Home > The Sun Is Also a Star(7)

The Sun Is Also a Star(7)
Author: Nicola Yoon

She scoffs. “What about interview? You ready?” She looks me over and finds me lacking. “You cut hair before interview.” For months she’s been after me to get rid of my short ponytail. I make a noise that could be either agreement or disagreement. She puts a plate of mandu in front of me and I eat it in silence.

Because of the big interview, my parents let me have the day off from school. It’s still only eight a.m., but no way am I staying in the house and having any more of these conversations. Before I can escape, she hands me a money pouch with deposit slips to take to my dad at the store.

“Appa forgot. You bring to him.” I’m sure she meant to give it to Charlie before he left for the store but forgot because of their little incident in the kitchen.

I take the pouch, grab my notebook, and drag myself upstairs to get dressed. My bedroom is at the end of a long hallway. I pass by Charlie’s room (door closed as always) and my parents’ room. My mom’s got a couple of unopened blank canvases leaning against their doorframe. Today’s her day off from the store, and I bet she’s looking forward to spending the day alone painting. Lately she’s been working on roaches, flies, and beetles. I’ve been teasing her, saying that she’s in her Gross Insect Period, but I like it even more than her Abstract Orchid Period from a few months ago.

I take a quick detour into the empty bedroom that she uses as her studio to see if she’s painted anything new. Sure enough, there’s one of an enormous beetle. The canvas is not especially large, but the beetle takes up the entire space. My mom’s paintings have always been brightly colored and beautiful, but something about applying all that color to her intricate, almost anatomical drawings of insects makes them something more than beautiful. This one’s painted in darkly pearlescent greens, blues, and blacks. Its carapace shimmers like spilled oil on water.

Three years ago for her birthday, my dad surprised her by hiring part-time help for the store so she wouldn’t have to go in every day. He also bought a starter set of oil paints and some canvases. I’d never seen her cry over a present before. She’s been painting ever since.

Back in my room I wonder for the ten thousandth time (give or take) what her life would be like if she never left Korea. What if she never met my dad? What if she never had Charlie and me? Would she be an artist now?

I get dressed in my new custom-tailored gray suit and red tie. “Too bright,” my mom said about the tie when we were shopping. Evidently, only paintings are allowed to be colorful. I convinced her by saying that red would make me look confident. Checking myself in the mirror now, I have to say that the suit does make me look confident and debonair (yes, debonair). Too bad I’m only wearing it for this interview and not for something that actually matters to me. I check the weather on my phone and decide I don’t need a coat. The high will be sixty-seven degrees—a perfect fall day.

Despite my irritation with the way she treated Charlie, I kiss my mom and promise to get my hair cut, and then I get out of the house. Later this afternoon my life will hop on a train headed for Doctor Daniel Jae Ho Bae station, but until then the day is mine. I’m going to do whatever the world tells me to. I’m going to act like I’m in a goddamn Bob Dylan song and blow in the direction of the wind. I’m going to pretend my future’s wide open, and that anything can happen.

EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON. This is a thing people say. My mom says it a lot. “Things happen for a reason, Tasha.” Usually people say it when something goes wrong, but not too wrong. A nonfatal car accident. A sprained ankle instead of a broken one.

Tellingly, my mom has not said it in reference to our deportation. What reason could there be for this awful thing happening? My dad, whose fault this whole thing is, says, “You can’t always see God’s plan.” I want to tell him that maybe he shouldn’t leave everything up to God and that hoping against hope is not a life strategy, but that would mean I would have to talk to him, and I don’t want to talk to him.

People say these things to make sense of the world. Secretly, in their heart of hearts, almost everyone believes that there’s some meaning, some willfulness to life. Fairness. Basic decency. Good things happen to good people. Bad things only happen to bad people.

No one wants to believe that life is random. My dad says he doesn’t know where my cynicism comes from, but I’m not a cynic. I am a realist. It’s better to see life as it is, not as you wish it to be. Things don’t happen for a reason. They just happen.

But here are some Observable Facts: If I hadn’t been late to my appointment, I wouldn’t have met Lester Barnes. And if he hadn’t said the word irie, I wouldn’t have had my meltdown. And if I hadn’t had my meltdown, I wouldn’t now have the name of a lawyer known as “the fixer” clutched in my hand.

I head out of the building past security. I have an irrational and totally unlike-me urge to thank that security guard—Irene—but she’s a few feet away and busy fondling someone else’s stuff.

I check my phone for messages. Even though it’s only 5:30 a.m. in California where she is, Bev’s texted a string of question marks. I contemplate telling her about this latest development but then decide it’s not really a development.

Nothing yet, I text back. Selfishly I wish again that she were here with me. Actually, what I wish is that I were there with her, touring colleges and having a normal senior-year experience.

I look down at the note again. Jeremy Fitzgerald. Mr. Barnes wouldn’t let me call for an appointment from his phone.

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