The Driving, Part III

It was the beginning of winter, her first winter. It was also the first day of snow. The snow had apparently started coming down during the night. By early morning when it was time to walk from the house to the front of the block where the wagon wheel stood, the snow had already made a thin dusty layer on the ground. It was her first time walking on snow. It was still dark and she was walking alone. She wasn’t wearing the right winter outfit unfortunately. Her jacket was still a fall coat, not a thick winter one. She was wearing a pair of tennis shoes instead of snow boots. The tennis shoes did not have enough tracks at the bottom. But at that time, she knew nothing about the consequence of what she had put on that morning.

She came out of the house as usual. She wasn’t actually completely alone. There were a few other kids also walking to the same direction, but it was still so dark on those early morning winter days that she could barely see anyone. She started to walk as usual, trying to beat off the cold by walking a little bit faster. It was so cold that the chattering noise inside her mouth was almost deafening to her ears. Luckily she was too busy walking anyway to be bothered by the loud musical teeth. Then the first one hit her, and it hit her hard too. Wham! It was as if there were hands coming out from the ground pulling her feet forward all of a sudden. She fell hard on her bottom. Ouch, that one was shockingly hurt. It’s been so long since she fell down on her bottom. I think the last time it happened was when she learned to roller skate as a little kid. Perhaps there was another time when she was learning how to ride a bike, but those were distant memories and the cold, wet ground just snapped her mind right back to the present. She was sitting right in the middle of the street. She looked around her. Phew…a relief sigh. Luckily no one was around, she gladly thought.

She got up, brushed the snow from her jeans and bag, and started walking again. She reminded herself out loud to be careful this time. But poor baby, where was her angel when she needed one. It happened again no sooner after she had just finished her own sentence. She was obviously having a rough morning. She slipped in exactly the same manner too, almost like teasing her. That’s okay, she got up and did the same again, started walking. And again, a repeated theatrical sight. The Three Stooges could not even possibly perform better than her. What usually took about 2- or 3-minute walk became a 10-minute walk.

By the third fall, she vividly remembers her frustration. She was so frustrated to the point that she was on the verge of tears and wanting so desperately to give up everything at that moment. She also remembers the thoughts that came to her head, “How could anyone possible walk on this? I don’t know how to walk anymore!” She was considering to just go back home again and ask somebody to take her to school instead of continuing the painful walk. But then she didn’t want anyone to laugh at her or think of her as needy. She stupidly thought that she would be bothering them if she asked for help. So she sat there in the middle of the street confused, not knowing what to do. After what felt like a very long time, she finally decided to continue and got up, walking so pathetically slow and careful. Now as she’s driving the car and picturing herself doing the walk on ice, a smile is breaking up again on her face. See, she wasn’t walking. She was doing Michael Jackson’s moon walking. Her feet never strayed too far up from the ground.

On that day, she quickly learned her lesson about the snow. Respect snow. Never underestimate it. And to never let her guard down on that white beast on the ground! Actually, after having much more experience now with snow, her guess is that there was probably a layer of ice underneath the snow on that early morning, but she wouldn’t even know it at that time. She didn’t even know the difference between ice, sleet, and the many different types of snow during her first maddening experience with winter.

Oops, a stop sign. Quick, break! Snapped back from her reminiscing about the past, she’s thrown back to the present time by almost missing a stop sign. Luckily there is no other vehicle around. And no police either. She has come to an intersection, a two-street intersection. If her memory serves her right, she’s thinking that the street in front of her may be the one where she has to turn right. Still no other vehicles anywhere, and so she sits there for a minute to think. Up ahead, it looks non-promising. Just more farms and farm houses. To the right also looks the same. From her mirror, she can see that a car is approaching from behind. Time to make a decision.



The Driving, Part II

Only ten years have passed since the last time she was in this town, but she quickly realizes as she looks around how much the town has changed. It is much bigger now. The downtown is no longer igniting any memory in her head. She drives past the downtown area and heads east, doesn’t even bother to make a stop. Again, she has no clue where she’s going. No GPS, no paper map, relying on 100% intuition only.

