February 5, 2020
You’re incredible,” I say.
“Why? I need reasons.” Keith responds.
“Because it’s just who you are.”
I look over. He’s opening his computer as I type.
“Are you working?” I glance over as my fingers pitter-patter across my keyboard.
“Aren’t you writing? What did you want me to do?” His face is all question marks.
“Sit and fawn over me. That will make you even better.” I laugh.
We are sitting in bed. Both of us in a Korean food coma. Thank you, Poetree Cafe. You never let us down.
Miss Kim came at 5. Our saving grace for an evening out. Earlier, we talked over a plate of bulgogi kimbap. K-pop videos crooning in the background. On my way to the bathroom, I looked up to see a smooth-faced, twenty-something in grainy black and white, one tear slipping down his left cheek.
Just another sad love song. The object of his angst an almond-eyed Korean girl.
These days, I can breathe a little more. All that was wrong with the world is slowly tipping itself right-side up. The bumps and lumps in the road are smoothing out.
Our meal comes, and we talk about white male privilege and debate whether women and men have equal rights yet.
“I mean, take Joe Pesci, he’s short and awkward looking. A woman with the same talent as him, who was overweight or ugly. She wouldn’t have had the same opportunity back then.”
I’m hypothesizing. Keith has an opportunity to get a word in as I shovel a spoonful of kimchi omurice into my mouth.
“Whoa-whoa-whoa,” As a Sicilian-Italian male, Keith has taken this as an affront to all great Italian actors, “Joe Pesci is a damn good actor. If a woman had the same talent, she’d have no problems in Hollywood.”
“Says the white man sitting across from me.” I snicker. “I’m talking about back then, Keith. A woman had to look a certain way and play a certain part.”
I don’t add the word “objectification,” but I’m thinking it.
He slurps up a noodle from his bowl of jjamppong. He’s finally adapted to Korea’s version of spicy, about a thousand and five times hotter than America’s.
“But seriously, I know there’s the ‘me too’ movement now, and women are getting their footing BUT it’s still not an equal opportunity society. I think it won’t be until we can see all people as human and not box them up and segment them based on this group or that group. The piece we are missing is empathy. We need to create an open dialogue, listen to each other even though we disagree.”
The waitress comes back with the check, bowing slightly, smiling as I finish my last swig of peach soju.
The car ride is just as animated. We bustle into the house with a flourish.“
Miss Kim, Mom, we’re home.” I chime out as the door closes. “Mom, we have to take you to this place. It’s so good. Like really authentic Korean. I had this really, really thin omelet folded around Kimchi fried rice . . .”
Mom interrupts. “Oh, you mean omurice.”
“And bulgogi kimbap. Have you ever heard of that?” Keith says with amazement.
“Yeah. Sound good. I like omurice.” Mom says.
The night quiets down. I give mom her evening meds and insulin. I chart the medications and times for the day. And here we are, in bed, after a Wednesday evening out. Exhausted and happy.
The days are hard and long, especially for Keith as he fills in the gaps when the caregivers can’t come. But there is grace in the in-between moments. We are coming to appreciate the time we can spend debating issues we haven’t had time to think about. The effort of day-to-day survival superseding lightheartedness for the past month.
My mind drifts to last week, I was frantic and worried as I saw the redness around his eyes. I was thinking I’m asking for things I’m not entitled to. Dreaming of things I’m not entitled to have.
Those thoughts running through my brain when I spat words at him from across the room. Tears pouring down my face, saying that I couldn’t expect him to love my family as much as I do because it wasn’t really his family. Harsh words that stuck like barbs because I wanted to push him away. I wanted to prove I can do it all alone.
I felt guilty for the weight he carries for a mother that isn’t his. He teared up, put his head in his hands.
“I don’t know what else I can do. I am doing everything I can to make you happy.”
Our emotions settled into a simmer as we talked it out. I apologized for walling myself in, my go-to in times of turmoil.
He said, “Please don’t say this is not my family ever again. You are my family. You are all my family.”
And this week . . . just a few hours here and there of reprieve, and we are thinking clearly again. Reconnected. I look over at him now.
I think “you are incredible.”And I say it. “You are incredible.”
“Why? I need reasons.”
“Because it’s just who you are.”
And it’s true. It’s just who he is.