Iowa Writes

JOOWEON PARK
Mother II


At the funeral hall, I sit next to Mrs. Lee, my mother's friend. Mrs. Lee's little hands lightly tremble, but her eyes catch the florescent light from the ceiling. "You were your mother's thunder child," she says to me. "Your mother was different, and I have regretted a little that I wasn't like her. My husband was like your father and lived with his mistress. He sometimes came back to sleep with me, but I was angry at him and was determined to never let him do it. I'd pinch my baby son sleeping beside me and make him cry so that my husband couldn't touch me anymore." Mrs. Lee looks at her son sitting across the table and smiles, and the son smiles back at her. "But your mother let your father come to her, and that's why you are here. She built the Great Wall of China in one night.  When I was young, I thought my choice was right, but as I got older, I wished I had let him spend the nights with me so that my son could have had a sibling. I now think your mother was right. She had you because of that."

At the funeral hall, I sit next to Mrs. Lee, my mother's friend. Mrs. Lee's little hands lightly tremble, but her eyes catch the florescent light from the ceiling. "You were your mother's thunder child," she says to me. "Your mother was different, and I have regretted a little that I wasn't like her. My husband was like your father and lived with his mistress. He sometimes came back to sleep with me, but I was angry at him and was determined to never let him do it. I'd pinch my baby son sleeping beside me and make him cry so that my husband couldn't touch me anymore." Mrs. Lee looks at her son sitting across the table and smiles, and the son smiles back at her. "But your mother let your father come to her, and that's why you are here. She built the Great Wall of China in one night.  When I was young, I thought my choice was right, but as I got older, I wished I had let him spend the nights with me so that my son could have had a sibling. I now think your mother was right. She had you because of that."
        I've always thought traditional Korean wives were too obedient to refuse their husbands' requests. Then why did Mother accept Father that night? They had been separated for twelve years, and Father already had four kids with his mistress. Didn't she feel disgusted at him? If so, why didn't she reject him like Mrs. Lee did her husband? Did she wait for him for twelve years, the man who left her and his own kids with no money? Was it for lust? For love? I can only remember Mom calling him names, and yet she never cursed him, never said he should die.
        Mrs. Lee asks me about my family, and I respond. She asks more questions, and I answer briefly. But my mind is far away. To continue our conversation, I have to stop myself from falling into the slow whirlpool inside my mind. My mother's face floats in it.

After my mother's body was turned into ashes and poured into a white-jade urn, my siblings and I went through mother's possessions. Books of Buddhist sutra, and many Buddhist rosaries. When I looked into her black closet decorated with mother-of-pearl, I found a small, worn-out notebook under her silk Hanbok skirts carefully folded in the bottom drawer. The black pocketbook was so old that its edges were crumbling. I'd seen her keep notebooks for phone numbers and her study of Buddhism, but none of them were that small, that old. I opened its paper cover, and the first page, badly browned, was blank with no lines. I flipped a few more pages. When I reached the fifth page, I found some short notes written in pencil. On the next page, a few sentences were recorded in the same handwriting, followed by a few more lines on the subsequent  pages. The skewed, old-fashioned penmanship looked familiar. It was Mother's.

He left again, and it will be another six months until I see him again.  But he never comes to our house. . . . because of her. When he comes to town, he is always with the woman. I wish he came without her. I want to see him without her.

April 18th. He came without the woman for the first time after we were separated. He spent the night in our house—in our bedroom. I don't know what this will be for me, but he came. He really did.

I found I am pregnant. The shaman said he would come back to me if this baby was a boy, and I prayed for this baby to be a boy. I hope it is a boy.

The baby was born in winter. It is a girl. I heard the woman had a baby a few months after me, and it is a boy.

He has never visited our town since that day, April 18th. Even with the woman. Why doesn't he come?
   
The shaman said his door closed forever when my baby girl was born.

Why doesn't he come? . . . Why doesn't he come?

                                                                        Why doesn't he come?

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


JOOWEON PARK

Jooweon Park was born in Seoul, Korea.  She graduated from the University of Iowa in 2012 with a Bachelor's degree in English, with a concentration in creative writing.  She lives in Iowa with her husband.

Visit yesterday's page for Mother I.

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on September 19, 2014

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