Monday, July 30, 2012

Before Tomorrow Comes


Like always, I entered the doctor’s office to take the results of my tests.
“Oh! Sung Gyu! Enter!”he smiled as always.
“How have you been, doc?”I shook his hand and took a sit on the usual, blue chair from across his desk.
“Good! Good! And you? How’s Sung Mi?”he looked through his files as he flashed on of his casual smiles.
“She’s taking work slowly. I think she feels like she’s in Paradise right now!”
“I heard the great news! Congratulations to both of you, Sung Gyu! You’ll be a great father,”he eyed me in a strange way.
I nodded happily. The idea itself, of having a little Sung Mi running around the house was giving me butterflies in my stomach.
“And how will you handle with going on front? Couldn’t you be moved to the military camp here, in Korea?”
“You know how much I wished to go there, Sung Jong,”I moved on the chair, frowning a little. “Irak needs more soldiers to fight against the terrorism that took over that place. And I’m perfect for going there!”

I am Kim Sung Gyu, 27 years old, an active soldier, married and soon to be father.
I looked at the cars passing by and raised the collar of my coat to protect myself from the cold, autumnal wind that was blowing outside the hospital’s walls.
I was diagnosed with AML, or Acute Myeloid Leukemia, 2 months ago, right after I was named to go in Irak.
I waited for the green light to cross the street to the place where my car was parked. I actually managed to smile despite the bitter taste I had on my tongue.
They said that this winter was going to be my last.
I got inside the vehicle and closed the door behind me. Taking deep breaths, I managed to make the dizziness go away. It was always like that after the chemotherapy session. But no more. It was the last one.
They said that I needed to bit farewell to my friends, to my family, to my pregnant wife.
“Darling, dinner is ready,”I heard her voice flowing from the phone just like a melody. “Are you going to be late? ‘Coz mother said that…”
“No. I’ll be there shortly. Need to get anything from the market?”
“I just need you.”
But how was I going to say everything that I never said before? How should I bit farewell to that little person that was a part of me and that never got to meet me? Will I be able to say something to that baby? So I decided that before tomorrow comes, I would make my unborn child understand just how much his father loved him…

"I'll be the wind blowing by your side."
                                                              (Infinite - Entrust)

“Excited?”the woman smiled as she entered the ward with the file.
Sung Mi squeezed my hand as the doctor let the gel fall on her exposed belly. Then she pressed against the bare skin the ultrasound transducer while watching the images that were forming on the ultrasound machine’s screen.
“See that?”my beautiful wife smiled as her eyes sparkled at the sight of our baby.
“The heart rhythm is just fine,”the gynecologist continued to move the transducer on the belly. “And here comes the big question:would you like to know the sex of your baby?”
Sung Mi turned her big brown eyes to me.
“Yes, we would like that very much,”I muttered, feeling my heart beating strongly in my chest.
The doctor smiled as her eyes turned to the screen one more time. “Congratulations! You’ll have a baby-girl!”

“Dear Byul,
I keep staring at your first ultrasound picture. You were so little inside your mother’s womb! As I write these lines to you, I keep remember my first impression…I kept asking myself if that was really a person, if that was really the person I was waiting for, the creature I created together with Sung Mi…

I wondered around the house while Sung Mi was away to her mother’s place. The apartment was small:the kitchen placed on the right as you went from the long hallway and the living room on the left. The living room was the place where Sung Mi’s dreams could be seen. The walls were painted in a light, peach-like color, while the furniture was white. Everywhere you looked, there were pictures. Of Sung Mi, of me and of us. She looked like a true goddess in every single one of them, while I remained the same geek that fell in love with the campus’s queen…

…And the night that followed I started thinking of you as my wife was sleeping right next to me. Wondering what you’ll be like, who you’d be taking after in your features, how you’ll behave when you’ll start going to kindergarden… I’m positive that you’ll be just like your mother! A little goddess by her side…

I looked out the window of our bedroom. The sickly view was like a grey drawing of the crowded city. The buildings were raising tall, all grey and indifferent to the surrounding. The street was crowded by the cars that weren’t moving but were honking instead… That was not the place where I wanted my child to live! Where were the singing birds, the smiling neighbors, the garden full of flowers? How could you ever write a fairytale in this kind of place?!

