CH 7 UNDER PRESSURE (Hanako)

 

Something deep in her, a familiar voice she had trusted many times before had said, you take a step, I’ll be there to meet you. It felt as though by putting herself physically in motion, she was saying “yes,” to that voice, thereby mobilizing her destiny in the process. (Read the rest of the chapter at HanaHawley.Com)

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Photo by Tom Parkes 

Searching for Seoul Post 10

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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

 

 

I’m not that girl from the Beach Body DVDs…

“I can’t,” I say, loud enough for him to hear but hoping the girls won’t.

“I can’t do it.”

“You can,” he says, equally quiet.  “Just try it.”

I shake my head, taking in the sight of the other girls, their tight abs, their perfectly round backsides.  Their shapely legs pull in unison against the ropes, their bodies bent in two like the legs of a shiny metal compass completing measurements.  I’m flanked by them- out, in, out, in.  Their tight bodies strain against the effort but the girls still manage to look like they’re filming a Beach Body DVD.

That would make me the –you can do it too person sweating in the background while the pros glisten and glow up front near the instructor.  The sweat from my effort on the treadmill ten minutes ago is still evaporating from my skin and surrounded by these girls who can, I find myself choking on the humiliations of the past.

I see grade school me, shoulders slumped in defeat, eyes cast down and boring holes into my white Reeboks as I toe the blue tape of the shiny gym floor.   I’m overwhelmed by a sense of ineptitude, of invisibility.  I listen despondently as names are yelled enthusiastically from the team captains standing before me.  Will they remember my name this time or will I be the last one called, my name then becoming irrelevant?

Then, as expected, the voices calling the names take on another tone. They deign to divvy up the lesser of the less.  I can hear them roll their eyes and sympathize with each other on having to take that girl who plays violin and doesn’t play sports.

I try to lift my body in a similar fashion but land on my hands and knees.  I feel as though the Beach Body girls are judging me from the corner of their eyes, already deciding to pick me last.

Before the grade school me becomes paralyzed on the gym floor I pick myself up and leave.  I feel bad for the kids facing team captains all over the world but I’m not trapped in those situations anymore.  My worth isn’t based on the number of people I can hit with a dodge ball.  So I go, marveling that wounds from the past could still hurt in new ways.

Afraid to Live…

I lean back in the passenger side of the car as the traffic lights flash through the windshield.  We’re  almost home.  The time glows digital green from the dashboard of the car.  We’ll make it back just in time to watch our new must-see Sunday night show, “Believe.”

I want to say something a loud to J but I hesitate.  If I say it, that implied meaning it.  Did I mean it or was I compelled because I always felt inspired when I left Mosaic?  Well, mostly inspired, sometimes discouraged by the comparisons I drew between the lives I heard about and my own.

“I feel like I’m trying to preserve my life” I say a loud, like I mean it.  “What am I saving myself for? ”

If I were a pre-recorded message my themes would consist of these phrases:

“Be. SAFE.”

“That. Is. Full. Of. Germs.”

“That. Could. Kill. You.”

“Do. Ing. That. Is. Sue.I.Cide.”

I am apparently saving myself for some great cause and it’s a necessity for me to be without a physical or emotional scratch when the cause reveals itself.

When I ask my questions a loud, I realize that I’ve been aware of the cause most of my life.  I may not have always been old enough, independent enough, or resourceful enough…but those are not excuses I can lean on now.

I connect the dots that have led to it- my cause; my birth in a foreign land, my adoption into a forever family, what I’ve seen as random skill sets accumulated over a decade of careers that just didn’t stick and the people who did.

As we pull up to our house and bring the car to a stop, my cause light goes from yellow to green.

I’ve been afraid to live.  Afraid to get hurt, get dirty, or be unable to find myself home again, safe and sound.

I’d still like to avoid getting hurt and getting dirty but not at the cost of losing my life because I focused so hard on saving it.