1. The Eighth Time
The old man looked at me and smiled. His beard fluttered in the wind while he whispered, “You know this boat rocks exactly seven times, right?”
I felt myself nod, when suddenly the boat lurched dangerously and I grabbed a giant bread stick to steady myself. Tiny dolls were running around wiping the liquorice sheets dry. I wondered if I should offer some help but refrained myself from asking; rainbow shoes don't make up the best attire for cleaning.
I took a bite from a passing cloud. It cried out in pain and scowled at me before it fled to a nearby cave under the giant mast for some respite from the rain. The sun however, seemed to enjoy it and shined brightly under the shower. It looked really delicious, the pouring water slipped off its creamy body slowly, very slowly, as if deliberately elongating the time spent brushing against such a delicacy. There, could you smell it? Damp earth warmed up to the idea of growth and green shoots slowly emerged from barren lands. And the ship lurched once again – was it the one before the last and final one?
I wish they could stop singing, I wish I could start instead. The black cat yelled out as it flew by, “Stop that now, will you?” It was as if it could read my mind, stopped me before I started. The chocolate bird walked by, with the annoying arrogance it was born with and muttered, quite audibly, “High time, isn't it?”
And I knew it was time to go, right before the last and final lurch.
I reached out for the cell phone and fumbled with the keys, fingers strained to remember which button to press while they shook along with the vibrating phone. Finally, the right button pressed itself and my eyes opened, one at a time, adjusting to this odd reality we live in.
6:30 am. It takes me seven alarms in the morning to get up. Once, I decided to be lazy and added the eighth; I woke up after my high school graduation ceremony. Just as well, my neon robes would not have pleased my parents who travelled around the globe to see my graduate. That night, their displeased faces declared that they had decided to halve the monthly allowances that they put in the bank seemingly for me – I think they still put money in there every month.
I don't think I want to shorten the alarm count to 6 yet. I think I will do that they day I find myself with a reason to get out of bed earlier in the morning. For now, I had to suffice with the craving for hot tea to drag myself out. As I walked to the kitchen wearily after a long night's sleep, I looked around to check if there would be any self righteous interferences to my aimless wandering this morning. Fortunately, it looked like a good day and the entire flat was empty.
As the tea brewed itself, I drummed my fingers on the kitchen platform. I was waking up slowly. Watching the water bubble up, I yawned and stretched and wondered what to do today. Pouring the hot tea into a mug till it was full to the brim, I walked back into my room carefully balancing the mug so as to not spill any of my tea – I would have some sips less to drink and the room mates won't appreciate another stain on the already embellished carpet.
“Two more steps before I can set the cup down” I thought as took another strategic step when the earth shook itself like a wet dog.
I yelped painfully as the hot tea drenched through my clothes and burned my skin. I grabbed my vibrating phone from my pocket and my half confused brain apprehended that it was not an eighth alarm or an earthquake but a phone call at the ungodly hour of 10 am. I punched the 'receive call' button and barked, “What?”
After hearing some incomprehensible sounds, I realised that my mother was actually speaking a completely different language. I took a deep breath and hoped to remember words I had used years ago without having to think about it and proceeded to say, “Mum, calm down. And whatever it was that made you call me, start explaining it again please.”
“... and I've booked two plane tickets for you so you can get to know him instantly before the wedding and of course you need to brush up on your language, you have been away too long honey. And we definitely have to do something about those outlandish garbs you have become so accustomed to wearing, they simply will not do...”
“You are getting married again? When did you leave Pa?”
“Me, oh goodness me, girl! Whatever made you think I am getting married? I was talking about you of course.”
I laughed out loud – just a little before the panic struck. Now awake, full and proper, I was definitely unhappy that this wasn't one of my myriad dreams.
“What on earth makes you think I am getting married?” I whispered down the phone, a little confused but mostly annoyed now. I am 21, live in a developed country and lead a completely normal life – what would make this woman believe I would agree to getting married in a way that even the people from stone age referred to as 'the ways of the people back in the day'.
“I've sent you your plane tickets. Get to Seoul as soon as possible. I know you'll try not to but you must know some...”
I never heard how that conversation went. In quick, long steps, I paced to the window, opened it with a lot more force than it really needed and threw the phone as far as I possibly could.
For problems I haven't heard, I'll never need to find an answer.