“You’re a fucking weird Scorpio, though” Li says to me as she jots down Cari’s and my birth cities, dates, and times. “I’ll figure out your charts, though.”
I squeeze the balled up jacket tighter, resting my head on it and close my eyes with a smile. “Okay,” I say. Natal charts and characteristics of star signs are one of Li’s specialties; she knows them better than any other horoscope-obsessed Scorpio that I’ve latched onto.
As Li and Cari’s voices compare accents and practice elocutions of the letter ‘h,’ I give in to the lull of sleep on a rickety café table.
Another Saturday; another day spent waiting in Seoul. Cari and I make the most of our winter breaks, attending concerts three or four days a week. Li who lives for the tunes, the vibrancies of Seoul, is our natural companion. Us three musketeers; fanatics of music, fanatics of life, sit together as we wait.
When I wake again it’s to the growl of Li’s insistences: “But look how it’s spelled! Al-um-in-ium!”
“That sounds stupid! A-loom-in-um. Yeah, look at how it’s spelled. Ah, Brits.” Cari says.
“Ah, Brits. I mean Americans. I mean Irish,” Li retorts with distinct undertones of laughter bubbling through her accent.
I shake my head and go back to my mid-morning nap, not needing to be anywhere else.
Later, after the music show, we obsess over the details of our favorite boys’ actions, declaring each and every nod or glance we found ourselves to be on the receiving end of as we roar in glee.
We’re quite the spectacle as we walk down the streets of Seoul, drunk with laughter, to catch our bus to Cari’s and my university campus, from where we’ll meander, still laughing, to Li’s apartment and, eventually, the dormitory that Cari and I should call home. As we walk, Li’s half-platinum, half-black hair is only outshone by Cari’s red locks. The stares of local eyes and forced English nice-to-meet-you’s could have bothered me, but not that day. Not with Li. Not with Cari. Not on a Saturday in Seoul filled with delicious music, good food and remarkable, ridiculous, why-are-we-even-discussing-this-ew conversation.
We settle into the back of the bus, three across, myself in the middle. Conversation picks up again—jobs, school, family, cats, tokens, diaries—we jump from topics without a safety net. Between Cari and Li, I once again doze off, their chatter filling my empty spaces.
“Home is a place of security within an insecure world, a place of certainty within doubt, a familiar place in a strange world, a sacred place in a profane world.”
In the house I grew up in, where my mother still lives, I spend Thanksgiving. My father and I both live out of suitcases brought along for the journey. This bed has not missed me, I think. Not in the way that the walls of my parents’ bedroom breathes the absence of my father. His two-year job move has turned indefinite; his number of houses multiplied by two. His Dallas apartment holds a transitory apparition of him; his essence remains in my childhood home, in the folds of the seat cushions and in the dust on the guitars.
We sleep in late; watch football on the television; prepare a Thanksgiving spread. My three-year-old cousin, Lauren, takes over my bedroom, removing every stuffed animal from the shelf, and declaring most of them hers. After dinner, she asks me again: “can we go back upstairs,” and I distract her with coloring books and cookies until she falls asleep. After the more distant relatives leave, my brother and I play Madden Football until he, too, goes to his room. I sit on the couch, petting my dog and watching Storage Wars until my eyes wilt in protest. Only then do I go back to the room with my things and my bed—the bed that is still covered in Lauren’s stuffed animals.