I curled up into a little ball on top of my bed. Why did he have to hit her when I was the one who made him get angry in the first place? I always felt like a child after my father finished being abusive to someone. I lacked the confidence to ever tell him that violence didn't solve anything. Couldn't he see what was going on in Vietnam or was he blind to his outside surroundings like a horse clomping down the street? Prejudice was a past of our everyday lives but it only fueled his need for perfection.
I stared out the window glumly looking up at the stars each one glistened brightly, so hopeful of the future. Time, from a human standpoint, didn't matter much to them because a million generations of people could see them before they burned out of existence. Still, the ethereal glow would make a wonderful painting if captured in the correct light. The traditions of my parents were older than those stars, I thought to myself, propping my head idly on the nearest pillow. I glided up from my bed to get a better look and carelessly opened the window to feel the nice cool breeze. It might be almost midnight but the scorching temperatures never ceased to be.
I walked half way to my bed when a horrible picture entered my mind, Naoko. One of his meticulous habits was opening a window right before he went to bed. I had observed the tradition several times not always with much delight. Voices and sounds of conversation old conversation flooded the empty room with the colorless tainted wind. I covered my ears instinctively even though the thoughts were merely figments of my imagination, brought on by the increased stress of the day. I tried to ignore these clouded, disfigured mental outbursts, but the harder I tried the clearer the cacophony of noise became. A piercing scream escaped my lips before I passed out into a deep sleep, similar to a coma, but not quiet as long. I could hear the sound of a door creak fading in the distance but when they saw my lifeless looking body peacefully sleeping, they must have returned to whatever occupied them before.
A small village came into view as I saw a young beautiful woman being carried by four muscular men in a wooden contraption I was not familiar with. She was dressed in the finest silk as her eyes peered above the carefully embroider fan. Her long hair did not cascade down her shoulder but was intricately woven with beads and other tassels so it didn't even touch her shoulder. Crowds of local farmers looked up at her in awe but never directly made eye contact with the rich beauty. Perhaps they feared the cracking whip but more likely than not they just were following the traditions of the only society they have ever seen or will ever see.
The hierarchy of respect was essential in that culture. From the emperor to the father each person had a place for the rest of eternity that they were born into. Never to change, to grow, or to advance only to weaken as the wealth diminished into smaller and smaller dowries. The men stopped as they neared the pagoda were two old men arranged their "business" without any concern of the lives they dealt with only the money surrounding them. The women sat their obediently never entering the conversation and only speaking when addressed. An arrogant young man waltzed in to inspect his new "fortune." A smirk of distaste fell on his pouty thin lips as he grabbed the rich woman's chin and examined her thoroughly like a horse to race. He waved his hand nonchalantly at one of the old men and several servants escorted her back into the wooden contraption where she faded away into the hilly background of the large estate.
I woke up mostly refreshed but slightly confused by what triggered off that sort of dream. What did it mean anyway? I was always fascinated by dreams; in fact, it was my fascination of them that egged me to become a psychiatrist of sorts because the dream of painting for a living seems so impractical. I didn't care what I did as long as I was independent and made my own choices- a battle I was currently loosing with my parents.
I yawned and stretched before opening my closet to rummage around for that new mini I bought a few weeks back. My parents forced me to keep a clean organized room but they didn't check my closet too often, where everything was sprawled out everywhere. My closet usually isn't that way but when I start looking for something to wear it looks like an earthquake went through there. I shuffled a few shirts around until I relieved my prize the pink polka-dotted mini I bought with Maeko after school got out. I knew Bishamon would never let me out of the house if I put it on now. I quickly grabbed a modest skirt and top and banged on the bathroom door.
"Let me in Tora."
"I'm in the shower you'll have to wait for your turn."
"Mom, Tora is hogging the bathroom again."
My mom stepped out of the shadows of the hallway. "Why can't you girls ever stop fighting? It not ladylike and I get tired of having to tell you to behave. If you had been raised in Vietnam you wouldn't be nearly this spoiled and delinquent."
"There she goes again on and on about IF WE HAD BEEN RAISED IN VIETNAM. When will you stop staying that stupid phrase? We're Vietnamese-Americans not Vietnamese brats who get everything they want from birth. If you think we're spoiled now I can hardly imagine what you would think of us if we were raised in Vietnam." The anger in my body was rising from the pent up frustration of hearing that phrase. It annoyed me further that she used broken English when she got angry. At times, I wanted to mock her but knew better than to rouse any anger in Bishamon.
