Sunset Revenge of the Korean Boys
The Third Chapter
The sign was clear, no one was to trespass, a chain link fence circumvented the house as construction was under way. But no sign and no fence, could have stopped the kids from reclaiming what was rightfully theirs, a stadium to hold their first water gun fight together as an unmediated tribe of misfit Asian boys. Hanmi pointed his Super Soaker to Daniel’s face and without hesitation shot him square in the nose. Hanmi didn’t know his gun was pumped at full pressure, both were stunned by the pure shock and thrill of the blast. After a momentary but glorious pause, both chuckled and ran away to find other friends to massacre. Recalling this memory, Hanmi realized that the water gun fight was the last time he saw Daniel.
Daniel was a childhood friend of Hanmi’s. They were not particularly close, there was nothing spectacular about their chemistry that compelled either of them to spend time together but they often found themselves at the same place. Both of their parents were part of the same church, and as the adults did their Christian adult things the kids were sent to other rooms to play Gamecube and invent new games with Styrofoam cups. Ah, Hanmi recalls the days before apps and social media, where kids were forced to find some meaningful way to spend their time together even if that meant fondling some plastic and hitting a Styrofoam cup into the air over and over again. Although the parents dragged them along to their secret bible prayer meetings, everyone knew that the kids found no greater joy than to be stuck together with nothing but each other’s boredom to vanquish. Maybe because their boredom exceeded their capabilities, or maybe because it was a sunny day, the kids decided to bring their water guns.
The neighborhood that Daniel lived in was under construction, the road was incomplete, jetting off into uncultivated land, truly this is where the sidewalk ended. Towards the end of the road there was a series of wooden frames, pre-houses if you will, that had the bare skeleton of what would later be a middle class suburban paradise. The kids knew that they should not be playing around on something so dangerous, so exciting, so unknown, and before anyone could question further the boys were firing their guns inside the house. Although there was no clear hierarchy amongst the boys, the kids feed off their desire to be on top. The aquatic coup-de-tat was much more than just a game, it was everything the boys ever wanted from each other. In that moment, nothing was more powerful than a squirt of water, no prejudice or reputation could stop them from laughing. In the domain of the empty house, everyone was equal, everyone was a kid, and everyone was wet.
In what land is violence and vindication venerated? Where small boys could do strange but delightful things and everything would be justified with laughter? Childhood was a land that Hanmi deeply missed, there was no other place where relationships were solely dependent on chance, were emotions only existed on the weekends, and where everyone had perfect skin and bubble butts. That’s where Hanmi left Daniel behind, in that empty house. When he shot him in the face, he sealed off a memory and closed the door off to his childhood. Daniel would only be a childhood friend, and nothing would be able to bring him back, Hanmi thought.
After the kids spent all their energy, they ran to the top of the hill where Daniel’s house stood and all six of them enjoyed a MelonBar, a Korean honeydew ice cream popsicle, and enjoyed their treats looking out at the devastation they caused below. It was a pleasant moment, Hanmi and Daniel sitting side by side. If Hanmi knew what he knew now, he would have spent more time with each lick and savored every drip of ice cream as it melted in the sun. As the breeze cooled impassioned hearts and as the puckering of lips subsided, Hanmi was utterly complete. There was nothing that could have been added or subtracted to make this very moment, consuming MelonBars on top of this hill, any more full of satisfaction. Hanmi knew in this moment, that there would be no other moment that would be able to be as good as this one. How he knew, he was not too sure, but something deep down inside convinced him that the world would not see any greater amount of fun, pleasure, and completeness that the world would allow him to experience. Although the kids did not know each other that well, Hanmi finally understood what it meant to belong, to be invited to his own little communal spot on the sidewalk. As the ice cream was disappearing into small little mouths, he was initiated into a privileged part of society that he did not even know existed, the fellowship of the Korean kids whose parents screamed and prayed every other week. Or simply, friends.
Because of their high religious affiliation, Hanmi’s family knew things that they probably shouldn’t have. Hanmi found out that Daniel’s family was not that well off. They had a house and a car, but his parents fought. Hanmi knew that he wasn’t supposed to know, so the conversation of Daniel’s parents never came up. How ironic Hanmi thought, his parents hated each other too. Daniel’s mom tried to run his dad over with a car, Hanmi’s dad hit his mom with a chair, the parallel of their pain could not be any more consistent. What would have happened that in lieu of their ice cream licking, they talked about these things that ate at their tiny souls. Would they feel any less alone? Would Daniel still be in Hanmi’s life? Now a frantic 20-something, Hanmi wished that he would have stayed in touch. Did Daniel go to college? Did he ever loose his virginity? Did he still go to church? We could have been best friends, how nice that would have been, Hanmi thought. Hanmi never had any close male friends, and that memory is the closest to what he thought that might have felt like.
But the memory is so perfect, the water gun fight, the hill, the ice cream, the weather. How blasphemous it would be to change the past, especially when it was that good. After some thought, Hanmi decided that it was best that the boys enjoyed the day with laughter and nothing else. That day would have been transformed into something entirely different if the formula was altered, and that was something that Hanmi definitely did not want. What remained is a perfect memory and a broken past, not the worst trade off. Having a sad heart is not the worst experience. A weird shallowness seemed to have grown inside Hanmi’s chest like a quiet mold. A deep longing, a nostalgia of the past, was tugging at Hanmi’s attention. Hanmi wished he recognized his feelings back when they were children, how much he enjoyed Daniel that day.
Then it dawned upon him. It was not the super soakers, or the thrill of shooting each other pseudo indoors, not even the perfect creaminess of the ice cream, or even the breeze that made the day just the right temperature that made this memory special. It was Daniel. It was spending time with a childhood friend that he never got the chance to grow up with. And as the mold deepened its roots into Hanmi’s body, his soul was being filled with a different feeling altogether.
Love is unfair like that, timing messes everything up. Hanmi lied down on his poorly upholstered couch, unable to define his relationship with this memory. Having a slight craving for MelonBar, Hanmi closed his eyes, inhaled and muttered under his breath,
“I miss Daniel.”
I guess this is what love feels like.