One Among Millions
I'm falling. Falling. Falling.
How did it come to this? My world is crashing so fast. Snatches and snippets of my life thus far whirl by my head, my empty, worthless head. My heart is falling. My heart is falling faster than gravity will allow, farther than there is distance to measure, until it finally stops. One among millions. No one will hear or see the end, except for me. Then again, hopefully, I might be unconscious…
Falling faster now. My heart beats faster now. When will it finally end? Do I really want it to end? Maybe, I can fall forever. I can't fall forever. We can't fall forever.
From the moment I met Cho, I was afraid. Quite honestly, he scared me stiff. His lean, tall muscle laden body radiated a sort of superhuman power, the invincibility of a higher being. He was so…beyond me. And this terrified my young mind. Though he smiled, though he coaxed in words I could never grasp, I refused to speak. Nothing I could say would ever be good enough for him to take the time to listen to. He was the nearest human to perfection I have ever met. I don't mean the genius scientist, buff body with millions of dollars kind of perfection. I mean the misguided grammar, wiry frame, and undeniably respectful eyes kind of perfection.
From the moment I met Cho, I loved him. I watched him in a trance as he walked, he talked, he ate, he moved, he tousled his hair, he fought, he taught, he joked, he improved his English, he drove (like a maniac), he occasionally complemented, he told terribly confusing stories, he kicked, he remembered, he expected me to read his mind, he muttered in Korean when he thought no one was looking, he bled, he married, he laughed, he mourned, he lived. Everything he did meant something, whether it was picking his nose, or holding me when I cried, it meant something important. His ever move was dignified and unforgettable, so I tried to soak him into me. I tried to be Cho, but perfection has yet to overcome my fatal flaws, and for that I am eternally grateful. There is only one Woo Hyun Cho. Thank God there's that many.
My ear. My left ear. Someone is screaming in my left ear. I wish they would stop. It hurts my head and I can't think. Pain…Well, at least I can feel something again. Oh geez, shut up already. It really hurts. I can't think. I have to think. I can't move, so I have to think. Knock it off, you blabbering pig, I can't think. I need to watch my life flash before my eyes before I run out of time…I think, I hope, there's a bit more left. Good. He/she/it's finally stopped. I attempt to glance over my left shoulder as well as possible. Oh. It was a lady. I guess that must be her son in the seat next to her. Poor little guy…he's so young. I bet he doesn't know that his mom has passed out, that lucky pig, I wish I could simply leave this all behind into a world of blackness. He looks so scared, if I could move I would reach out and hold him, comfort him, tell him that everything is going to be okay, tell him his mommy's going to wake up, but I can't. Poor, poor little fellow. His mommy's going to die. He's going to die. I'm going to die. Why this flight? Why now? Maybe I can just tell the stewardess that I don't feel like dying anymore…can I get a refund? Stupid "clearance sale" tickets…
Man, this is really starting to suck.
Still reeling from that wretched entrance exam, I walked into the exterior lobby. My legs felt rubbery and my eyes were as heavy as my heart that afternoon. I didn't have a very good feeling about that exam. Ugh. Not a good feeling at all. I felt more like vomiting than going to the following orientation class. What if I didn't pass? What if I wasn't accepted? I breathed deeply twice before continuing with the same thought process.
"Lighten up," I muttered to myself. "Besides, it only sixth grade…"
The sudden urge to vomit made its presence known again. Sixth grade. Wow, how time flies when you're having…well, when you're living. How ironic.
"Down the closest hall to the…left? Ummm…right?"
I glanced both ways as if I were crossing the high way. I looked left, now right, left again, back to the right, one more time to the left in case I had missed something, and to the right to wrap things up. It was a nice school, but there wasn't a single sign pointing to Classroom A201. In fact, there were no signs anywhere. All I could see were numerous stacks of chairs and desks. Five seconds. It had only been five long seconds since the Test Administrator had instructed me to "hurry along down the hall to the…" right/left.
Another girl emerged from the cafeteria behind me. My heart pounded in my ears now. Oh dear, I was screwed. She was a peer. This complicated things to a certain degree. Going solo, I could have wandered around the entire freaking campus for days looked for A201, but now…now I had to make sure I was headed in the right direction or face making a complete mockery of myself and my family, which would endanger any such social standing and I was sure that meant that I wouldn't be…
I forced what I hoped might be a confident smile. Quickly looking her over I determined that she was around my age, 9 years old, maybe 10, short, blonde, skinny; honestly, she looked like every other girl my age. I didn't note her eye color…I guess because I was too scared to look her straight in the eyes. Then I was off to the right, of course, the wrong way. Without blinking, she immediately followed. My heart pounded faster now. Oh no, she thought I knew were I was going! The closer we came to the end of the hall, the faster my heartbeat raced. Left. I should have gone left. Now this was going to have to be awkward.
"Hehe…musta taken a wrong turn back there, I guess…" I laughed nervously while turning around to retrace my steps. She was right behind me, no more than a few feet away. I shrugged lamely and she blinked in surprise. Then, slowly, she began to grin shyly. Now it was my turn to be surprised.
"Actually, I wasn't really paying attention when the teacher told me where to go…I guess that exam really took it out of me," she said loudly. Her voice nearly echoed throughout the empty school. I tried hard to stifle my laughter, but she beat me to it. We stood there like two giddy little schoolgirls…okay; we stood there as two giddy little schoolgirls giggling at the walls. I thought she was crazy, but that was all right, because I was sure I looked crazier.
"My name's Jessica," she said, not quite as loudly as before, and gave a little wave towards me.
"Oh, I'm Marjie," I replied with a subconscious mimic of her wave. I must have looked so stupid, but that didn't really matter anymore. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence after these introductions. This silence can either make or break a relationship.
"So, are you going into sixth grade too?" she asked. I nodded viciously.
"Yeah, it's going to be my first year in private school…actually, it's going to be my first year in school," I tried to explain. Her nose crinkled. Obviously I had failed. "I've home schooled 'till now…"
Her eyes widened and she grinned freely now.
"No way, that's so cool! So what's it like? My mom thought about home schooling me once, but then she said it would be like solitary confinement…for her, mind you, not me!"
We laughed together and at that moment I knew that we had it made. So we turned around and headed back to the cafeteria side by side. And she's stayed beside me for almost seven more years.