After driving for what seems to be about 15 or 20 minutes, making a few right, left, or U turns, she finally comes into a road that looks a bit familiar. She makes a right turn and starts heading south. And then, there it is, she sees it. She’s been hoping and relying on the small likelihood that after 10 years, it is still there. It’s a wagon wheel, propped on the side of the road, marking the name of the street behind it. She can’t believe her eyes that the wagon wheel is still there, making her life so much easier now. The wagon wheel in her memory though looks so deceptively bigger than the one she’s staring at now. It is actually NOT a big wagon wheel, but a regular, decent size wagon wheel typically used back in the old, western days. Nothing special to it. Just an old wagon wheel, but with a bit of decorations of flowers and green grass around it. The wagon wheel marks the name of the street she is now making a left turn onto, the Wagon Wheel Drive. A big sigh of relief is slowly coming out of those lips. She is finally here, she whispers to herself.

It doesn’t take her long to find the house. She reduces the speed to slow down in front of a row of green lawns, and finally stops in front of the house she’s looking for. It looks exactly like how she pictures it in her memory and old pictures. Even the paint is still the same. Quiet, empty, no sign of anyone behind those big window glasses in front of the house. She remembers those big windows and the blue couches on the other side. And the piano. And pretty much the layout inside the house, everything. She remembers them way too well actually, more than the layout of the town. She spent way too many days hiding behind those walls, too shy and scared at times to come out, too embarrassed to open her mouth only to receive funny looks and chuckles from some, too self-conscious of her own “foreign” appearance. Another sigh, but this time it’s a heavier one.

The neighborhood has a suburban look and feel to it with large, luscious, green grass front yards and big, open road where kids can actually play sports on the street. An awareness suddenly comes to her that she may be attracting suspicious attention from the neighborhood. An unfamiliar car, a stranger inside. There may not be an Asian family anywhere in the neighborhood, so an Asian girl in the car with an out of state license plate is bound to draw attention. She starts to drive again, making a U turn at the next intersection. And at that moment, it dawns on her what that other feeling was she felt earlier that kept knocking at her heart during her driving into town.

It was grief. A grief for some kind of loss. A loss for what, it is not clear to her. A loss for a sense of family, or just a loss for the youth time, she can’t tell. Nonetheless, it is present. Tears are starting to come up now, slowly, and she knows it’s time to go. She leaves the scene without even remembering to take pictures. She only remembers it later after she makes the left turn at the wagon wheel, but she has no more strength to go back.

Back to the driving again, with no GPS, no map, just 100% intuition. At this moment, it is apparent to her that she is reliving the memory of those early morning rides inside the yellow school bus! She is on that route now. Yes, the awful, scary times inside the big yellow monster. The kind of pit-in-your-stomach feeling every time she was about to enter the bus and again when she arrived at the school. It’s the horror feeling, stomach churning feeling that she felt on every school day. What got her to continue waking up in the morning and still showing up to school without showing any physical or emotional symptoms as a result of the nervousness in her stomach, is still a puzzle to her now. Thinking of that school bus though, she can’t stop one particular funny memory that is now rushing into the surface, and she’s starting to smile.



The Driving, Part I

It is nearing noon. She’s been driving for almost 4 hours, stopping a few times to stretch her legs, refuel the car, and buy herself enough snacks and caffeine to last a week. Driving alone is already challenging as it is, and after a while, singing or talking to one’s self is no longer enough to keep the boredom away. Therefore, once in a while whenever she passes a scenic route, she stops at the designated stops and enjoys the view. But every time she stops, her heart is telling her to hurry back to the car and continue the driving. It is obviously somewhat impatient.

She’s approaching the town now. She can sense it. More houses are visible on each side of the street, which is a good sign that a town is nearing. Even so, she is still surrounded by farms. Field of wheat is everywhere her eyes can see.

