I remember handing out frozen coke cans to the sweaty workers. My hair in a limp ponytail, my feet hot from the summer concrete. We were moving back into the very apartment unit we moved out of three years back.
For all these years I kept my eyes closed so tears could not leave and reveal my heart. And because I remained hidden for so long no one can see me. My mom runs frantic, trying to give my youngest brother what she could not give me and my sister: her time. She glances at us sometimes. I think to find our approving nod and forgiving eyes for what she wishes she did for us. My dad’s work is bottomless, his face almost forgotten in our household. He is a genie. He leaves for work so fast his cigarette is still alight when we turn back to say bye to him. Continue reading
Sung Jin hated his legal American name. A solemn man of 45 drawn-out years, his American name was so unexpected, it raised eyebrows. It was Sunny. Quite the compliment to his grunting replies and dim disposition. Sunny Sung Jin Kim. He hated how his Korean name now served as something the Americans called a “middle name.” He thought it silly and demeaning, for his proud, manly Sung Jin was forced to hide behind a skimpy S only after the embarrassing Sunny.
Sunny smoked two packs on a good day. On bad days, three. In Korea, his friends called him “The Chain” because he was known to light his next cigarette off the tip of the one he was currently smoking. The nickname allowed him a sort of twisted pride. Continue reading
On Saturday nights, neighbors would stop by the cluttered counter to gossip with my mom. Saturday nights at Minky’s were always the busiest. My mom said that it was because the poor people needed to begin the week with something to do, or at least something to watch. Although our shop was in a deserted town outside Anaheim, there were always strange visitors. Grandmas with worn, freckled hands and too-black hair shrieked about having to go to the market every other day to feed their unmarried sons; their mouths puckered with complaints, but faces boasting with sly glances and smirks. Of course, I never told this to my mom. She would think of it as rude. Continue reading
My family was perfect. We ate out together almost every week, and my sister and I got whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. We jet-skied every summer and snowboarded on Mammoth Mountain every year without fail. I was covered head to toe in brand-new glittery Juicy Couture tracksuits, perhaps with a single missing button or mismatched leg lengths, but I didn’t mind. My favorite tracksuit was the pair neither my sister nor my mom had, so I held it as my most prized possession. Along with my starfish voice-automated diary of course. I had everything that all my classmates only dared to dream of. I was spoiled. Continue reading
The phone wailed behind me, but it was as if I was under water. I wanted to scream, to cry, but I could not. I could only stupidly stare at the frail woman in front of me.
“Mom?” Without her signature frown, my mom was no longer recognizable. With a strange smile on her pale face, she was beautiful in death. Her graying hair fanned out behind her face in a lovely dark blanket, and her hands were folded across her stomach. I must have sat there for over half an hour. Thinking about the years she’s been entrapped here like some kind of animal made me lose the power in my knees. Guilt blurred my world. Guilt, not because of her death, but rather how much happier she looked in it. Then, I felt a calm sort of anger that scared me. Once again, it was my fault. If only I had been with her. Continue reading
The adults sipped their coffee and scoffed at the children laughing in the open rain. They scoffed to blend in, swallowing the bitter brew, because everyone else did so too. There would have been no need to make an effort if they had all just stopped. But they didn’t, and they continued to cross and uncross their legs, smiling at unfunny jokes whilst taking longing, jealous glimpses of the children on the other side of the dirty cafe window. Age often comes with adulthood, and adulthood is inescapable. But the children on the other side failed to notice any of these things, readying themselves to go play in the creek. Oblivious to the heavy rain and the dropping temperature, they applied their sunblock with determined looks on their pimpled faces. There were seven kids, and all of them were absently shivering in the missing sunlight.
A fat man looking out the window snickered, and that snicker turned into a giggle, and that giggle into a start of mean laughter. He could not stop. His laughter burst out in waves, the curdled fat on his stomach jiggling in harmony. It’s 60 degrees outside with no sun, but they’re using sunblock? No, it’s 60 degrees outside but they want to swim in the creek? Stupid kids. His outburst began a choir of echoing laughter from the rest of the adults. But no one except the fat man knew what was so funny. He suddenly felt very sad and looked down at the stubs that were once fingernails. Time where have you gone. I was that thin and stupid just yesterday, he thought. When he looked back up, both the laughter and the children were gone.
An awkward kid with glasses almost down to the corner of his mouth flailed his thin arms around, excited. He yelled, “Welcome to the game of Paranoia, where a teen can be a teen.”
“Hey, shut up and hurry. And take off your slippers. You’re gonna slip on the rocks and crack your head wide open. I don’t wanna deal with that.”
“Sheesh, yes mother.”
The short haired girl hid a smile and stretched out her arms like a tightrope walker to balance on the wet rocks. She hopped to the front of the line of children when she heard a splash, a high-pitched shriek, then loud laughter from the kids. She looked back only to see that the lanky boy had fallen into the cold water. He was all long limbs as he struggled to find his glasses and climb back onto a rock.
“Omigod I’M DROWNINGGG! HELP!” The unimpressed line of children continued to laugh and snicker as they all hopped by. The boy’s games no longer fazed them.
The girl with short hair rolled her eyes and hurried to land, under a tree.
“Guys let’s-s-s just wait for the rain to s-s-s-stop.” The soaked boy hurried to catch up to the moving line of children, his teeth chattering with the cold. With every chatter, ice-cold droplets of water flew off the ends his hair and found their victims the way bullets find theirs.
“Please? Anyone? Then let’s at least wait for the sun. We’re all gonna catch a cold,” he whined as he moved forward.
When no one responded, he said, “Hey, hi-p-p-p-po! Aren’t you already sick? Let’s just wait yeah?”
The big girl turned bright red, her arms darting down to cover her lurching belly. “Quit calling me that. And worry about yourself. If anyone’s gonna get sick, it’ll be you, skinny bones,” she yelled behind her shoulders between heavy pants. Her greasy hair was stuck to her big face in thin, black vines.
“Well, I wasn’t really worried about anyone but myself, but okay,” the boy muttered.
“Okay we all here?” The short haired girl motioned for the rest of the group to come to the small patch of land adjacent to the creek.
“Then Let’s Begin.”