So what if I was…


Scene 4 popped into my head tonight as I was about to go downstairs for a smoke.  And the rest just came out, and I put them in chronological order.  So you’ll just have to suffer this blog-like indulgence.  That’s the problem with stream of consciousness writing.

Scene 1:

My father comes into the house, whistling.  His face is beaming and with a hop in his step, he rushes up to me and announces it’s a glorious day for a motorcycle ride, do I want to go?

My mom is concerned and swears that he’d better drive extra cautious, like this time will be diferent.

My father gets the helmets.  Nobody really asked me if I wanted to go, not really.  I really hate going, because I know the only reason he wants me to go is because my little arms will have to  hold onto him, and that gives him a thrill.  A thrill right out in broad daylight, in public, and no one will know.  He yells through the wind to hold on tighter, and I guess I must comply, because despite it being beautiful and freeing on a bike,  it’s pretty scarey being on Hines Drive with it’s curves and all the unpredictable drunken people partying along its edges.  My long hair is a tangled mess.  Taking the helmet off always rips a handful out.

We get home, and he knows I know what his motivation is.

Daddy, I say, looking straight into his eyes, can we go see Annie?  I really want to see Little Orphan Annie in Detroit.

Well, it’s really expensive honey, but we’ll-see-what-we-can-do.

Yeah, that’s right.  You better…or no more motorcycle rides.

Scene 2:

My bedroom.

I just-can’t-take-it-anymore.

I don’t know what it is I can’t take, but I have to leave.  I don’t even remember what the upset was, but I have to go.  I have barracaded my door with my bed and my dresser, and my toychest is under the bedroom window, which I have opened and am trying desperately to climb out of.  If I could only grab hold of the lilac bush…

But the dresser and bed are sliding and the door to my bedroom is opening, and just like the door always opens when I don’t want it to, there I am again, dreading what’s next, helpless.   My dad pushes the furniture aside and my mom follows him in and asks me what I am crying about, and I sob because of course I don’t know and I can’t tell her.

I can’t tell her what it is to be manipulated and to manipulate at the age when you should be playing with dolls.  I can’t tell her how it feels to be a living doll.  I can’t tell her I’m afraid of everything and everybody and mostly of breaking her world apart.  I can’t tell her I’m the other woman.  I can’t tell her what it’s like to be an alien in this world.  I can’t tell her because she is color blind and relationship blind and so sad about her life.

My dad moves the furniture back as if nothing happened.  My mom tells me that after I’ve washed my face, dinner will be ready.

Scene 3:

On the street corner, in front of my house.

New neighbor and her daughter come over to introduce themselves to my mom.  I am what, ten years old? yet she gushes over me as if I were four years old.  She starts stroking my hair.  It’s so soft and silky and long and black.  She talks slowly to me, to make sure I understand her words amid her squealing with delight.  She just loves almond shaped eyes.  She just always wished she had almond shaped eyes.  I am stiff. I don’t say much in response.  Her daughter Cara is bubbly and vivacious.  She says, “yes, m’am!” like Opie does on the Andy Griffith Show, like she really enjoys sucking up.  My mother is in love.  I don’t say, “yes, m’am!”

My mom gives her a polished tumbled amethyst rock.  Funny, she never gave ME one of her tumbled rocks.  She chastises me, “Why do you have to be like that?  Why can’t you be more like Cara?”  Cara looks like Annie Wharbucks.  I look like I-don’t-know-what.  No, wait.  I look like the Chinese sex bomb in Flower Drum Song.  How the hell can I say, “yes, m’am!” cheerfully?

Scene 4:

So I’m sitting at the park, near the baseball dugout, the one closest to my church, sneaking a cigarette, and my friend asks me about my birth mother.

“Do you think she was a prostitute or something?”  (I can hear the hope in her voice – they all wished I was the illegitimate daughter of a lady of the night)

I shrug.  “I dunno.”

“Do you ever want to meet her?”

“NO.  Why would I want to do that?”  I frown.  “Families suck.  Why would I want a second one?”

(incredulous) “But aren’t you even curious?”

“So what if I was, WHICH I’M NOT.  We couldn’t talk anyway.  Whoever the hell she is, she’s in KOREA.  Like I know how to talk that!  (I didn’t even know what it sounded like)

(silence…)  “Oh.  I forgot about that.”  (long pause)  “Wow.”  (romantic jealousy emanates from my friend)

Scene 5:

Same dugout, different time.

I’m making out with a boy, also from my church.  It dawns on me that we are having the same conversation as Scene 4, only we’re not speaking the words.  I suddenly feel like I am my mother.  Why do I feel so dirty?

I finally realize it’s not really me he wants to be with, but the idea of my mother.

Scene 6:

Small house party, Seattle.  It’s the post grunge, emo era and Michael’s slightly talented artistic friend is playing Dinosaur Jr. adnauseum.  His rich Korean American girlfriend walks in.  She’s slender and perfect and should be a model for L’eggs pantyhose. She name-drops designers, while proudly wearing her alternative long-haired white boyfriend like a street smart badge of honor.  She has it all.  A broken nail is suffering for her.

Later, Michael off-handedly mentions to me how gorgeous she is.  “What about me?”  I jest.

“Oh, yeah.  You’re made from good Korean peasant stock.”

Of course I am.

I’m just an orphan, probably daughter of a whore.

After:

Somehow, my first mom doesn’t seem quite so vile now.

I’m sure she is/was a good person.

And being made from peasant stock is just fine, thank you.

