The Stranger Tales of a Minority: The Brick Wall

Taesung Eom

 

Once upon a bleak evening as ordinary as rain falling from the sky, a small Asian boy avoided asking his father to buy him a school 5th grade t-shirt for field day. He wanted to avert any semblance of a ”talk” with his father, for the recent complaint from the school’s principal came, inordinately obtuse. But as it is in Korean custom to greet one’s father who returns from work, the boy obliged with a curt bow and scurried up the staircase. Death would come for him soon, and the opportunity to ask would only come in the afterlife.

Field day is BIG: a blissful day for all 5th graders to frolic, enjoying their last moments before imminent adulthood, or rather, the building across the street. It is a rather normal thing for a child to look forward to, but for the boy, his sheepish reluctance to sit in a chair-desk had more present focus. Why are a chair and a desk one thing? Is it to save space? Were there no other options? And how does anyone too fat to seat themselves occupy such a quaint space without mortifying exertion? Unless that was the point… The boy smirked at his own shallow humor, raising his bravado by the second in feigned indifference to the classmates who awaited their new t-shirts. When the brown box arrived the children tore anew the poor box with a mad frenzy, searching for their name then stripping their old clothes as the rags it were.

“I wanted medium!” exclaimed a rather dim blonde girl.

“Oh, I got the small I wanted,” remarked a sandy-haired girl.

He tried to avoid it. He really did for he knew the entire situation was his fault. Remember the position: you don’t care about field day shirts. But that alone fell short of reason to imagine all sorts of possible interactions and his explanations on being the only kid without a crisp field day shirt. So he got up. Bathroom time it is, but then there it was: a single white t-shirt with his name signed with the magical authority of black sharpie: Taesung Eom.

He paused, and in one deft motion, swiped the t-shirt to make damn sure it was for him. And it was. But how? He peered hesitant and side by side he stared. The weight of the previous emotion felt unburdened as for a moment he was as they were and so care free. The boy shed his skin and felt the new—it felt perfect. Somehow he transfigured invisible, divine, and altogether normal. He could get used to such feelings of warmth—

“Tony Eom! How dare you take your brother’s t-shirt! You are NOT allowed to go to field day!” the teacher exclaimed. He failed all his classes so by default, in accordance with a nasty particular habit of ringing fire alarms, forbade his involvement with nearly anything associated with the word “fun.”

How dare she say that! The two hundred pound lady stormed up to him as the ground itself quaked in fear, stripped him with only a peanut amount of effort, thus leaving him bare chested. He was visible and he couldn’t resist the chance to make a scene.

“No, not the brick wall madam. Anything but the brick wall,” he finished with a bow. The class erupted.

He sat by the brick wall on the rainy days and even the best of days, where the green moss on the red brick shined with spring gold.

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