"Ginger, you there!"
Even for my mother this was a strange way to start a conversation. The ringing telephone had cut my shower short. I secured the towel wrapped around me. "Where else would I be Monday at eight-thirty in the morning?" A mere fashion assistant at À la Mode magazine, I was supposed to be at work in half an hour. But my boss was my best friend from college, and Sam wouldn't be in until eleven.
"Then why you don't answer the phone quickly? I rang and rang! I worry nobody home!" My mother was still shouting. I thought I heard traffic in the background--the same rapid-fire honks that were coming in through the open window. Why was she calling from the street? What was she doing on my street? I spun toward the window, my wet hair whipping me in the face. There, directly below on the sidewalk, was her black head and bright green Chanel suit.
"Mom? Why aren't you in Milwaukee? Did something happen? Is something wrong?"
"Nothing not wrong in Milwaukee."
"Then what are you doing in New York?" I asked, somewhat relieved.
"I come to fix your life."
I laughed in surprise. "And how are you going to do that?"
"I gonna find you a good Korean husband."
"What?" I said, not because I didn't hear her but because I couldn't believe the inevitable had arrived already.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Korean mother in possession of a single adult daughter is in want of a professional Korean son-in-law. This maxim is so incontrovertible, this proclivity so genetically hardwired, it was a veritable miracle I'd made it this far, to my twenty-seventh year, unhitched.
"Open the door," she said.
The inevitable wasn't my succumbing to her matrimonial wishes--I needed a husband like Gloria Steinem needed a name tag--but my mother's attempting to fix me up. She'd tried when I was in graduate school, but I'd fended her off by claiming to be too busy to think about men. Not an entire lie. Though, instead of studying, I was occupied coming up with excuses to give my dissertation adviser, eluding chatty freshmen who wanted to discuss the papers they were writing for me, and cursing the admissions people who believed me when I said in my application that I wanted to be an English professor. I'd also managed to bat down a bachelor she lobbed at me several months after I left Madison. But now I had no excuse, no protection. Almost a year in Manhattan, fourteen months since I'd abandoned my dissertation on unpublished subversive female texts, I still didn't have Life Plan B. My job, a stopgap measure, was anything but demanding, and my mother knew that my evenings and weekends were free.
I dropped the phone, and tempted though I was not to let her into the building, I held down the button on the wall that would release the lock on the door downstairs. I scanned the walk-in closet that passed for my apartment. Boxes of books stood against the wall where the movers had stacked them. The bed was a jumble of pillows and twisted sheets. Clothes, shoes, and magazines carpeted the wood floor and adorned the secondhand couch. Beer bottles, some upright and others on their sides, occupied the kitchen counter like a small army on furlough the morning after. The slovenliness wouldn't have surprised my mother, but the beer bottles stoppered with cigarette butts would.
I didn't have a lot of time. It was a fourth-floor walk-up, and my mother was fifty-nine, but she was in great shape. I grabbed a shopping bag, and with my arm swiped everything on the counter into it. The sound of shattering glass was sort of exhilarating. I was trying to pluck out a plate from the bag, when the phone rang again.
"Ginger, you are what apartment? That why I call in first place."
Reprinted from In Full Bloom by Caroline Hwang by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2003, Caroline Hwang. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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