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9 thoughts on “So what if I was…

  1. [I can’t tell her I’m the other woman.]

    I’m not certain what you meant by this… were you referring that your reflection resembles your origin here and because she is colourblind, she refuses to acknowledge that for what it is?

    [So what if I was, WHICH I’M NOT. We couldn’t talk anyway. Whoever the hell she is, she’s in KOREA.]

    When did that change for you?

    Really nice post to read, by the way. Very graceful insight into a bit of your childhood.

  2. Thanks, Kelly…

    Mei-Ling, I was sexually abused by my father from ages 4 to 12.

    I didn’t start thinking my first mother could be a person until last year, when I first started talking to other adoptees and first considered coming to Korea to learn about this culture.

  3. Just the thought of that is like a vat of molten metal – I can’t imagine getting close enough to it to grasp that much pain.

    But I know what you mean about your mother and shame.

    I was taught to feel that for my mother. Her life came apart over several years as she became schizophrenic. And I felt that about her for many years, until the point came where I decided to try to face her.

    It was then that I realized what had happened to her. And hearing that she lived in a subway tunnel actually caused that shame to vanish.

    Now all I feel for her is pride. She brought so much life into this World. She didn’t fail. We failed her.

  4. You seem very wise, Ed.

    I really wish we could evolve into a society that did not blame its victims. I really wish it didn’t take so many years and lost time to learn how our own struggles mirrors the struggles of others. I really wish we valued empathy as much as we do college degrees.

    I believe in the power of images, written or visual, and I think the world is improving. I hope you can share your stories more. It will be a rich addition to the picture of humanity we are drawing.

  5. There is a possibility that you did tell your mother.

    My mother admitted to me when I was 25 that I did come to her, when I was four years old. She did not believe me.

    I remember in 1973, I was 7 yrs old at the time, my brother caught my father and I coming out of the bathroom. I was instructed to hide in the tub, but I chose to come out seconds after my father left the bathroom. My father then sent me outside to play. I went to a neighbor’s house and about an hour later, my mother returned home and asked my brother to find me to come home. My mother asked me a few questions, but never comforted me, never told it wasnt my fault, never told it wouldnt happen again….because it did.

    My mother believed my brother, her biological son, but not me 3 years earlier. My mother even once faced with the truth did not protect me. She chose to believe my father…he promised never to do it again. He broke many promises…this one was no exception. I had no one to protect or comfort me. I stopped the abuse when I was 14.

  6. No, I’m pretty sure I never told anyone. I was advised from day one there would be dire consequences, namely my mother being hurt beyond repair.

    I know my mother inquired a few times, indirectly. It wasn’t about my father, but about my odd behavior whenever he was around. (with disdain, disrespect, and a cold shoulder, etc., until I imagine even disgust showed on my face) So I think she suspected something.

    I could tell she didn’t want to hear the truth. I also knew that even though she was unhappy with him, she could never leave because she feared the world beyond the walls of her home too much. I knew nothing would change if I told her. Even after she did find out, it was exactly as predicted, and nothing changed. She was only more betrayed. Plus, because I didn’t tell her, she felt betrayed by me as well. Both my parents were not very emotionally mature…

    The documentary producer asked me why I didn’t tell, and I told her – you know, it’s never only about just yourself. I told her that to report my father would mean my mother would have no means of support, since she had no skills, and my siblings would have no father. As a child I knew that confirming my mother’s worst nightmare was going to destroy my family’s world. So in a bizarre way, I shouldered the secret to protect everyone else. Really, that’s the worst part of this kind of abuse. It’s hard to keep a secret like that, and to consciously suppress your every human instinct out of responsibility for others.

    I wonder if we were ever really children, you know?

  7. Sadly, we were children dealing with adult issues. We didnt have the opportunity to mature in a healthy manner, nor were we allowed to feel safe within our families.

    If it’s any consolation, whether you told or not, it probably would not have mattered.

    My mother chose to stay with my father until he left her, because she feared that she wouldnt be able to financially support us and she wanted to keep the family together. Even after the truth was confirmed in 1973, she left me alone with my father. She admitted all this to me when I was 25. Additionally, she thought I was a brat, because when she would leave me with my father to go shopping, I would cry and beg her to let me go. I heard a hint of regret in her voice. She now knew that she was her acccomplice and she ignored my pleas for help. In this same conversation, she kept asking…why didnt you tell me? My response…I did, but you chose to ignore me twice, even by your own memory. I continued by asking…why did you believe he would stop? Why did you expect me to come to you when you did nothing to comfort me or tell me it wasnt my fault? It took her a few more years to understand,… she didnt protect me and it wasnt my fault. She still hasnt admitted that she knew. Logic tells you…if he lied about other things, he lied about this. It’s amazing what the mind will do, if you allow it.

    After the 1973 incident, I never directly told anyone about the abuse and tried to forgive my mother and father until I was 25. I kept quiet because partly I thought she knew and partly because I felt responsible.

    Unfortunately, as children we were wrongly made to feel responsible for the actions and inactions of our dysfunctional adult parents. I totally understand your silence and the reasons for it.

  8. Funny thing is, my stupid siblings had zero empathy for me when they found out.

    “that’s your reality, not mine.”
    “you need to heal yourself, SUH YUNG SOOK.”

    If I had known how callous and selfish they were, my whole family, I’d have turned the bastard in the very first time.

    Oh, wait.

    I was only four years old.

    No, wait.

    According to recent findings, I was only three years old.

    Never mind…

    Need mouthwash for this bitter taste.

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