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A Luminations Story
Start at the beginning of the Luminations series
I am going to be dignified about this announcement. There will be no squees, no lolspeak (or lolcatz), and no general self-embarrassment on the part of the Katy.
I am pleased to announce that I have met someone and that we have mutually embarked upon an endeavor of the romantic sort and.
Oh the hell with it.
*SQUEE* I GOTS BOYFRIEND!
Sorry. Regaining dignity now (Yes I did say RE-gaining. Shut up.).
His name is Josh. He works at the mall, goes to Hampshire College, double majors in political science and Japanese language, has a black belt in aikido, is Korean, is incredibly cute, and is one of the good guys. And he just texted me that he'll be here to pick me up in ten minutes.
Outta here. Peace, yo.
I thought I was good with secrets. Maybe I am. Everyone slips once in a while, right?
Or maybe I was trying to scare him off.
I'm finding I have all this time to think over the summer. I drive to work, and then spend hours putting books on shelves, or manning the register when business is slow. It's good because I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want out of sophomore year, out of the new relationship, out of life in general. It's like I've been given permission: "Hey, Katy, why don't you take a breather and get your plans together? You'll even get paid minimum wage while you do it."
But not all of it is fun. I dwell on the bad things too. I've been thinking a lot about Darren Voort, and how he'll never have the chance to meet his child. I'd been thinking about Chess Hall's ex-girlfriend Melissa, and three rounds of surgery to put her face back together.
I know secrets. Some I've been trusted with, and some I've stumbled upon. I've seen people lose friends and loved ones because of those secrets.
My first date with Josh was Spider-Man 3 at the cheap second-run theater in Bedford. It came out around exam time, so I hadn't seen it yet. The movie was good. Talking until closing time at the coffee shop across from the theater was better. That was one of the problems. Josh is very easy to talk to. He accepts everything, and then once in a while asks a question that shows he's really been thinking about what I was saying.
As the summer stretched on and July turned to August and we spent more time together, my attitude about trust and secrets began to shift. The need for a true confidante began to overshadow the fear of hurting someone close to me. I did all kinds of rationalizing. After all, when Peter Parker keeps his secrets from Mary Jane, isn't that a sign that he doesn't trust her? That he considers her weak?
"What do you wanna do tonight?" It was about a week into August and he'd picked me up at my house. We didn't have any specific plans. I'd almost called to cancel. It had been a moody day, complete with grey skies and drizzles on my way home from my morning shift at the bookstore. The same questions were going through my head and the answers were lost outside of my reach, shrouded in a fog of unpleasant memories.
I pulled the door of the truck shut and shrugged. Josh drove a Dodge pickup that had seen better days.
"Somewhere quiet," I finally requested.
"You got it." He shoved the truck into gear and headed for Bedford.
Joshua's dojo is in a strip mall, not too different than the one where Chess Hall's office is located, and probably about half a mile away on the same road. I shrank a little in my seat as we passed by the Lumination Agency's little sign with the logo I had designed so long ago that it wasn't real anymore.
"You okay, Katy?" Josh was pretty tuned in to my reactions to things. I was still getting used to that.
"Yeah. Just passed a place I got fired from. I cringed a little. No biggie."
He pulled into the parking lot of his dojo and parked by the door. The place was dark.
"Hey, if this is all leading up to some fantasy involving me dressed in a gi and fooling around on those wrestling mats..."
"We wear hakama with the gi."
"Oh, good. Pants. Feeling much better. You know, at Bedford High School they had to disinfect the wrestling mats for ringworm."
He punched in the security code on the alarm system and turned, smiling. "Someplace quiet, you said. Don't worry. Intentions are honorable."
He slipped through the door and into the darkness.
I stood there.
I'd dealt with too much shit to have any patience for pretend-scary games. If he wanted to wait in the dark and grab me, he was gonna get hurt, black belt or not. And I didn't want to hurt him, so I stayed in the doorway figuring he'd get the idea and turn on a light.
A light did come on, but at the far end of the room. I could see Joshua's silhouette disappearing through a doorway. I followed.
I'd been to the dojo a couple of times to pick Josh up, and I'd taken one free trial class. I enjoyed the class, but I hadn't made the commitment to sign up because my work schedule kept conflicting with the class schedule, and I'd be heading back to UNH in a few weeks. Still, I found aikido very appealing as a concept. I can't rely on strength in a fight. Usually, what I rely on is dirty tricks, but knowing some technique couldn't hurt.
In the back were a hallway, a changing room (just one; men and women took turns), and a little office that was cluttered with boxes of uniforms and cleaning supplies. There was a first aid kit mounted prominently on the wall of the hallway. Josh walked passed all of them to the exit door in the back and held it open with a flourish.
I shook my head, a bit puzzled, and walked out.
"Holy crap!" I'm good at ruining the romantic flavor of these kinds of moments.
Instead of dumpsters and a back parking lot, I found myself in a walled Japanese-style garden complete with flagstone paths, a tiny pond, a stone bench, a couple of small concrete shrines, and a little footbridge.
A stone was engraved with "Serenity Garden" to mark the start of the path.
"Someplace quiet, as requested." Josh was pleased with himself.
I took out my phone and snapped a picture of the "Serenity Garden" stone.
"For some browncoats I know," I explained. He looked puzzled and I just giggled and walked past him into the garden.
Then he was with me, holding me.
We shared the best kiss I'd ever had that night, but that wasn't what convinced me to finally open up and let go of some of the secrets.
He convinced me by telling me stories.
"Being with you helps me forget a lot of bullshit I've had to deal with all my life. But I think you can do more for me than just distract me, Katy. I know you've had do deal with some crazy shit too. I don't know if you want to hear…"
"Tell me." We'd eventually found a seat on the stone bench.