There, a sign is finally visible. She’s right, the town where she’s heading to is about 15 minutes away. A small beam of excitement is lighting up inside. Her heart beat is beating slightly faster. But there’s another feeling there too that she’s not completely recognizing. Can’t put her finger yet to name it exactly, but for sure it’s the opposite of excitement. Whereas excitement is propelling her to want to hit the gas pedal deeper, this other feeling is nagging her to turn the car around and going back to where she was coming from. There is a battle in her head now. Luckily, the excitement has a company, curiosity. And so she keeps driving, forward.

Finally, the first exit into the town is showing up. There are actually now two or three exits into the town. She chooses the one that’s taking her into the downtown area. She has no map, no GPS, and no clue of the name of the street she’s taking or where it’s taking her other than the knowledge that she’s heading into downtown based on what she read on the sign she just passed.

The downtown that she knew of was a very small one. She never really spent time walking around or doing window shopping in the downtown area. But she does have one particular memory of the area. It has one Chinese food restaurant. THE only one in town, a rare exhibition of the surrounding area’s attempt to put the word multi onto the cultural aspect of the town. There might be a Mexican restaurant too somewhere in the downtown area back then, but she was never exposed to it, so she has no clue.

She was taken by her host family to that Chinese restaurant once. Concentrating hard now to remember any bit of memory she can recall about that experience, but she barely remembers much, not even the meal she ordered. She does remembers one thing, though, how she felt about the whole experience. And she can sum up that experience into one word, weird. She felt weird because even to her Asian taste and eyes, the food and the whole atmosphere of the restaurant looked foreign. She felt weird because even though she was an Asian person in an Asian restaurant, she felt out of place. Due to the rarity of people of her same racial and ethnic group there, she felt as if all eyes were looking at her, watching her every move with the food, as if the restaurant suddenly acquired a prompter model to show them the proper way to eat the dishes. Yes, she was using chopsticks.

She felt weird because when she finally thought she could have the one thing that she had been denied of (not deliberately) throughout her months there, it was nowhere to be found on the table. When she asked for it from the waitress, she was given a thick yellow liquid sauce. It had a strong odor to it, the kind that took her breath away, literally. She braced her self and tasted it anyway, but quickly regretted the decision and vowed never ever in her life to allow her taste bud to go through such a shocking treatment. She never since enjoyed mustard again.



Feels Like Yesterday

I’m trying something new again. I’m participating in a meme called Five Minute Friday, hosted by the Gypsy Mama. For 5 minutes, I’m to write my story or whatever it is I want to write, non-stop, and unedited. The theme is Grateful, so here is my first attempt to do this.


It was a late day in December. Cold. The holidays had passed. A little white dust of snow on the ground.

She arrived in a car. A friend drove her over from her college town. She knocked on the door, and a little guy, in his pajama, opened the door. His hair was all curls. He looked so small in that pajama. Meanwhile, she could hear a scream from inside the house. “T, don’t answer the door before I get down!” Obviously the warning came a little bit late.

The owner of the voice arrived at the door a few seconds later. Not too happy on her face. “Can I help you?” she said. “Yes, We spoke on the phone. I’m supposed to start today.” “Oh yes, that’s right. Come in, come in.” She said to the young boy, “Mr. T, don’t block the door. Let her in.” But little Mr. T was already busy with something else. He was trying to grab one of the plastic bags that she was holding in her hands. But she didn’t quite understand what the little guy was trying to do and didn’t make it easier on him to grab it. The grandmother raised her voice, “What are you doing? Move back!” “No, but I’m trying to help. I wanna help!” and he started to cry a bit. The girl at the door gasped upon realizing what the little guy was attempting to do and handed over the plastic bag. It wasn’t that heavy, but for a 3-year old skinny boy, it could weigh a ton.

Dragging the plastic bag on the floor, little Mr. T happily limping away with his good deed for the day.

That was 17 years ago. He is now a grown man, has finished his high school, and with a beautiful girlfriend. Where did time go? It feels like yesterday.



Thanks for reading.