His World

His World

A Chapter by MeratheRestless

Hot water, kimchi, and the mustiness of the floor mats they slept on. Joon could not pinpoint a time when the smell had not permeated his paternal grandparent's Soviet Era two room apartment. The home was spotless down to the square inch, but you couldn't scrub away the scent of age.

"Good morning, Joon!" His teenage cousin, Yi, chirped. She pushed a woven tray with several little tin bowls on it closer to him. Knelt down on the beautiful turkic rug that padded the front room, beside where he slept, she had obviously been told to wait for him to wake up.

Carrot salad, kimchi, and rice with his personal pair of metal chopsticks and a tin mug of steaming tea. Joon raised himself on one elbow then shifted to sit up with his legs folded in front of him in front of the tray. He had arrived home to Bishkek the previous evening exhausted and gone straight to sleep the moment he took off his shoes, t-shirt, and laid on the floor. At some point in time his grandmother had come and laid down near him just like she did every night, cosleeping being an integral part of traditional Korean childrearing. He did not recall when she joined him, but the whirring of sewing machines in the kitchen told him she had been awake for hours. Long enough to cook this meal for Yi to serve him and settle down to her seamstress work.

"How is First Uncle?" Yi asked tentatively.

And so began the inevitable questions about his reunion with the two self-righteous aggressors he was forced to call his parents.

Seok-Eun, with his distinctive height, chestnut brown hair, and blackish blue eyes, was the first of their shared grandmother's three sons. Mi Ran had given birth to him in Vladivostok in 1971 at the tender age of 17 as the result of an assualt shortly after she'd managed to cross the border from DPROK the previous year. He was not the son of the man they knew as their grandfather, the fellow homelander the desperate teenage mother soon married, unlike his two younger brothers, and remained little more than a legend to the nieces and nephews he'd never met. The situation wasn't much better with regards to his own children. Joon had needed to be shown a picture of his father and mother in order to recognize them at the airport in Houston.

"First Uncle and his wife are well with their big house and fancy car, happy as ever without us." Joon grumbled after swallowing the heaping spoonful of rice he'd hurriedly stuffed in his mouth. He quickly followed up with a large piece of Kimchi wobbling between his chopsticks. Weeks abroad had made his fingers clumsy.

Yi observed him quietly for a few moments as he practically inhaled the tray of food before blurting out, "Did they at least feed you while you were there? I thought Americans love to eat!"

He ignored her, because he was still pissed at his parents for how they'd treated him and Albina and Yi did not deserve the brunt of his anger. The 16 year old had not even been born when all this drama started. She was a normal teenager fascinated by the United States and American culture.

"Yi, you go home now and leave your cousin alone in peace. He is very tired." Second Uncle, her father and Grandmother's middle son, called out from the kitchen.

Obediently she rose to her feet and exited her grandparents' apartment to return her own family's, which was two floors down in the same building. Third Uncle aka Uncle No Good, lived across the courtyard in another building, still on the same block. Joon could not remember a time when he had not called his grandparents' apartment home and roamed freely between here and the apartments of his uncles. Despite the freedom though, he had enjoyed returning home every single night to take his bath and fall asleep beside Grandmother, who was the main one responsible for raising him Korean. Their relationship was so psychologically intimate that he had at times called her 'Umma', something Korean kids call their mothers.

It was the heat of the day outside, a time to stay in if at all possible, yet Joon could not stifle his agitation and dressed to go outdoors. Not that he needed any excuse to go to Third Uncle's place, because he'd always been welcomed, however when Grandmother asked, Joon said he needed to thank him. What the thanks was for was obvious.

Down six flights of stairs, 100 paces diagonally whilst trying not to get hit by a ball children were tossing between themselves, up a single flight of stairs, and he entered without knocking. There were only two people who ever did that, well one now, and his step cousin, Misir, barely glanced away from the TV screen as he kicked off his shoes. Third Uncle had been shacking up with 21 year old Misir's mother for as long as either of them could remember.

"Tired of your granny already?" Uncle No Good asked, his back propped up against the wall and head lolling from exhaustion or a hangover or both.

"Do you have time to talk?" Joon got straight to the point.

"Don't I always, Nephew?" His uncle yawned. "I've been waiting for you to come. You know how hard I worked to get you back home so quickly after you said you were going to kill Seok?"

"Thanks..." Joon said sheepishly as he made himself comfortable on the floor. "For everything." He meant that from the bottom of his heart tears welling in his eyes. As far as he was concerned, troublemaking jailbird or not, this man was his father. Some of his most fond childhood memories included Uncle No Good. "The only thing I can thank Seok for is this bruise on my face."

"I figured as much." Uncle No Good patted the snake that marked him from sacrum to the nape of his shaved head pretending not to see the tears. His cotton shirt was unbuttoned and draped over his shoulders revealing more tattoos. At 6'1" he was not someone most people wanted to pick a fight with. "Did they ask about her?"

Joon went rigid and shut down emotionally eyes narrowing into slits. Through gritted teeth he hissed. "Of course they did, but what was I supposed to tell them? If they cared so much about us then they would know."

"So they did not see what's on your shoulder?" Uncle No Good asked calmly.

Joon screwed up his face in confusion.

"Calm down, I saw it while you slept."

"No they didn't see it." Joon assured him settling down once more. "I was just walking out of the tattoo parlor when I called you. After your brother did this to me I never went back to their home for obvious reasons."

He glanced over at the simple shrine set up in a far corner and remembered that he needed to pay his respects. Not that he was anywhere near a strict Buddhist. It was the familiarity of the ritual and Joon took special solace in the routines of his youth.

"She was very enlightened for her age." His uncle easily figured out his train of thought. "I still remember the day I brought you  home to Mother." An unspoken invitation to be told a story.

Eyes fixed firmly out the window on the breathtaking Tien Shan mountains on the city's outskirts, Joon accepted the invitation. His soul needed the balm after the brutal 9 day long mindfuck he'd just endured. In a few days when he'd soaked up enough comfort and familiarity to feel like himself again, he'd invite Albina out to do something together. No doubt she was equally busy at the moment telling her family and friends all about her trip to America.

"Or maybe I should tell you about the day I was stunned to be introduced to your mother in Seoul by Seok....and saw you nestled in her womb, already 6 months old."

This was a change.

Grandmother had told him that he was 4 years old before he ever laid eyes on any of them.

© 2017 MeratheRestless

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Added on July 26, 2017
Last Updated on August 28, 2017




Really there's not much to tell. I study in university, work a part time job, go to Kingdom Hall twice a week, out preaching at least twice per month, and spend the rest of my time at home. Don't like.. more..