Maybe you’re wondering why your father is writing such nonsense when you’re not even here. To be honest with you Byul, I’m sick. Very ill…From the moment they discovered my illness, they gave me 5 more months to live. That means that I don’t know if I’ll get to meet you, my child… February will bring you into this world, but I don’t know if I will be able to pull my life till then. Don’t be sad, alright? Don’t you cry for me, alright? Your mother will need you more than ever after you’ll be born.

I rested my chin against Sung Mi’s knee and watched her as she turned the page of the book she was reading.
“Why did you stop? It felt so good…”
Immediately, my hands began massaging her soles, from the toes way down to the heels.
“Say, how about we move from here?”
She looked at me over her book. “What’s gotten into you, Sung Gyu? Where would we get the money for that? We worked so hard to get this apartment!”
“I know, I know that! But I don’t want our baby girl to live in a place like this. I want her to have a courtyard where to play in sand, flowers to pick up for you… I want her to live in our dream house,”I smiled to her, but actually smiling to the future.
“I know, darling. I want that too for our baby,”she cuddled next to me as I gently placed my arm around her under the cover. “But I think we’ll have to wait a little longer to get something like that.”
But I had no time to wait.

I wonder if Sung Mi ever forgave me. I never got the courage to tell her the truth about my illness…how could I do that? How could I watch her tears streaming down her face because of me? And plus, she needed to be strong for you.
Believe me Byul, that there’s no place I’d rather be right now but beside the two of you! But sometimes, God has other plans for us and we have to accept and say ‘Thank you!’. Don’t hate God, Byul! I’m lucky enough he gave me enough time to write all of this for you, to let you know all my thoughts even though you’ll never get to know me in person. I want you to be proud when you’ll show my picture to your future husband and children. ‘This young man is my father. He took care of me, but left before I could say ‘father’ to him… I’m proud of him!’.

“How did you get the money for this?”she muttered as we stopped in front of our house.
I just smiled and opened the little gate for her. “Happy birthday, Sung Mi!”I wrapped my arms around her shoulders as we watched the white house in front of us. “And ‘Marry Christmas!’”I whispered as the little lights began illuminating the evening air around the large windows.
She just laughed in my arms. I stiffed for a moment as I felt a deep pain digging in my bones, making me feel sick and dizzy. But it passes. That’s right, I was going to endure it till the last second…

You know how I felt when your mother said I was going to be a father? Like a million of fireworks exploded in front of my eyes! You and your mother made me the richest man on Earth! From that fateful day when I met your mother, the campus’s goddess, till the day I heard about your existence are the days I treasure the most! And then, in our 16th week of existence, I saw your image on the ultrasound machine’s screen…I felt the knees ceding under me.

I smiled at the sight of my sleeping wife and gently kissed her cheek before getting up from the king sized bed. The stairs creaked silently under my bare feet as I went down towards the silent office. There, I sat on the chair behind the wooden desk and let my hands caress the cold surface. The pain was too great to handle on my own so my shaky hand looked for the bottle of pills inside the drawer.
I swallowed the two painkillers and then I waited for the pain to disappear.
My eyes wondered around the room and I smiled, pleased with the view of our family picture.
There was nothing to regret about my life. I never smoked, I never drank, I never did wrong to those around me…

…But I lied. I lied to the most precious being. I lied hoping that I would deceive death and that February won’t bring her the mourning of my death. But even if it pains me to know that her tears will eventually fall for me, I’m happy. I’m happy that this 5 months I got to see her smiling face every single day and not the tubes going in and out of my body. It was my choice. I chose happiness over the hospital. Don’t judge me, Byul. I was the happiest man alive during these five moths…
The first time I felt you moving under my palm, I placed my lips on your mother’s belly and called your name: ‘Byul! I’m your daddy who can’t wait to meet you!’. Did you hear my calling? Did you feel my caress? Did you feel my heart beating alongside yours?

