Searching for Seoul Post 10

samuel sosina post 10

Photo by Matt Jones

I don’t want her to feel worse than she already does, but the tears seep out of my voice despite my wishes. “Don’t cry, Mira,” Abby* says, and I can tell she’s taking responsibility, her voice, heavy with guilt.

My birth dad never got on the plane.

But I’m already in Atlanta! My brain screams. I’m already here.

Josiah and I arrived a couple of days early, and now, all of my preparation; the extra shifts I’d picked up last week, the new dresses I’d purchased, the family photo albums I’d spent hours making, the hotel and car reservations I’d made for everyone–all seem premature–acts of naivety–of ignorance.

He didn’t get on the plane. That’s all I can hear at first, and it feels to me as though this was a willful act, an act of cowardice or an act that would cause enough pain and disappointment to shut this whole thing down forever.

“He was supposed to meet my mom at the gate, but he never came.” Abby, is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lee, my birth dad’s friends who moved to the U.S. ten years ago. They’ve been friends for twenty years now and Mrs. Lee was to travel back to the U.S. with my dad.

Abby has been bridging the gap for all of us since late February, translating messages between my birth dad and me because no one else speaks English and I don’t speak Korean. The very first message I received from her back then was, “Hello, is your Korean name Mira, Park? I know your dad…”

“Your dad is in chaos, right now,” Abby says, and this refocuses my attention on the problem at hand, the reason my birth dad couldn’t get on the plane that would have brought him to Atlanta to meet me just sixteen hours later.

He didn’t have a visa to travel to the states. No one thought to ask him if he had one. And he didn’t think of it himself because he hasn’t traveled outside of Korea in years. He could have applied for it online, been approved within the hour, but by the time he was apprised of this, it was too late.

He was already on his way home, a four-hour drive from Incheon Airport in Seoul, by the time I was getting the news.

And then I want to call my birth dad’s travel agent, yell at her, ask her how she could let this happen in the first place? Wasn’t it her job? Her duty to get her clients from point a to point b with as little trouble to them as possible? And now, her oversight was ruining our lives. Words like, incompetent! Worthless! Gurgle up in my brain like poison.

How was I going to tell my brother and sister about this?

I realize I dread this task even more than not knowing if my birth dad would get the necessary documentation and re-book his flight. I know that in under eight hours my family plans to board a plane from Minneapolis to Atlanta, and I struggle with how to tell them not to come.

 

*not her real name

 

 

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Searching for Seoul- Post 1

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When I see the fog settle over the San Fernando Valley in a misty blend of grays and purples, I imagine that I can see the Korea of my childhood.  Three mountain peaks shrouded in mist, crisscrossed by dark power lines and cables.  The scene is as dingy and ambiguous as my memory but somehow I’m able to smell the coming rain; feel the perspiring air against my face.  I vaguely remember driving by these mountains, sorrow threatening to swallow me up as I sit in the backseat of a car or a bus.

I wonder if this is a real memory or something fuzzy my imagination cooked-up to help me cope with the lack of information I have about my childhood.  The first seven scenes in the movie of my life have been redacted yet I’m supposed to have a strong sense of who I am and where I’m going.

Not everything from my past draws a blank.  Sometimes a taste of something new becomes something familiar and I know without a doubt it’s my past trying to resurface.  I had dinner in Koreatown one night when the flavor of one of the side dishes made my heart leap.  I told my friend excitedly that I was sure I’d had it before.  She looked underwhelmed as she explained that it was a common dish- sweet red kidney beans simmered in soy sauce and sugar.  With each bite I willed the memories to come.  Where was I when I tasted this? How old? Is this something I’d eaten at my mother’s kitchen table or a dish I’d had at the orphanage she’d ensured would be a part of my past by her lack of involvement in my future?  Even as I write this I can almost taste the sweet kidney beans, feel the mealy texture on my tongue and against my teeth.  Still- nothing.

I grasp continually for impressions that are as elusive as the mist that triggers them in the first place.