run while you can

Six packs, a six-pack, and ‘sick’ leave.

Unwillingly expecting. One-room. Summer 2011.

The teacher’s office was quickly becoming a swarming beehive. At its center, the expecting queen was about to burst. She stood vertically, her thin arms propped against the small of her back. Her posture suggested she was at least a year pregnant. The shirt she was wearing had once fit as a dress.
She was rattled. She was not accustomed to being the center of attention. She was ready for a break. Three months leave were hers in an hour’s time. But, to her dismay, a sweating chocolate cake was poised on the table in front of her. She heard her bloated stomach growl. Embarrassed, she smiled at the women beginning to surround her. Everyone seemed to be talking at once, celebrating the coming of her second child. She hardly saw the point.

Barely through her first trimester, the doctor had told her that she would be having a girl. She was in disbelief. Another daughter seemed wrong; this child was supposed to be a boy. The doctor must have made a mistake. A female doctor might be under qualified, she had thought. She sought a second opinion.

The cake continued to mock her. Cake meant nothing to her. A birthday here, a house-warming, an anniversary, all, the same sweaty cake. Still, the desire to eat overwhelmed her. She controlled herself, staring in every direction, avoiding the dollops and layers of cream, the chocolatey monstrosity.

The second opinion had produced the same results: she would bring a second daughter into this world. When she told her husband, he too was in disbelief.
“We already have a daughter… I don’t trust that woman doctor of yours.”
“Yes. I know. I visited a male obstetrician. He…he…”
“Yes.. yes.. What did he say?”
“I.. he..” she stammered, “…a girl…”
“I see. We will try again.”
“Yes,” she replied; only she didn’t want to try again.

The chatter in the office intensified. One person remained quiet, the only male in the entire room. He never said much. She knew why. He scarcely spoke the language. Still, in silence, surrounded by women, he appeared at peace. She caught his eye. He approached.
“Ms. Cho a girl will come she said. Congratulations! I my two sisters have. Older sister and younger sister. Three kids. Really, for you, congratulations!”
She nodded. He ought to study, she thought.

Her pregnancy had been long. Longer than usual. Well past the eight month mark, the obstetrician had told her that she should consider a Cesarian. Knives scared her. The thought of cutting one human from another seemed unnecessarily gruesome, as if unassisted birth wasn’t gruesome enough. But her husband had told her the procedure was for the best, both for her and their unborn child.

The home economics teacher grabbed a knife with authority and began cutting the cake. This woman had a motherly aura. This woman had had her two children. This woman had raised her two children.
Being a mother twice-over was unnerving. She imagined two little ones: crying, feeding, messing… The home ec teacher endearingly nudged her. As queen, she took her sliver of cake first, before anyone else. She was handed chopsticks. The incomprehensible boy took his slice next. He and Ms. Cho, the Korean English teacher, began chatting, incomprehensibly.
“She will have a baby.”
“Yes. I know.”
“It will be a girl.” Ms. Cho accepted her cake-in-a-cup. She broke the last set of chopsticks in two, handed a set to the boy, and kept one for herself. (The office wasn’t well supplied with eating equipment.)
“She is pregnant.”
“I understand.”
“She will have a baby.”
“You told me.”
“It’s difficult,” Ms. Cho said, fiddling with her half-size chopsticks.
“Excuse me? To have a baby?”
“To eat.” She laughed, “And to have baby…”
A male math teacher burst into the room.
“Congratulations,” he slurred as he strategically grabbed a cup-full of cake and began devouring it with his hands.

Glowing. Seolbong Park. Summer 2011.


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