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Westminster, California. Objectives: sunny, loud, and Asian. Most of my family lived in Southern California, and our Sunday mornings consisted of Mass and late afternoon brunch. I had just moved from Hawaii, and I just became reacquainted with my surroundings. First grade gave me my first taste of a conventional childhood; I had finally stayed in one house for more than a couple months. The divorce had been hard for my mother and sister, and we had just finished running away from that sloppy split. This was the first time that I had the opportunity to bond with my aunts, uncles, and handfuls of cousins. I finally had my own room, and my relationship with my Father was stronger than ever.

School brought more friends, complete with childish games in the afterschool daycare. On special days, though, my father would visit and take my sister and me to eat in the park. Those were the days I craved for. I still miss his hugs and affectionate smiles, but that taught me early on that life indeed moves on. Happiness could not stay, but I kept my childlike behavior. My mother decided to move once again, but only a couple cities down, near Garden Grove.

The apartment was different. The cheap rough walls gave looked filthy, it’s peeling yellow-white color oozing of past owners. We had no bed, just a twin mattress on the floor that my sister and I shared while my mother slept outside on the pullout couch in the combined living-dining room. Our sleeping situation worked out though, her nights back in school kept her up at all hours studying after working as a waitress in a local Japanese restaurant. Oddly enough, I had no problem with that life. My mother’s love and hard-work combined and became a sort of glue that held our family together. Her first attempts at cooking and burning the spaghetti noodles were the only problems that I faced then. She never stopped studying or working, she constantly struggled to make her family’s life better. Her days were filled of classes in the morning, followed by waiting tables at night, a quick dinner for three, and finally long study hours until the early morning. She was like a moving train, never stopping for any reason. She was the reason we survived.

A couple times every week, I would see my father again. He would bring me and my sister lunch from KFC, a delicacy compared to the food that we could afford. He looked like a superhero, ready to swoop me up at any notice. Seeing him gave me relief, a sign toward a hopefully normal life.

I got out of school one day, happy to spend the rest of the evening reading more books and playing tag with friends. Instead, I saw a familiar face holding his hands out for me: my father was ready to pick me up. The unexpected visit filled me with energy, and my sister and I clambered into his cheap car, as we continued on our way to an undetermined destination. I fiddled with the blue silky interior while he drove. I glanced up and squinted at the rear view mirror that gave me a perfect view of his face. His face had filled with more wrinkles, eyes puzzled with determination. I inherited those eyes, so my mother says. His were a shade darker than mine, but this time, they were almost black set with his plan. He caught my eye and smiled at me. I grinned back, squealing in excitement.

We drove around and eventually ended up at a carnival. He opened up the doors and I looked up in wonder. Flashing fair lights brought me into frenzy, cotton candy and booth games tempted me. I ran around trying to touch everything, a childish attempt to feel and experience everything I saw. I begged for the green cotton candy, ran onto the house of horror, and squeezed my father’s hands on the Ferris wheel. I went on every carnival ride and gimmick possible. I won a fish and received new light-up shoes. The day was perfect as I ran back to the car, glancing down at my feet to see the bright flashing red lights flicker against the pavement.

The ride home was silent. I wondered how the atmosphere could shift so quickly. He was silent as he drove on the road with horrible driving posture. My sister and I followed suit: this was quiet time. I decided we were all tired from the day of activities, but I felt uncomfortable and scared. I tried to catch his eyes as the trip continued, but this time his familiar dark eyes were set on avoiding mine. We hit yellow lights the whole ride, he slowed down while every car sped up. He was buying time.

We arrived in the apartment complex parking lot and slowly walked up the steps. He knocked and the door opened. Yelling ensued. My sister ushered me into our small room and we sat there motionless on the red bed sheet on the floor. I stared down at my new fish, a goldfish, unsure of what to do. I glanced up at my sister and she stood there blocking my access to the door. I thought everything was better, but it seems to have gotten worse. I wanted to cry, but the tears refused to pour out. Instead, I stood there waiting for indications of what to do.
After a few agonizing minutes, the door opened, my mother stalked in and started to pack our things. She walked back out, but this time, I followed her out. My father was red in the face, eyes squinted and slouching. He was in position. This time however, my mother was ready. They began yelling once more unabated. I clutched onto my belongings, in attempts to push myself into the deepest corner of the room. My nails dug into my skin but I did nothing to release my grip. I shut my eyes, struggling not to breathe too loud: I wanted to disappear. Suddenly I hear a Pop! My new green balloon had burst. My mother shook her head, suddenly aware of her surroundings, and continued to shove my father out, holding back the tears she refused to shed. She pulled up her hair, took a deep breath, and went back to work.
Moving boxes reappeared and I knew the happiness was gone.

In a few months, the fish died. I outgrew the shoes. I forgot his face.





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