Choi Min Ho can never forget the traumatic experience he had when he was only 5. His mother was pregnant with his sister for 14 weeks. His father was a tall man with wisdom in his posture. His smile was as friendly as his little brother, Choi Min Soo. His memory is blurry, but he remembers the last conversation that he had with them in the car. They were on their way back to their home from the wedding of a close relative.
Sitting at the backseat, Min Ho only saw the silhouettes of his parent’s facial features. “Son, I have a question for you. What is your most favourite food in the world?”, his father’s voice was muffled by the heavy rain outside. “Hmm…. There is a lot, Dad”, Min Ho answered quickly.
“If…if you can pick one, what would it be?”, he remained persistent. “I gave birth to a foodie, honey. Of course, he can’t choose”, his mother adds in then his parents laughed together. Little Min Ho was thinking hard, it is indeed hard to choose. “Maybe…..chocolate”, Min Ho answered.
His father broke into laughter, “Indeed, it’s chocolate. You kept kicking when you were still in mommy’s belly. Only after I gave her a chocolate bar, your mommy can sleep in peace”. His father exchanged a warm gaze to his wife who is now pregnant with a little girl. “Sorry, mommy”, Min Ho said quietly. His mother turned around to see her boy and smiled, “You do not have to be sorry. It was a great experience, Min Ho”
“How about you, daddy?”, he took a turn to ask. “Hmm….”, his father began thinking while still keeping an eye to the road. “I would pick eggs”, he answered confidently. “Why eggs?”, Min Ho asked intriguingly. Not only him, his mother even turned to look at her husband with confusion. The answer was quite out of the blue.
“Well, it’s delicious however you make it”, his father answered. “Fry it, boil it or bake it, I will still eat it. Just need to add a sprinkle of salt. It can be everything. I can even dip my grilled meat to eggs to top it off”. Min Ho tried to process his answer. It’s true, but it never crossed his mind before. His father continued, “You know, it also has a unique character. The egg whites make a cake rises, but the yolks, the best part, flatten a cake. The yolk is uniting every ingredient there is unlike the freeing egg whites”.
“There you go, your father and his obsession with eggs”, his mother adds jokingly. They then shared another laugh together. It was definitely a lot to process for a little Min Ho. Oddly, it sticks to his mind until today.
Although the weather that night did not get better, their bonding as a family got warmer. The rain was very heavy that the car’s wipers were unable to make the window clear enough. The rain was blinding, but their smiles were crystal clear.
His mother turned around to him again, she tried to reach Min Ho’s arm and flashed the most beautiful smile, “Min Ho ya~,--”. Just then, the time seemed to stop ticking, everything happened swiftly yet so slowly that Min Ho remembers the small bit of that moment. A loud crash was heard but it was deafening. The three of them was lifted from their seats as the car turned upside down. Not long, it turned pitch black. Min Ho stopped remembering after that. The unfinished sentence from his mother would never be finished.
Their car was crushed by another car in the opposite direction. 10% of car accidents happened during rainfall. But no one expected that the Choi family would experience one of them.
Next thing he knew, he woke up to a green and bluish room. His whole body felt heavy and aching that he did not try to move even a slight. He got an IV in his left hand, just before a tall man and an old lady standing beside the bed. It was Choi Min Soo, his father’s little brother, and his grandma. Opening his eyes little by little, he could hear his grandma’s cry in the room. Her voice is baffled, but clearly a sorrow.
They stopped conversing when they realized Min Ho was awake. Quickly, they gathered around his bed. His uncle called for the doctor while his grandma stayed beside him. “Min Ho yaa~, you’re awake! What a good boy”, his grandma exclaimed with still a hint of crying in her voice but she sounded stronger for him. She Min Ho’s hair with a great sense of relief. Min Ho was still not aware of what’s happening, what happened before, how he ended up there. The thing he was aware of was that his right arm ached the most, he couldn’t move it as it was covered with a thick bandage he had no idea what. He had no idea he was out for two days.
The next day, he started to regain full consciousness. Like a normal child, he was asking for his parents. “Where’s mommy and daddy?”, he asked his grandma, who had always stayed beside him. His grandma who was praying paused and opened her eyes to look at him with a solemn gaze. “They--, they are taken care of”, his grandma replied and looked away. “What happened, halmeoni?”, Min Ho asked again.
“You were in a car accident”, his grandma replied quickly and pulled closer to him. “And how is our car?”, little Min Ho asked innocently that it melted away the bitterness that his grandma had been projecting. His grandma chuckled and his arm, “It was….gone, dear. It broke so badly that it had no shape, but…”. His grandma paused as she saw fear in the child’s eyes. “But, you are doing so great! Look at you, you are still in shape and can talk with grandma now. You do not need a body made of metal to do that”, his grandma continued and laughed with him. However, it made Min Ho wonder even more, “Can I meet mom and dad?”.
His grandma paused, the solemn gaze returned to the room again, but she brushed it off with a smile. “I will see what I can do. Just wait”, she pulled up the blanket up to Min Ho’s chest and exited the room. She went outside but he could hear his grandma’s voice reaching for his uncle. In another second, she bawled. Min Ho again did not know what they were talking about.
He can picture the rain of that night, how blinding it was. He remembers the face of his uncle, Choi Min Soo when he told Min Ho that his parents did not survive the accident. He remembers he was still in a hospital robe to hear that everything is gonna be okay when nothing is. Min Hoo never expected that the two most important people in his life would be taken away so quickly.
Since then, he lived with his grandma on the outskirt of Seoul. He never feels like a normal little kid. When everyone in his school bragged about their parents and complained about their scolds, Min Ho could never relate. He would only look down and avoid the conversation. He only had his grandma, the nicest lady he ever met. Apparently, a grandma is incomparable to a pair of parents.
Learning that his situation will never change, he developed into this anti-parent guy. He did not want to be pitied nor self-pitied. He taught himself to be fortunate to have no parents and thus, have all the freedom he has in the world. Instead, he pitied those who are confined in the care of their parents. He did not need a mom and dad to succeed, to feel normal, to feel whole. He, after all, has himself and the world.
It was really obvious for him to see that Son Jii is in her parents’ grasp. Again, Min Ho felt nothing but a great pity. Son Jii to him is helpless, just another parent-projected child. She was nothing special. Min Ho invited her for lunch only out of courtesy. He smelled an awkwardness in her tone and movements. She’s helpless and she needs to loosen up a bit.
Nonetheless, he did not expect that their conversations would tense as “parents” entered the chat. The mock just came out of his mouth automatically. He felt a burning sensation in his chest that he needed to blurt out his thoughts and anger that he has been having all these years. Son Jii’s comeback was unexpected. She raged and spoke up. He did not see it coming. All the awkwardness he thought she has, suddenly disappeared.
“Not everybody is as lucky as you” as she said.
Min Ho’s mind still went blank as Son Jii exited the house. He always think that he is lucky, but why this time, he does not feel so?