You were the brightest thing in my life. Your presence came to me like a shooting star, pleasant and surprising. And abruptly crashed my world. My life before you was just me going through the motions. I did whatever your grandmother tells me to and was but another extension of her. I didn’t have my own thoughts, own plan, own future. I took every day as it came and lived like this till I met him.
I was a child then, and he was an established businessman who was a pleasant change of view compared to the workers at the inn. I fell for all his honey-coated words and for the first time; I thought about my future. I didn’t know who he was then, but whatever I knew, I loved. I loved him enough to bear him a child. So, when I found out he was married, my heart broke into a million pieces. I never thought my heart would heal and beat again until I met your father. He was the one who gave me a home. He was the one that was by your side ever since your big eyes first opened. He is my husband, and he is your father.
Even so, there were times that I wanted to tell you who your father really was because I thought it was something you should know, but every time I look into your eyes, the words get stuck. You were born an adult. The war was difficult on everyone, but especially for a child like yourself. The light in your eyes dimmed with every waking moment. From every moment you had to go to school and hear all the insults from the others. Every moment where you had to bow down and keep quiet for fear of getting abused. Every moment you had to parent your brother because the Japanese unfairly locked your father up. Every moment you had to learn about your footing as a Korean in Japan during the war. I didn’t want to be the one that completely took away the glimmer in your eyes by telling you your half of your parentage was false. I felt like it was my duty to protect the little innocence you have left, to shield you from the terrible curveballs life tends to give. You may not be my husband’s son, but you are unequivocally mine, which was why a part of me left with you the moment you cut off contact with me.
I knew you would blame me. I knew it would take you a long while before you come to terms. But I never knew how much you hated me for it. You and your brother were the reasons I breathe, and never in a thousand years would I imagine I was the reason you decided not to.
If I could rewind time, I wished that I had never visited you. No, I wished I never gave birth to you. Not once in my life have I ever regretted having you, but when he told me how you put a bullet between your brows, the gut-wrenching pain of disgust and torture you must have felt, the screams and the cries minutes before you took a gun, the hour-long seconds of sorry and regret and rage you must have felt as the bullet left the barrel, I never want any of my flesh and blood to feel the way you did. If I didn't have you, you would never have to suffer, and you wouldn’t have to leave before seeing your children grow up. You brought the biggest smiles to my face, pride in my chest, and the feeling of happiness and warmth I never thought I could feel, but all I gave you was below mediocrity and then crushing pain. It isn’t fair. I wasn’t fair. If I didn't have you, I wouldn’t have married. I wouldn’t have come to Japan and become a family with your aunt. I wouldn’t have had a second child, and I wouldn’t have a semblance of a proper family. I would just have worked until my bones caved or until I died in the war. Those endings I would prefer if it meant that you could’ve lived a perfect life. Perhaps in another life with another family where it didn’t end with you dying in pain and alone.
I was too selfish. I wanted to see you without thinking of how you felt. I should have let you live your life with no baggage from your life, just like you wanted. I shouldn’t have asked to see your children when I knew you told them they didn’t have a grandmother. There were a lot of things I wished I didn’t do, but if I knew that day when I visited you were the last day you’ll ever be here, I would embrace you one last time, and tell you just how much I love you and how I can’t wait to see you again.
Like how the sun longs to see the stars in the morning sky, I will never forget you, my dear child.
*inspired by the book Pachinko*
© 2022 Alison Lian