…”
“Angelo,” his uncle finally says. Silence stretches. Uncle’s hands go to his head, scratching a spot beside the ears.
Fire seems to fill up, just when he is eating spicy food. “I will never forgive you uncle! Never!” He yells.
“You will have a good family, a family that loves you…” doubt is heard in his uncle’s voice.
“I hate you!” Angelo screams. He unbuckles his seatbelt and hops out. “I hate you! I will always hate you!” He sits down, his hands clutching his baseball cap. He watches as small drops of salty water drop into the baseball cap, creating wet spots, as if it is raining.
“I might come back, Angelo.”
“Its not fair…” he whispers. He misses his mommy, wishes that she were here. I bet she won’t let uncle get away with this, he thinks to himself. He sees darkness, from the baseball cap, from hiding his face within. Shame.
Footsteps, walking away. Angelo looks up and sees his uncle grow smaller, shorter, going forward in time, without him. “Uncle!” He calls out again, hoping against hope that his uncle will hear him, will change his mind. But no such thing happens.
Angelo shakes off the memories. I have grown up, he tells himself. I am no longer five years old. I am nine. They still grip me, still control me, he realizes, feeling the cold liquid run down his face. Why can’t I get rid of them? His hands rise, shaking. They’re still inside, poisoning me, giving me pain.
The earth seems to shake; his hand seeks support that is no longer there. What is happening? Softness hits his knees, the earth is standstill, and his eyes focus on the snow, his warm hands lightly playing with it. Tears crowd his eyes, but there is no release for them. “What can I do?” He asks. “I don’t want to go with my uncle, don’t want to be his adopted son. What if he’ll give me up? He gave me up once, just to marry a woman, what if he’ll give me up again?” But I don’t have a choice, he realizes. No one else will want him, and he will remain here until age of adult. Then how can he help his group members?
He can no longer feel the snow, as if it became invisible, unfeeling. He stares down, his hand icy blue. He has sat for too long.
His name is called. He turns around and sees Sonya running towards him. She is happy, he notes, cheerful. Does she know the news? He thinks not. She would be sad if she did, he reasons. Dark adorns her body, a hood over her delicate face. Pants cling to her skinny legs. “Hey,” she says as she runs up to him. “Where are you? I hadn’t seen you.” Her face loses its cheerfulness. She is sad, and confused, he sees the transformation. “What’s wrong?” She asks.
He stands up, his fingers seeking the baseball. Now he remembered. He forgot it, throwing it down in front of his uncle. “I will be adopted,” he tells her.
“What? But why?”
“My uncle came back for me, he wants me back.” There. Blunt. No explanations.
“Angelo,” she whispers.
His eyes focus on hers, the luminous eyes, large. “Yes?” He asks, noticing the hard surface in his voice. It’s much harsher than I want it to be, he thinks to himself.
“What will you do?”
Blast of air escapes his mouth. He tries to lift his hands, to bend his fingers. They are frozen, he realizes. Damn. “I will go with my uncle,” he answers her. His eyes focus on the snow, not wanting to see the emotion clouding her face. She deserves laughter, to be happy; she doesn’t deserve to be here.
“Please don’t go,” she begs. Warmth enters into his shoulder. Her hand, he thinks. She is touching me. A thousand eyes surround him, he knows they see everything. Please leave, he begs silently. Please stop torturing me, he begs the unseen eyes.
He remains sitting. “I have to go,” he says. “I am a leader of the group, I need to go and help them.”
“Its not fair!” She screams out. The warmth is removed. Angelo stands up, looking down on the small girl on the snow.
Waves of sadness enter his heart. I care for her, he realizes. I care for her. “Sonya,” he calls out her name.
She looks up at him, tears still running down her cheeks.
“Remember my present,” he tells her, feeling his voice crack. I can’t tell her my feelings, can’t tell her anything.
“Yeah,” his hands go to his pockets, his eyes travel to the snow, his mind racing about the beauty of snowflakes.
“It won’t bring you back…” he hears the whisper.
