WHERE NANAMOES GO | MEEJUN CHUNG

 

For Alan Hutchinson

 

“What's this?” he asks pointing to a small disc on the linoleum.

I glance up from crayoning a series of parallel lines in mod-ish colors: pistachio and sherbet, avocado and ham pink.

I tell him I don't know but Ger keeps pressing and when I look up again, he is holding the tiny disc in the palm of his small hand, papery and faded near yellow.

“Oh, a ladybug. It was anyway.”

“Oh.”

He turns his hand over and lets it fall back on the floor and returns to drawing dark, muscular squiggles.

“What's that?” I ask.

“Nanamoes,” he says without blinking, his chin glistening with drool.

“I know that,” I say rolling my eyes, “but what about them?” I examine the points of the crayons he's just dumped on the floor.

He looks up with an expression that reminds me of my father and how he used to look when made to repeat himself. He swipes at one eye with the back of his hand.

“Where nanamoes go?” he demands.

I drag a dull sky blue crayon parallel to a flesh colored line.

“That's a secret,” I tell him. “But when you're older, I'll tell you. Under the crab apple tree in the back yard,” I promise.

He drops his crayon. “I'm done,” he announces and stands.

We slip on our shoes and clamber down the back porch steps into the yard.

 

 

We push empty swings. On the street, car doors slam. Between houses, I glimpse caterers foisting foil platters followed by florists hugging bouquets of white chrysanthemums.

We watch planes fly by overhead and say bye to them.

Bye plane. Bye.

 

 

“Want to go inside?” I ask with a nudge of my head toward the back door, but Ger doesn't move. He's standing in the sandbox holding a plastic mold of a turtle between his pudgy hands, and I can hear the rasp of his nails as they mindlessly scrape and excavate its underdome. He doesn't look up, his two-year old face frozen in what I used to mistake for concentration. I know better now.

“Hon,” I say at last, “is there something you need to tell me?”

His hands quiet. He raises his eyebrows and looks away.

At last, he lets out a “Nooooo.” On the last note, his eyes lift and lock with mine. Amber petaled with green, his eyes are cryptic gems and nothing easy to define. I try to read his expression - its mix of innocence, rebellion, and wariness - but give up and mentally catalogue it instead. A breeze tousles his sun-licked hair, gingery glints of summer, and also lifts up the rank smell of a dirty diaper. Ger drops the turtle mold, poker-faced still. I cast him a fish-eyed sideways glance and Ger's bluff is called. His face cracks and dissolves into cackles.

Inside, the light of the television has begun washing over my husband Ben's face. When he sees us, he rises, scoops Ger up, tosses him up into the air, and then gagging, whisks him away for a change. I take a moment to admire the transformation of the living room, the crisp linens and lit candles on the tables, the flowers, and the warm comforting aroma of food mingling with hot coffee. The caterer whose name begins with an A approaches and I answer her questions. Suddenly I'm conscious of having hands and don't know what to do with them. I smooth the front of my dress. I wait for the guests. 

 

 

Meejun Chung is a Korean-American writer and teacher living in Maine. She divides her reading time between fiction on the diaspora experience, and non-fiction on dramatic writing, English grammar, and language acquisition. 

Darla Mottram