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Horrible Trip

By , Tenafly, NJ
Humming the Mozart Concerto in G Major, I excitedly hopped in the car. The engine roared on, and I steadied myself to meet my friends whom I hadn’t seen in two years. I thought of things to say, and how to relate myself to them. I put my hand on my chest to feel my jumpy heartbeat and tried to calm down. But it was nearly impossible because I kept replaying scenarios about what could happen. ‘What if I’m not welcomed? What if I can’t be friendly with them again?’ I had been away for such a long time, and I was afraid that they would neglect me. Memories started to pop in my head as buildings blurred by.

When I was in third grade in Mun Jung, South Korea, there was a challenge that no kid could accomplish, but with my friends, I had been able to do it. It was called “The Slide Challenge”. There used to be a long slide in our town that all kids tried to go up. Anyone who could go up the slide without slipping or falling would be acknowledged as a celebrity. No one in our entire grade could do it at our height and body sizes. But I did not give up. Even though it took me a long time to persuade my friends, Steve and Sarah, to do it with me, we started and finished together. Steve would tremble whenever he saw the slide. When he was younger, he fell off once and detested to go on it again. Yet the slide was connected to a small tree house, and during the summer it would be the coolest place to be in. So on a burning August day, all three of us wanted to feel the coolness every big kid bragged about. We decided to get into that place no matter what.

Panting, on my third try up the slide, I squinted and leered at the steaming the sun. I sighed and wiped off the dripping sweat. I moved my feet as quickly as possible even though it felt like it was burning on my bare soles. Because the slide absorbed the heat, it was getting hotter by the minute. If we took a longer time, it would then be impractical to accomplish the mission. The metal slide squeaked against my sweaty feet. I tried five times, but couldn’t get on because I kept on slipping. But on the last try, I felt the cool wood sliding against my soles and knew that I had made it up to the top.

“I did it!” I smirked. Sarah looked up at me with jealousy and took off her shoes and socks off. Then she took few steps backwards, and then sprang up on to the slide. When she was about to fall back and slide back down, I desperately reached out and clutched her sweaty palm and pulled her up. Wiping her sweat off my jeans, I yelled at Steve.
“Steve! Did you see that? If you just get up to this certain point, we’ll help you up like I helped Sarah! I’m not joking!” Steve frowned with disbelief. Then he gulped in a big amount of air, did a couple of jumps on the floor and sprinted up the slide. Steve was almost here. Yet his feet slipped down the slide. I then tucked my foot on to the gap on the wooden floor, laid down and grabbed his arm. My face was gradually reddening from all the amount of energy I was using. If this continued, I would be pulled down with him. That’s not good; I didn’t think I could get up the same way again. Therefore I pulled Steve as hard as I could, and I put his worn out feet back on to the slide.
Without even knowing it, he was up on the wooden board with us, panting and laughing. We all succeeded. In relief and joy, we all lay down and ate the sticky chips that were in my pocket. To tell the truth though, I didn’t specifically know where they came from. They might have been two months old, but who cares. We ate them anyways. It’s just that a day later, Steve got a stomachache from them.

I remembered this experience with a feeling that we understood each other. However, since I left Korea when I was in fourth grade, I lost touch with them and I hadn’t spoken to them in three years. I assured myself that it was okay to be awkward in front of them. I was hoping I would get along with them like I have done before. We could all be laughing and making fun of each other again. Imagining myself sitting on the windowsill of the Pizza restaurant we were going to, I grinned.

“Do you like it that much Hannah?” my mother asked as she looked at me in the rearview mirror. I nodded. Meeting them was the reason I had been dying to visit Korea. I started to imagine how much they must have changed. ‘Did Sarah’s hair get longer? Would Steve be taller than me now?’ As my mom turned off the engine, I gulped and got out of the car with shaky legs.

When I was visiting Korea around two years ago, meeting my old friends in a pizza house was the most awkward moment I ever had in my life. When we met, heavy hip hop music boomed in the back ground with miniscule vibrations on the plates. There was an awkward silence as we blinked at each other. Staring at their faces reminded me of my last day I had in Korea, and the memories I had with them. But it seemed that day as if I was forgotten in the dark space forever alone. Sarah was constantly on her phone, calling her friends and Steve didn’t even give me a glance, and spent the time texting with his friends as if both of them weren’t interested to meet me. They never looked me straight in the eye; Also, every time I tried to talk to them, their ignorant answers started to sting my heart like needles. When the pizza came out on the waitress’s tray, I cursed sharply under my breath, regretting that I ordered it. Even though my stomach wanted food, the pizza was not an option. The pizza felt like a big rough stone stuck into my esophagus. I couldn’t taste anything. Sitting there for two hours only gulping down Coke without any conversation was the hardest and the saddest moment of my life.

Shuffling through the old memories I have had, and the reaction I saw today was shocking. After an awkward goodbye, I got into my mom’s car, and I felt the tears trickling down my cheeks. It was truly disappointing to see them act like I was a total stranger to them. It was plain sad that they didn’t count me as their friend anymore. I couldn’t help but feel that I didn’t have anyone to talk to or play with in Korea. The reason I had been dying to go to Korea was gone. The memories and all the fun I had were all gone. The past 9 years I had been living in Korea disappeared during the two hours of eating the stony pizza. I thought being two years away wasn’t so long, and wouldn’t damage our friendship. But it felt like I was so far away from where I used to stand. Even though I tried to hold back my tears, they dropped sadly one by one on to the fuzzy carpet of the backseat.





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