Law in Contemporary Society


-- By KateJLee - 08 Jun 2017

The mosque goes off at sunset.

This is when my family convenes for dinner. I hold my chopsticks incorrectly, and my parents have all but given up on fixing it.

I decide between bites that I like sunsets better than sunrises, and not just because I can’t wake up early enough to see the sun rise. Sunsets are the end of the day. Time to wind down. Rest. You can see a hundred sunsets and it never gets old. And sunsets over the Javanese rice fields? You haven’t lived until you’ve seen one of those.

How are classes? Good. Do you like your new math teacher? Yes. When’s the test you have to take? Which one? The one for college. College? The mini college test, the one you take before the real one. You mean the PSATs? Yes, the P. S. A. T.s. She enunciates every letter. Dad shuffles in his seat, concerned.

Oh, that’s next fall; I have time. Do you have to register? No, the school will register me, don’t worry about it.

Dinner ends. Clear the plates. My mom brings out the apples as she has done almost everyday for many years. These are different from the ones my friends eat at school. Once, my friend gave me one of her apples. I stared at her, because it was unpeeled. Not only was it unpeeled, it was tiny. The skin was a dark, angry red. It looked like the poisoned apple from Snow White. She took a bite out of hers so I did the same—skin and all. I didn’t die a slow painful death, like I feared. It wasn’t poisoned. It was just different.

But at home, we eat the apples I like. Big, thin skin, and watery reds and yellows splashed along the sides. My mom always begins at the top of the apple, near the stem. The blade glides easily between the peel and the flesh; she winds the small knife around the apple, producing a coil of thin apple peel. The peel is completely intact, something that is much more difficult than one would expect. Once, I offered to peel the apple and it ended up being a disaster. The peel ended up being thick and disjointed, like paper shreds. I’ve never seen my dad laugh that hard. Tears in his eyes, he wondered if I’d ever find someone to marry me with such subpar apple peeling skills. One of my favorite memories.

My mom slices the flesh off the core, arranges the pieces on a plate, and only then is the apple ready to eat. My mom never eats the actual flesh though; her favorite part is the core. She insists it’s the “best part.”

I bring my homework out to the living room; my dad starts drawing a chart on paper. For my entire life, my dad has been in charge of the accounting for the church. We work in comfortable silence.

Who’s that? It’s Abraham Lincoln, dad. Oh. Is he famous? Yeah, he was the president of America during the civil war. The what? It was when the northern states and southern states of America fought. Korea fought like that too. I know dad. Grandpa escaped from North Korea on the boat, he was alone, he made it.

It’s midnight, and I am heading to the kitchen to get water. I pause at the sink; the remains of our apple ritual wait calmly on a tray. Suddenly curious, I reach for the core, and take a small bite. It’s bitter. Definitely not the best part.

It slowly dawns on me that it has never been the best part.

I stand there, in the darkness, for a while. Sometimes I feel like I never left that kitchen corner.

I notice a million things the next day—my dad’s worn shoes next to my white sneakers, his faded and beaten briefcase next to my crisp navy backpack. I notice how my mom rarely touches the main dish at dinner, opting for the side dishes of kimchi. I notice how much space English books take up in our home, even though my brother and I are the only ones who can read English. I notice how my dad uses the back pages of my used notebooks to keep track of the church and family finances. We never talked about what my mom and dad wanted to be, what they wanted to do, what they wanted to eat.

I keep noticing. To this day, I still notice.

My dad won’t go to the dentist unless he’s in so much pain that sweat drips down his face, but he made sure we both got braces. My mom never went to a four-year college, but she opened an account for our college funds as soon as we were born. I notice the slight shake in my mom’s voice as she tells me they are selling their home.

No, no, it’s not because of money, she says. Don’t worry, just study.

We are so proud.

Everyone likes new beginnings, but only now am I truly able to appreciate endings. They are like sunsets. The way you end something can say a lot about you. And I considered maybe ending law school here, before I burdened my parents further.

It would be too selfish to complain of how difficult this year was, even though it was, by all means, difficult. Or to talk about how tired I was, because, by all means, I was usually tired. But I was happy. I felt lucky. It felt like a dream. I was thankful.

I see my mother’s eyes in the mirror, and my father’s bad posture whenever I slouch in lectures. I think of them when I run my hands over my casebooks, filled with things they never had the chance to learn.

They are not lawyers, but I’d like to be a lawyer like them.

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r3 - 08 Jun 2017 - 08:40:10 - KateJLee
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