"Okay. So… My childhood… I don't remember my birth mom. Or my dad. My dad is easier, though. He was a US soldier. I understand how that goes. He had a whole life back here. Maybe he was married or he had a girlfriend. Maybe my birth mom never even told him she was pregnant. But my birth mom… The nuns at the orphanage used to tell me she'd been taken by demons."
"Oh, shit. They told a little kid that?" I was getting that nagging voice in the back of my head, the one that tells me I'm missing something obvious. For the moment, the protective instincts were stronger.
Josh nodded. "Bunch of times. It's one of the only things I remember from before I was adopted. That and giant bugs."
"Giant bugs? Now this is getting weird."
"Nah, the bugs are normal. Goliath beetles. They're the size of a fist. Korean kids catch 'em for pets."
"I think I'll stick with my kitten." Actually, Hermione was more and more becoming Greg's cat since my parents had rather strongly objected to me bringing her home for the summer.
I got back to the question I needed to be asking. "Why the demon story? It was more than just the nuns being mean, wasn't it? Something scared them."
"When I left the orphanage, my mom asked them if they had anything that belonged to my birth mom. One of the nuns gave her an old book cover, leather-bound, empty. It was her journal, but she'd destroyed it. They told my mom that she ran away with a man she met, and I guess it's all the same. Man, monster, whatever. She ripped out all the pages, burned them. There was one tiny bit of writing left, a little bit of verse that one of the nuns who spoke decent English translated into haiku. Maybe it was in that form in Korean. Maybe not."
He turned away from me, but he'd chosen a quiet place like I'd asked and I could still hear him clearly.
"Past flesh burns away
I write only for you now
All else is ashes"
I leaned closer, trying to be gentle when I wanted to cling to him fiercely. Thoughts of shared connections were racing through my head, and I fought them back down, trying to find something to say that would help Josh.
"Why Japan?" A clumsy attempt to change the subject finally proved to be the best I could manage.
It got his attention at least. He turned back to look me in the eye.
"Compromise. I'm not really Korean anyway. I'm not anything. So I may as well choose. Japanese culture is accessible here. Kids get it. They don't question it. And there are little connections. The haiku journal. My dad could have been stationed in Japan at some point. A lot of American troops go through there on their way to or from Korea."
I nodded, took hold of his hand. I noticed the heat of the night. We were sticky with the humidity. I was still scrambling to find the words.
"You know it doesn't matter to me, right? Korean, Japanese, American, white, Asian, angelic, demonic. You're you. You chose to share this with me and… And I'm honored."
I kissed him awkwardly to try to drive home the point. But that wasn't what he was waiting for.
It was my turn to trust him, although there was some part of me that was still worried I'd scare him away. And somewhere, there was still a part of me that hoped I would.
Suddenly I was very bad with secrets. And I didn't care anymore.
By the time we were on our way home, I'd told him most of what I'd witnessed personally. I left out some personal stuff about Chess and Nancy. Those things weren't all mine to tell.
To his credit, Joshua accepted just about everything, just the way he did whenever we talked about serious stuff. He asked just the right questions, the ones that showed he was paying attention.
Strangely, the only thing we got hung up on was a detail I thought would be easy to deal with.
When I told him about the weird entries that some hacker had put on my blog, he asked to see them.
I pulled out my new toy.
"iPhone," he observed. "Nice. I thought I saw you standing in line at some ungodly hour at the mall that day. Would've come over and said hi, but they sent me out to work the parking lot."
I accessed my blog, set the date range back to January, and then toggled the defaults to show hidden entries
The entry wasn't there.
"Problem?" Josh had read my expression.
"Something's not right."
Josh pulled the truck over in a convenience store parking lot as I cursed like a sailor at the iPhone, the blogging site, the hacker, and my usual lousy timing.
"Katy, are you sure…"
"What? That I didn't make the whole thing up?"
"No. Give me some credit here. Are you sure the setting is showing all hidden entries?"
"Could it have been hacked again?"
"I changed all the passwords. No one but me knows them. No one. Fuck this. I'm calling tech support. Let me use your phone so I can stay online with this one."
I dialed Greg's cell.
"Hello, Greg, it's Katy. Yeah, calling on my boyfriend's phone… Yes I have a boyfriend. Don't you read my blog?"
Turns out, Greg had just gotten to Kelsie's parents' summer place after having no internet access down of the Cape for the last few weeks. Fortunately, he was back online.
I explained while he tinkered. I was just getting to the point of explaining all the reasons why my blog couldn't possibly have been hacked again, when he announced he'd solved the problem.
"It's your dating, Katy."
"Excuse me? As it turns out, that happens to be going quite well for, like, the first time ever in my life."
He laughed at that and Josh wondered what the joke was.
"Default date format. This blogging site allows you to toggle that for individual entries."
"Okay. And?" I knew he'd get to the point eventually.
"Your hacked entry is set for British dating."
"Ha! Evil Englishmen hacking my blog! Wait a minute, Greg. That makes no sense at all. I've got enemies spread far and wide, but not that far. Besides, I still don't see what that has to do with… Oh, shit." All of a sudden, I saw exactly what the implications were.
The hacked blog entry, the one talking about a shooting spree on campus, was not dated January 12, 2007. It was dated December 1, 2007.
I reset the date defaults, skipped ahead to the first entry, and handed the iPhone to Joshua.
He reached over and held my hand.
My problems had suddenly morphed from prank to prophesy, and after a night of sharing secrets from the past, it was suddenly the future that had me worried.
Story and Image by Rick Silva, Copyright 2008