The snow flies through the air, a light disturbance. What can I tell her? He wonders. His hand shakes as it leaves the warmth of his pocket. Cold air pierces it. He points it to his heart, and before he hears another word from her, he leaves her, going inside.
Three Months later…
He heard the news. As soon as it happened, he heard. Dark branches snagged his clothes like claws, but he pays no heed. His steps are sure and confident, climbing up to the top. Angelo, the leader, is going to be adopted. Rocks seem to crush his heart at the thought of the leader leaving. Today will be the day Angelo will leave the orphanage, start a new life, the old will become faded, the newness of life, stark. He doesn’t want anyone to see him, he thinks to himself. He said his goodbyes already.
The other members, June, Hannah, Samuel and Solomon are inside. “It’s too sad,” June told him three months ago. He watches her tears running down. Other members nodded their heads as well. The group has no leader, he thinks. Angelo never wanted a second-in-command. He always wanted to have all the responsibility, Lucas thinks. He feels the branches continue to claw his shirt, but he is high enough. Last time I will see him, he thinks. Now he is no longer one of us. He is forgotten. The one that never was.
He sees a figure running forward; it is Sonya! His mind screams. Sonya. What is she doing? She is fast. Angelo is standing beside the car, his arms crossed; his hair parted sideways, his infamous baseball cap no longer adorns his head. He’s not smiling, Lucas notices, his fingers digging deeper into the bark. Angelo’s uncle is beside him, a tall man with hair back, looking like a girl. “What are you doing here?” The uncle demands.
“I just came to say goodbye,” Sonya says. Is she close to crying? Lucas wonders.
Angelo remains silent. Lucas continues to observe, curious as to what will happen. Before he knows what happens, he sees Sonya approaching Angelo, and lean her face to the side, her lips meet his cheek. “Get away from him,” the uncle demands, grabbing Sonya’s arm and pushing her away.
Sonya runs the opposite direction. What happened? Lucas wonders. He begins to climb down, the ride difficult. I hope I won’t fall. He hears the slam of car doors, the start of an engine, and all of a sudden, Angelo and his uncle disappear. He reaches the ground, jumps down. “Sonya!” He calls out. No answer. He is tired, his footsteps small. It’s taking me a lot of strength to walk far, he thinks.
A shadow beside the tree, it is she. She is sitting, her knees to her chest, her eyes full of sparkling water jewels. She is crying. “Hi,” she answers, her voice a croak.
He stops, his hand moves to his hair, gently squeezing the tresses. “I’m sorry.”
“Hmm, not your fault. Its heart breaking.”
“You cared for him.”
Nod of head. “I don’t know why. I know I was too bold back there…”
He feels his cheeks color, the blush. He looks up, notices the sun, the budding of leaves. Soon there will be a cherry blossom festival. He wonders if he’ll see it this year. He says nothing, no reply.
“I don’t think he cares for me. He never did anything to show me that he likes me.”
He continues to stand. “Actions speak louder than words,” he tells her. “I’ll miss him.”
“Me too,” Sonya says.
“I want to become friends with you Sonya,”
“I as well.” She stands up, and he watches as she walks inside, a girl of impatience, of unknown talents and virtues. Someday, she will be known, he will know her soul.
The song stopped. How fitting, I think to myself, that the song coincided with memories I carried of her and Angelo. Still, wounds are not forgotten, the salt continues to poison them. I remember those memories, those details strongly. I feel rocks sitting inside, crushing my heart, my vital organs. She is no more, voice rings in my head. She is gone.
I disagree with the voice. Sonya continues to live inside of me; she continues to give me memories of my childhood, of happiness that I never experienced as a child.
Shortly after Angelo left, Sonya and I became good friends, and part of me fell for her. I was in love. Sonya though, she continued to pine for Angelo. I liked Angelo, even saw him as a role model, but after falling for Sonya, I felt hatred towards him, for mistreating Sonya, for being himself.
The memories continue, the stories write themselves. Next song has begun, fitting with the next set of memories inside.
The End of Episode One