"I got a good doctor for you," she said with the bravado of a car salesman. It was the same tone she'd used pitching the bachelor ten months earlier. Though back then, I hadn't been surprised. I'd known she would spring into action as soon as I left grad school, which was one reason I'd loitered for as long as I did.
That time it was over the phone. "Ginger, I don't ask you to walk to Ohio," she'd cooed.
"I pay for plane ticket. Just let him meet you. I buy you new dress." Meeting me, of course, was to fall in love with me. "He good-looking, he engineer, and he second son." My father was a first son.
"I don't care about birth order," I said, stalling for time. Telling her I was feeling too down to meet anyone would have been too unprecedented an admission. She knew, though, that I was struggling. I always tried to put a positive spin on things, mustering a cheerful front for her, but she called me weekly, at unpredictable times, catching me hungover, sleeping, or moved by a tampon commercial. As hard as I tried to contain my bewilderment at the lack of achievement in my life, sometimes the truth leaked out.
"You don't care? You should. First son has to live with parents. You think I only care what he does for living. But Mommy think of everything." I could imagine her tapping her finger against her head. "That why you should trust me. I get you only the best."
"But he lives in Ohio!" I blurted out, thankful for the escape clause. Homing in on the fact that her network of Korean acquaintances with eligible sons was limited to the Midwest, I added, "I'm not going to move. I just got to New York. So what's the point in meeting him?"
To my astonishment, she gave in without putting up more of a fight, and canceled the plane ticket. I thought she relented not out of kindness or fair play, but to give me time to get back on my feet, so I could score an accomplishment, become someone a Korean mother would consider "only the best" to marry her son.
I was wrong. Or maybe I was just taking too long, because here she was in my crowded studio. I looked heavenward for succor.
"You don't say something?"
"Like what?" I asked reluctantly.
She shrugged, still smiling. "How about thank you?"
"I haven't even met him."
"So you want to?"
"Let's discuss this later. I have to get to work."
She frowned. "But your bloom is almost over."
"In the next eight hours?" As often as I'd heard that Korean saying, the English translation now stung. I couldn't pretend, as I usually did, that I was missing a cultural nuance. At the magazine, I was the oldest assistant in the fashion department by four years. Everyone my age, like Sam, was an editor.
"Don't break up my heart," she said, furrowing her brow.
"You came at a bad time. You should have consulted me first."
"If I do that, you tell me not to come, you busy." She had a point. "But why did you take such an early flight?"
She wrinkled her nose and twisted her mouth to one side. "I didn't. I came yesterday."
"You did? Where did you stay?" As aggravated as I was, I couldn't help but feel hurt that she'd flown all this way and not seen me first.
"Mrs. Oh," she answered. "She moved to New Jersey when you little girl. We always do parknic together. You remember her?"
I nodded. Mrs. Oh talked loudly and laughed a lot. Her husband and my father had been in the same Ph.D. program. The Ohs had a son. "Isn't their boy's name Bob?" My brother and I used to get a kick out of saying his name. Bob Oh. Bah-bo means fool in Korean. My mother vigorously nodded. "Bob. Bobby. That right. He medical doctor now. Lives here. Handsome like his father."
"He's the good doctor you just mentioned?"
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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