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Updated: Apr 28

Written by Cailey Beck

  1. clothes

My parents scream as I sit between them, tears streaming down my face. I don’t remember what started the fight in the first place, but I will never forget my mother’s tears, nor my father’s stone-cold expression. It’s a war, one with no reason or rules, where the weapons are the hurtful, biting remarks my parents throw at each other, and I am the sole casualty. I can barely understand what they are saying, but I understand the hate with which they are talking and the way it bunches up in knots around their faces, furrowing my father’s brow and drawing lines around my mother’s lips. I think we must have sat there for at least an hour, all three of us, not saying anything. We didn’t go to church that day, and my mother didn’t go at all for a long, long time. I’m pretty sure they were fighting about what I should wear, now that I think about it.

  1. wine

Rows of dark, cloudy glass against the even darker tile make up the backsplash of our tiny, Los Angeles kitchen. It is always noisy here. I am no longer lulled into a peaceful sleep by the sound of crickets and cicadas performing their nocturnal symphonies. Instead, the rumble of motorcycles and the distant searing of sirens ring in my ears until the film behind my eyes cuts to black. The walls are thin, and I can hear our neighbors shouting and grunting and laughing and playing while my mother and I sit quietly at our small, round dinner table reading whatever we fancy at the moment. Boxes are scattered around the house, still packed from when we first moved here. My mother was never good at any sort of housework, and as the filial daughter that I am, I follow her example and become just as terrible as cleaning and cooking. My mother looks at the dark glass and chooses the lucky bottle of the night. She won’t be sleeping very much today.

  1. umma

My mother loved to drink. She doesn’t anymore, now that she’s born-again, but before becoming married to Jesus, her only joys in life were me, her wine, and her books. I think she liked to drink because she was always sad. Ever since I was a child, I felt a shadow hanging over her. Like everything that had happened in her life had hurt her a little bit more than it should have. Nothing ever came easy for my mother. Not even me. I was forced out of her tiny body by way of scalpels and needles, two things she hates with a passion (granted, she hates most things). By the time I was 5 years old, she and my father spoke only when needed, and finally, just short of 8 years, her marriage crumbled. Divorce was never off the table for my parents. I always knew that it was just a matter of time. That didn’t make it any easier when it did happen, though.

  1. florida

I try not to cry.

“Do you want to go to your grandma’s with me, or stay with your dad? Hmm? What do you want to do?”

I look back and forth between my parents. My father is by himself, steaming in the corner. He stares daggers at me and my mother, convinced that I will choose her over him. He’s right. But I don’t want to hurt his feelings, so I avoid giving an answer. But my mother senses my longing to go away with her, and promptly whisks me into the garage, leaving my father furious in the living room. I fall asleep that day thinking we are moving to Florida, but when I open my eyes, I am still buckled into the backseat of the family minivan. Harsh, fluorescent parking lot lights pierce through the holes of the black cover on my window, and through the windshield, I see the neon blue WALMART sign flickering the distance. My mother is in the driver’s seat, her head in her hands, crying. She looks up, and I close my eyes and pretend to go back to sleep. That night, as I drift off, I try to remember if I left the TV on or not.

  1. abba

My father begins to speak. My heart clenches. I hate him. So much.

“What did you get on this last test?”

I look down at my food. Red, raw seafood with a side of more raw stuff, except it’s white.

“I didn’t do well.”

“So what did you get?”

I push my fork around.

“I don’t wanna talk about it. I promise I’ll do better.”

I can sense my father staring at me with disapproval, but my tone is firm. I’m almost done speaking with him, and his fear of losing me prevents him from pushing further.

“Ok,” He looks up and smiles at me, ”I love you.”

I force a smile. Through gritted teeth, I say it back.

“Me too.”

  1. monday

It’s not easy to dial a phone number when tears are all over your screen. Luckily, I have him on speed dial.

“Abba,” I whimper, “can you pick me up?” I don’t think-” A sob escapes my throat. I catch my breath and start over. “I don’t think I can live with umma anymore.”

“Don’t cry Cailey, what’s wrong? Don’t cry, I’ll be right there. Hang on, ok?”

My father hangs up, and I’m left alone with my mother. She stands over me, arms crossed over her chest, watching as I struggle to get all of my belongings to fit into one suitcase. Her eyes dare me to forget even one thing.

“Can I come back for these?” I point to my bookcase. It is stuffed to the brim, every square inch taken advantage of. I haven’t even read half of them.

“You don’t actually think you’re coming back here do you?” My mother sneers in Korean. “I am never letting you step foot into my house ever again.”

I look down and clench my jaw, but I cannot say anything. All I can do is pack my bags as she wants and walk out the door without looking back. It is all my fault after all. When I get to the front of my house, my father is already waiting for me. Just as I am about to walk out, my mother calls out to me.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” I can already hear the uncertainty in her voice. She will give in soon. “Why are you being so stubborn?”

I ignore her and look over the gate at my father. He waits patiently outside of his car, dressed in a button down and slacks appropriate for work. He has run here at a moment’s notice. Just for me.

“Hi, abba,” I say while opening the gate, “I missed you.”

“I missed you, too.”

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