Goodbye For Always
23 year old Joon no longer felt the unrelenting burn of the needles piercing his skin as he lay shirtless on the tattoo artist’s bench. His mind had checked out of his body, not because of the pain, but rather against his will. He could literally feel himself being dragged back across the oceans to another land and time, a world away from Texas and the English garble that clouded his thoughts constantly.
His girlfriend, Albina, reached forward to brush a stray lock of his poker straight dark brown hair from his sweaty forehead. Her touch failed to rouse him though. She turned to the tattoo artist with a look of concern since while Joon’s English skills were poor but improving, Albina’s command of the English language was non-existent.
The walls of the shop fell away. As the language changed to match what was in his head he began to succumb to the feeling. Though he supposedly by law belonged here, in his long estranged mother’s homeland among her people the blacks and menagerie of other races that comprised the American identity, his heart told him otherwise. From the moment he had landed on this soil at the beginning of the month, he’d been counting down the days until the reunion he was bribed into ended and he returned home. His real sweet true home with the familiar faces that had been his world for most of his life: his paternal grandmother, uncles, and cousins.
There would be just one thing or rather one person that wouldn’t be waiting for him.
“Can you even understand what all this Korean stuff means?” The long blond haired man asked taking a break.
“Mama black, apa eurasian, halmi korean. Three languages.” Joon explained as best he could. “The Korean I speak best.”
In his head he thought I wrote it on the paper for you, you simple minded American, so don’t you think I know the words?!
“1994-2005. That’s kinda young.” The man continued apparently trying to glean information about the tattoo’s significance.
It was a conversation Joon was not prepared to have without anyone, least of all strangers and followed closely by his estranged parents. They pestered him incessantly for information. He was getting berated, browbeaten, and cussed out in three languages on a daily basis because of his unshakable silence. His I-Phone vibrated in his back pocket and without concern for the quality of the piece on his shoulder he reached back to retrieve it.
“Hey, man, next time tell me if you’ve gotta move!”
Joon ignored him settling back into position, head turned towards the wall as he swiped away on his phone. "Jaljayo, halmeonineun dangsin-eul salang!" He said aloud knowing he would not be understood. Good night, Grandma loves you! Several times each and every day since he was seen off at the airport, he had received these types of messages from his family, which were meant to remind him of where home was. The only time he smiled was when he read their words.
"Are we going to meet with your parents again this evening?" Albina asked in Russian.
"Nyet!" Joon snapped back at her without meaning to. No! Seriously he had just about all he could take of those crazy demanding people.
What they wanted from him he did not know, but he obviously wasn't giving it to them and they didn't seem too interested in getting to know him, although they'd bribed him and paid for his trip to get him here. No even his father, who despite being half-white, spoke Korean as his native tongue and had knowingly trusted his children's upbringing to his Korean mother, could make him understand what he was doing wrong. Both of his parents became furious and hostile whenever he mentioned his grandmother for some reason. They made him wish that he was never born.
"I'm sorry." Albina apologized needlessly brushing away the tears he did not know were in his eyes and stroking his bruised right orbital socket.
His father's ringed left hand had slammed into his head the previous evening,when Joon could no longer take their verbal abuse in silence like a cowed simpleton and screamed at them. "You are NOT my parents! I will NEVER love or want you crazy liars!" His mother had looked like she had been slapped and his father had instantly pounced, erecting himself from the couch to his full two meter height and crossing the den of their home in two long strides. Father was painfully thin and son was only a few inches shorter, but Joon had been knocked clean off of his feet into a wall. Wordlessly he and Albina, who had rushed over to check on him, had left and Joon vowed to never return.
If they thought he was lost before, they really wouldn't hear or see hide nor hair of their son now!
"No, no, never." He said aloud in Russian to Albina. "We are going home to our real sweet true home. This country and its' people they are not mine. I've never even had a US Passport. My father has been here for 20 years, trying to be American, but I'll never be. I'd take DPROK citizenship before I ever filed for a US Passport."
They sat in companionable silence for the rest of the appointment, paid, and then left. Joon knew his grandmother was going to have a fit when she saw the tattoo and liken him to one of his ne'er do well uncles, who was covered in tattoos and regularly put his parents to shame. With two out of three sons who had displeased her already, she didn't need the family's prized first grandson getting reckless and rebellious too.
"Mwe poidem domoi." Joon repeated like a broken record barely noticing Albina who clung to his arm. We're going home.
His I-phone rang again and it was Albina who pulled it from the back pocket of his dark wash jeans to hold up to his ear. Her round broad nosed Kyrgyz face looked up at him inquisitively as he mindlessly said, "Allo?" When his watery dark chartreuse eyes narrowed into slits she knew exactly who was calling.
"Even if we never see you again, you owe us at least that much."
Joon mashed the End button so hard he discolored the screen. Then though he knew it was way too early in the morning, he dialed up a familiar number. His Uncle No Good answered groggily on the second ring.
"Nephew?" Joon could hear the drunkenness in his uncle's voice, however he was so used to it that he wasn't put off. Uncle No Good might have been a shameless jailbird, but he was a damn good gambler and always had money which he unhesitantly used to take care of his eldest brother's children.
"Get me out here before I kill your brother!" Joon shouted his outrage into the phone.
"Nephew....give me 30 minutes to make the necessary arrangements and calm the hell down while I'm at it." His uncle assured him without asking for any details.
Temporarily consoled by the promise of a speedy homecoming, Joon stroked Albina's flowing black hair and let his mind wander again. He didn't know what else to do with himself, well not if he didn't want to have the little red book and identification documents in his pocket confiscated by the American police and be stranded in this strange place indefinitely. His eyes scanned without finding any familiarity. For the life of himself he could not summon a single memory based on his surroundings.
"Farewell for always, America." He sighed as his phone vibrated again. "At least I will remember this departure."