From what I know, being a single mother of a daughter (not a son) and of mix race in South Korea, you aren’t a super catch. As I had said before in the Asian culture, you shouldn’t really marry out of your race. I don’t know why this is. But my mother being half white and half Asian didn’t make her dateable. But she did find a man, a man who was divorced with three kids. He was tall for an Asian man. Long and lean with shape features. He was older than my mother, I remember that. Maybe 10+ years or so. And he was different as night and day from my father. Where my father was gentle and kind, my step father was hard and cold. He was a man who believed a woman’s role was behind her husband, shadowing him, pleasing him and breathing and living for him and his wants and needs. And he didn’t care for me. I was not a son, and I was not his. I was everything he hated. I was bright, I was beautiful and I was strong willed. My mother had taught me to be strong woman, to never settle for anything less than what I wanted and what my heart desired. I was clever and had been spoiled all my life. My mother worked hard to give me everything I wanted. The pretty clothes, the toys, along with a roof over my head and a chance for an education. To be better than she ever could be or even dreamed of. And this was everything my step father hated.
He was a drunk, abusive and intolerant of anything less than being totally submissive to his will. At the beginning my mother was the target of all his rage. He be gone for days and when she would question where he had been he would beat her for not minding her own business and questioning his authority. I was little, around 4. I remember watching him giving my mother blows after blows. Sometimes, I try to protect her other time I sat in the corner in fear, unable to move. If she knew there was going to be a fight she would send me downstairs to the landlord's and get me in the morning. She would have new marks on her face, arms and body. A split lip, a new cut. She did what she could to protect me. But after awhile it got to be too much for her. She had aged it seemed like over night. She skin seemed to loose the glow, the youthfulness. The lines on her face grew deeper and the circles under her eyes darker. Her body thin and fragile. Her spirit gone, the joy and laughter non-existence. She became just a body without a soul. She became a drunk herself to dull the pain. To dull the physical pain as well as the emotional pain, of what her life had become. I understood, even at that young of an age why she wasn’t really a mother to me anymore. Why she didn’t sit and comb my hair anymore or that the loving mother I once knew was gone. I was him, he had taken that. He had taken my mother one blow at a time. He had taken everything that was beautiful about her with his fists. He hadn’t wanted a wife, he had wanted a slave. Something he could own and completely control. And he had thought she was the prefect victim. What a better target than a mother with a child, a girl at that, with little means to make it on their own.
My step father’s rage became more frequent and more violent. And it no longer was just targeted at my mother. I’m guessing that it wasn’t so much fun to beat on someone who no longer fought back. That took the punishment without question. The thrill for him was breaking the spirit of the person he was putting into submission. And my mother had given up; she had no will to fight back. I on the other had been a different story. While I didn’t try to engage his anger, I didn’t take it sitting down. I challenged him, stand up to him. In the beginning, I would cry, beg and pleated for him to stop. But after awhile, the pain of the physical abuse was nothing. His rage became mine and I would fight back. Of course he always win. But I wasn’t going to be like my mother. I wasn’t going to let him win the war, maybe the battle but never the war. And that fueled his rage even more. No matter how many times he hit me, no matter how painful his blows were, I didn’t let it show and I never backed down. I would scream at him, tell him what a bad person he was. I would question his answers and actions. Somewhere along the line I become my mother protector. When she wasn’t so into the bottle she do her best to protect me from his anger but it never helped much. She would just end up getting the beating as well as me.
I never understood why she stayed with him. Why she didn’t leave. And how she could lay next to him at nights after everything he had done. In Korea, most homes aren’t like homes here in America. You all shared one room. We had three rooms. The summer room, which was the biggest. It had my parent’s bed, a TV and a space where my mat was for me to sleep on (I didn't get to sleep on a real bed until 1983). You did everything in this room. In the winter time you moved to the winter room, which was half the size of the summer room. But the floor was concrete and you could warm the room by burning a very large piece of coal under the room which heated the floor. And there was the utility room. That had the running water, where you made your food and bathe. The toilet was downstairs, not even a toilet really but an outhouse. Just a hole in the ground that you squatted over to do your business. It was shared by everyone, us the landlords and customers of the restaurant. I lay there at nights thinking of my hatred for my step father and how he would die while having to listen to him make love, if you can even call it that, to my mother. I never understood why and how she would allow herself to be with him. I guess she didn’t really have a choice. I mean, a man like him just took what he wanted. I doubt he asked for permission.
Every once in awhile my mother would send me away for the summer to go stay with a man. I have no idea if he was family or not. I don’t think so. The man looked nothing like my mother. He was 100% Asian. I called him uncle. He lived by the beach in a busy city. I spend hours on the rooftop of his building he lived in playing with my paper dolls. From the rooftop I could see the beach and he only took me once. The beach was filled with people. All different kind of people. Everyone looked happy, enjoying their time. I fell in love with the beach.
My uncle was the man who taught me how to tell time. Back then there weren’t digital clocks. It was the old fashion hand clocks. And when I won’t get the time right, I was punished. Bamboos stick cross my palms. It didn’t take me long to learn. The stink of the bamboo slapping across your hand was more painful than anything. More painful than my step fathers blows. Maybe because, my uncle wasn’t hitting me to just hurt me but to teach me something he believed I needed to know. Maybe because I knew I could avoid the punishment if I just learned to give the right answers. That it wasn’t punishment for no reason. That it disappointed him when I didn’t get the correct answer. At least there was a reason to his type of pain he caused. I understood his punishments and why, it hurt more even if it physically didn’t do the damage that my step father inflicted. But still, it was another man causing me pain. It didn’t really matter if I understand his reasoning or not. It seemed all men were the same. They just liked hitting women. But my time with my uncle wasn’t all bad. It was warmer where he lived than where my mother lived. And the punishment weren’t often. And once I learned to tell time, they ended. Then I was free to sit on the rooftop and just daydream about the beach, soaking in the sun and playing with my paper dolls.
It didn’t take long for me to really become emotionally distance towards people. My mother wasn’t my mother anymore. She was a ghost. And my step father, well he was a piece of shit. School became my only escape from my life. The only place that I felt normal. And I loved school. I excelled at school. I was smart, so they told me. I was always at the top of my class. There wasn’t a subject I wasn’t good at. Language, math, science, art and music, you name it and I was good at it. All of it. I was liked by other students and the teachers. I was perfect. Smart, welled dressed, pretty and popular. Little did people know my home life was a nightmare.
I wished my life was like this all the time. Just happy and simple. Not having to worry about a mother who was never mentally around, a step father who likes to use me as a punching bag and not living in fear and anger. I daydreamed about it a lot. What life was like without all the chaos that seems to surround me. Living at the beach without a care in the world. Just to feel like I did when I was at school.
Then it occurred to me, why can’t it be like that all the time? Why do I need to live the way I was living? What was stopping me? I wasn’t emotionally attached to anyone anymore. My mother was lost to me. If she wasn’t drunk, she was all doped on pills and drugs. The only time she seemed to show any signs of life was when she was crying, which was only when my step father wasn’t around. And my step father? Who gave a shit. He could get eaten by a pack of wild dogs and I won’t have cared. I won’t even lift a finger to help. In fact I would stand back and laugh as he slowly and painfully died. No one truly cared about me, really. And I didn’t care for anyone. The only person, I believed to care about me, my father was gone. He had left me behind. Left my mother and me behind. There wasn’t anyone else.