“Happy new year, son!”father gave me a bear hug, threatening to break my fragile bones.
I pushed him and ran to the bathroom. Lately, my stomach was not taking in any kind of food or drink…
“Sung Gyu…are you ok?”Sung Mi pushed the bathroom door’s open.
“I’m fine!”I pushed the door back and closed it in front of her. “Please go to our guests,”I mumbled as I flushed the toilet’s water.
“Are you sure you’re ok?”
I leaned my back against the closed door, letting my tears slid down my cheeks. Was this the way everything was going to end? Was I such a weak man?
“You can do this, Kim Sung Gyu!”I encouraged my pale reflection in the mirror above the sink. “And you’ll do this for her and for your unborn child!”
I unlocked the door and stepped outside all smiles…

Byul, please help your mother around the house, alright? Don’t let her be alone at night, alright? Eat everything in your plate and don’t ignore those green things that she’ll be putting in front of you. They actually taste good! Byul, be your mother’s best friend, alright? She knows so many things about being a popular teen, that she’ll come in handy when you’ll need her the most!
How about boyfriends? I hope you’ll introduce them to her. She’s pretty fast at reading people and she’ll know if the kid’s just a punk or he’s a keeper.
I can’t stop wondering how your teen life will be like. Will you be like me? A total geek, falling in love with the most popular guy around? Then…God help! Or will you be just like Sung Mi and fall for the the geek from the Science class? If that’s the case, be careful not to get lied to ‘coz we can play pretend pretty well!
And when you’re feeling sad and when you’re crying, thinking that your world is crumbling down because of that guy that left you for another girl, just remember that there was sometime ago a guy who loved you before even meeting you, that you lit up his entire life and made him the happiest man alive. Just remember me, Byul, the father you never got to meet…

February came with morning sickness, with afternoon sickness and with evening sickness. But I ignored all of that. I ignored my chapped lips that could not suffer being touched and I continued to kiss Sung Mi just like I used to 7 years ago, on our first official date. I ignored the pain in the stomach and took 7 painkillers just to be able to move around with a smile on my face. I ignored the butterflies in my stomach every time I saw the calendar…
I pushed opened the room’s door and looked at the newly painted walls. The light pink with butterflies painted on, the small crib made of white wood with a veil spreading above it, falling on the floor, the toys that were placed on the furniture and everywhere around the room… My trembling fingers pulled the knob of the closet and took a peek at the small outfits that were inside. I touched the small pair of socks that were waiting for their rightful owner. They were so small! I placed two fingers inside them and moved them like they were legs…
And I broke into tears. Was there really no way for me to meet my daughter? To hold her dearly? To whisper in her little ear just how much I love her?
A short scream made me stop and listen to the silence of the house.
“Sung Gyu?”
I ran down the stairs to the kitchen. Sung Mi was looking intensely at the pool of water from under her feet.
“Are you alright?”I caught her elbow.
“I-I think…my water broke…”
What happened next? How did I moved so fast around the house, placing the needed clothes inside a suitcase? Where exactly did I get all that strength from, to carry Sung Mi in my arms to my car and place her on the chair? How did I manage to get to the hospital without causing an accident?
“One more time, Mrs. Kim!”the doctor said as Sung Mi held my hand tight. “Just one more push!”
She looked up at me, all tired and sweaty. I leaned closer to kiss her forehead. “You can do this, Sung Mi! I know you can!”
She just nodded. She was brave. That’s the word…brave…
“Congratulations! You have a beautiful daughter!”the doctor placed in my arms the baby wrapped in a pink cover.
I could feel the tears streaming down my face as I touched the pinkish skin of the baby. “Hello there, small one! I’m your daddy,”I whispered to her while caressing her little ears. “My Byul…my precious Byul…”
How did it get so dark and cold in there?
All of a sudden…
“Sung Mi, hold her.”
Was that my voice? So distant and echoing…
It got cold in there.
It got dark in there.
And I fell…

I hope you’ll bring your future husband to my grave. I really want to meet him there and see the person you’ll dedicate your whole life to…
And Byul, please remember this… I love you. I always loved you. And I will always love you.
And I’ll always be there, right next to you. I’ll be the wind blowing by your side.
Remember me…

Your father.”
The young woman wiped her tears away and looked at the sun that was setting across the lake, overshadowing the grave stone of the man that died 25 years ago...

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