After the Divorce

After Kimiko Hahn and/or Sei Shonagon

I skip marching band practice to go to my friend’s house. We ask each other questions like would you rather wear pink or grey your entire life. I say that when I’m older I’ll probably wear more grey than pink. My friend interjects that I should choose pink, since my glasses are hot pink, a detail I’ve conveniently forgotten.

Mom describes Dad’s affair over microwaved hot links, seaweed, and rice. I am unfamiliar with late night poker. With this young Korean woman. She wants to become a hairdresser.

My history teacher holds monthly Harry Potter fan club meetings. We talk more about BBC Sherlock than Harry Potter, so she calls us out on collectively having a crush on Benedict Cumberbatch. We deny it. But before sleep, clutching rhinestone phone cases, we scroll through photos of Cumberbatch in tight purple shirts. During passing period, we whisper: our ovaries are exploding.

Mom begins a vocational program in ultrasound technology. She gives me her packets of Greek and Latin root words to read. I think I want to be a doctor.

I have no one to eat lunch with, so I volunteer in the Special Needs class. There are eight or so kids in rainbow sweatpants and worn T-shirts. We do money math with plastic coins and take walks around the building. For fun, we play JibJab cards with the kids’ faces on the projector. I devour my sandwich in five minutes – turkey, swiss cheese, and pesto, wrapped in aluminum foil.

Something has cracked me. I don’t consider myself fragile. I punched a girl in fourth grade because she talked behind my sister. Then I turned myself in.

I hurl any reminder of the new woman out of Dad’s car. Tropical air fresheners. Black plastic floral flip flops. A prescription bottle for a skin rash with her name on it. When I figure out that Dad bought his new car so she could ride in it, I write the names of my sister and me on the inside with black Sharpie.

My geometry teacher asks my sister and me to stay behind on our birthday. She lets us pick between two cakes from her classroom refrigerator. My sister chooses chocolate, I choose vanilla. While walking home, we carry the cakes carefully.

My friend gives me an orange floral notebook on another birthday. In her note, she writes that she thinks I will go to Harvard.

Although Dad takes us to a-la-carte galbi once a month, my sister and I get bored of eating the same thing. Once, we share a spontaneous meal of cheeseburgers, fries, and vanilla milkshakes at In-N-Out. When we tell Mom, she says that if Dad doesn’t help her with raising the kids, he should at least take us to eat something expensive. The next time Dad suggests In-N-Out, I panic. I want to eat galbi so Mom won’t be upset. But I don’t know how to explain this, so I scream at Dad instead.

I deliberately forget my clarinet to read Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None in concert band. I am first chair, but when we receive a Star Wars piece with a clarinet solo, the director skips it. Before middle school graduation, I still receive a certificate for being an Outstanding Woodwind.

When my small group leader asks me what I want from Dad, I tell her I just want an apology. She explains that an apology might not happen. He probably knows what he’s done is wrong, she says. Say he has his memories stored in a box. Maybe he has the key hidden somewhere, and he’s refusing to open the box. Or he might have lost the key altogether.

My sister learns how to cook from Food Network. Her cedar plank salmon is raw, but her butter-basted ribeye steak melts in the mouth.

Ashley Kim is a Korean-American writer located in California. She is the author of the forthcoming chapbook Hyangsu (Dancing Girl Press, 2023). Her poetry and short stories have appeared in Spill Stories’ anthology entitled Powerful Asian Moms, Hyphen Magazine, Stirring, Autofocus, and FEED, among others. She also reads for Variant Literature. Soli deo gloria!

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