"Vietnam not s easy as you think. No daughters in Vietnam sass their elders like you two do. Why can't you be more like your sister who does what she's told?"
"Of coarse she NEVER misbehaves. She's the perfect daughter ALL the time. I'm the immoral daughter who is ungrateful of her families position." With that, I stormed out purse and mini in hand even though I was still wearing my nightgown. The engine revved up loudly as I turned the key forcefully and backed out of the smooth driveway. The realization of what I was wearing hit me about five seconds later but by then it was too late I was caught in traffic.
"Damn it," I muttered under my breath as I stopped at the traffic light. I slumped as far down into my seat as possible so no one could see my inappropriate attire, a baby-doll style nightgown to be more precise. The green light flashed as I raced towards Maeko's house. Much to my distress, I saw blinking blue and red lights flash like lightning, which coincidently enough is about how fast I felt like I was driving. I pulled over reluctantly having experienced enough embarrassment for one day.
"License and registration," chewed the portly cop as he peered into my window. He didn't need to ask me why I was speeding if he looked even half a second at me. He shifted slightly awkwardly before reaching his hand out to grab my license.
"Do you know how fast you were going?"
"No, I didn't get to look at the speed limit because I noticed I forgot to get dressed before I left the house. I was trying to get there as fast as I could and I must have missed it. I was trying to drive as safely as possible after all who knows what kind of accidents would occur if someone saw me dressed THIS way."
"Well I guess I can leave you off with a warning this time but next time look down at yourself before you walk out okay, Jap."
"Yes sir it won't happen again." I drove away as fast as legally allowed and banged on Maeko's door for all I was worth. The footsteps seemed miles away as I stood there trying to pull my nighty down.
"Hanako its so nice to see..." Maeko's mother stopped in mid-sentence, "come in quickly."
"What on earth possessed you to go out of the house dressed like that?"
"I got in a fight with my parents and forgot that I hadn't gotten my shower because my sister was hogging the shower this mourning."
"I'm gonna go change. Tell Maeko I'm hear, will you?"
Maeko and I retreated to our favorite summer pastime, once I was actually dressed. We headed over to the mall to shop. I wanted to get a new magazine with what little money I had left, and Maeko wanted a completely new wardrobe.
"So, what are you looking for?" Maeko said impatiently. I was searching through all the magazines, trying to find something entertaining, educational, and inspiring. It wasn't working very well.
"Oh, let's just go. There's nothing good." We walked for awhile, until Maeko spotted a great new outfit in a shop window. We went in, and Maeko tried it on.
"What do you think? Do I look like those anti-war hippies or what?" I laughed, thinking she was joking. She wasn't. "You know, we should go to the Haight. It might be fun.'
"No. Really? You want to see that place?"
"Might be inspiring." With that, Maeko got my mind working. I didn't want to admit that it sounded fun, so I kept my mouth shut. "How about we go this weekend?"
"I don't know. Maybe."
After a few days of contemplating Maeko's suggestion of visiting Haight-Ashbury, I decided to taker her up on the offer. I only wished that I had felt better the
day we decided to go.
It was a hot mid-July summer afternoon. Maeko and I had been frustrated all morning on how to dress. It's not like we wanted to impress the hippies, but we really didn't want to stick out like a sore thumb either. After what seemed like hours of contemplation we grabbed out two of the new outfits from a few days ago.
Once we had chosen our outfits, we jumped into my car and headed down the road. "When Got to Get You Into My Life" came on the radio, we smiled at each other and turned the sound up. A car filled with teenage boys honked their horn loudly while blowing cat whistles at us.
The Haight-Ashbury scene was something I had never experienced before in my life. There was music coming from everywhere. People were all over the place, sitting on stoops, walking along the street, and even hanging out of the windows of the buildings. They would wave to you and say a kind word, even if they didn't know you. I thought it was freaky at first, but then I got used to it.
"Hi, are you two new around here?"
"Yeah," Maeko replied. "What's your name, Stranger?" Maeko started to flirt with this tall, skinny college dropout. He was cute, but definitely not Maeko's type.
"Well, the name's not important for what I had in mind. Wanna come join us at our pad? Me and some friends are just inside." He pointed to the door of an apartment building behind him. I pulled on Maeko's arm, telling her I didn't want to go.
"Sure, why not?" She looked back at me, but I only frowned.