She glances up at me again but shows no sign that she recognizes me, even though I've been here every day for the last week. To her I'm just another anonymous face, another applicant, another someone who wants something from America.
In the end, she chose both. Korean and American. American and Korean.
So they would know where they were from.
So they would know where they were going.
One day in the future, the meaning of irie will move on, and it will become just another word with a long list of archaic or obsolete definitions. "Is everything irie?" someone will ask you in a perfect American accent. "Everything's irie," you will respond […] Neither of you will know about Abraham or the Rastafari religion or the Jamaican dialect. The word will be devoid of any history at all.
Maybe I should give up. I don't know why I haven't yet. The universe is clearly trying to save me from myself. I bet if I looked for signs about parting ways, I would find them.
When they say the heart wants what it wants, they're talking about the poetic heart—the heart of love songs and soliloquies, the one that can break as if it were just-formed glass.
They're not talking about the real heart, the one that only needs healthy foods and aerobic exercise.
Does he want to know how it feels to be undocumented? Or how I keep waiting for someone to find out I don't belong here at all?
Probably not. He's looking for facts, not philosophy, so I write them down.
When Natasha decides to wear hers in an Afro, it's not because she's aware of all this history. She does it despite Patricia Kingsley's assertions that Afros make women look militant and unprofessional. Those assertions are rooted in fear—fear that her daughter will be harmed by a society that still so often fears blackness.
"Doesn't matter. People always ask where I'm from. I used to say here, but then they ask where are you really from, and then I say Korea. Sometimes I say North Korea and that my parents and I escaped from a water dungeon filled with piranhas where Kim Jong-un was holding us prisoner."
Of all the ways today could've gone, I couldn't have predicted this. But now I'm sure that everything that's happened today has been leading me to her and us to this moment and this moment to the rest of our lives.
Even Charlie's academic probation from Harvard feels like it's part of the plan to get us to this point.
I was so surprised by that. I thought I knew everything about my mom—about both of them, really—but here was this secret history I didn't know about. I asked her why she stopped and she waved her hand in the air like she was wiping the years away.
In modern times, the sisters have largely disappeared from the collective consciousness, but the idea of Fate hasn't. Why do we still believe? Does it make tragedy more bearable to believe that we ourselves had no hand in it, that we couldn't have prevented it? It was always ever thus.
The sheer number of actions and reactions it's taken to form our solar system, our galaxy, our universe, it's astonishing. The number of things that had to go exactly right is overwhelming.
Compared to that, what is falling in love? A series of small coincidences that we say means everything because we want to believe that our tiny lives matter on a galactic scale.
Yes, she'd been frustrated with him for years, but that one moment showed us all how far apart they really were now. Even Peter, who sides with my mother in all things, flinched a little.
Still. You couldn't fault her. Not really. My father had been dreaming his life away for years. He lived in those plays instead of the real world. He still does. My mother didn't have time for dreaming anymore.
Neither do I.
Should I tell him about my father's aborted dreams? Should I tell him that I think dreams never die even when they're dead? Should I tell him that I suspect my father lives a better life in his head?
I open my mouth to ask for more facts and specifics. I find them reassuring. The poem comes back to me. "'Hope' is the thing with feathers." I close my mouth. For the second time today I'm letting go of the details. Maybe I don't need them. It would be so nice to let someone else take over this burden for a little while.
Before these buildings were buildings, they were just the skeletons of them. Before they were skeletons, they were crossbeams and girders. Metal and glass and concrete. And before that, they were construction plans. Before that, architectural plans. And before that, just an idea someone had for the making of a city.
"I think all the good parts of us are connected on some level. The part that shares the last double chocolate chip cookie or donates to charity or gives a dollar to a street musician or becomes a candy striper or cries at Apple commercials or says I love you or I forgive you. I think that's God. God is the connection of the very best parts of us."
Sometimes I think my mom's worst fear is being disappointed. She combats this by trying her hardest never to get her hopes up, and urging everyone else to do the same.
"My parents are immigrants. They moved to this country for a better life. They work all the time so my brother and I can have the American Dream. Nowhere in the American Dream does it say you can skip college and become a starving artist."
"Yes," I say. "He would." But not because he's evil. And not because he's a Stereotypical Korean Parent. But because he can't see past his own history to let us have ours.
From this distance, the city looks orderly and planned, as if all of it were created at one time for one purpose. When you're inside it, though, it feels like chaos.
"What I care about is you, and I'm sure that love is enough to overcome all the bullshit. And it is bullshit. All the handwringing. All the talk about cultures clashing or preserving cultures and what will happen to the kids. All of it is one hundred percent pure, unadulterated bullshit, and I just refuse to care."
Because everything looks like chaos up close. Daniel thinks it's a matter of scale. If you pull back far enough and wait for long enough, then order emerges.
Maybe their universe is just taking longer to form.