It was summer vacation, and my grandmother was visiting us from South Korea. I was exploring the garden in our new yard, picking white and yellow wild honeysuckle flowers from a fence along our property border and he approached me from the side. He said “Hello,” and I mistakenly thought that he was my grandmother. She had a deep, scratchy smoker’s voice. It was a classically embarrassing preteen moment reminiscent of a John Hughes film.
I said, “Grandma, look honeysuckles! You can eat them!” my sister showed me how to pull the stem from the flower, the taste was nectar sweet. When I turned around I saw Philip standing there smiling at me. I instantly thought he was good looking, and I flushed rose red, flustered at my mistake.
“Sorry I snuck up on you, my name’s Philip I live down the street. I wanted to say hi.”
I replied a lighting quick “Hi!” response and rudely walked away with my grandmother who had finally appeared. I was 11 or 12 at the time and he was 13 or 14.
Philip always seemed to catch me in dramatically awkward moments. My old school Korean mother used to make me wear dark blue or red tights underneath my shorts during the summer. I thought it looked incredibly weird, like a super hero costume. Apparently shorts over tights was the fashionable style in Korea, (probably for modesty purposes) but I defiantly changed out of them somewhere halfway between our house, (we had an endlessly long driveway) and the school bus stop which was about a block away. I tried to discretely change behind bushes near our house but one day my mom was lingering outside, so I had to change farther away, behind a bush close to the bus stop. Guess who saw me changing? Thankfully Philip didn’t make a comment but yes I was mortified, he saw me outside in my underwear.
For some reason, he disliked my good friend Susan and her older sister, (I think he hated Susan’s sister mostly). He called them Egg head one and Egg head two. It bothered me that he acted like a bully to Susan who was a sweet, non judgmental person but maybe that added to his bad boy persona. Good girls naively think they can change a bad boy with their goodness, it took me decades to learn the key to bad boys is to avoid them.
After awhile he stopped riding the bus when he was old enough to drive. In the affluent neighborhood that I lived in, everyone who was cool had a ride to school or they drove, only nerds and young kids rode the bus. I remember hearing stories about the parties he threw while his newly divorced parents were away. One story I overheard about him was seriously spooky. Someone said that he could astrally project and said they saw his astral body in their house at night. I’m sure it was just a rumor, but that phantom image of him stayed with me all these years.
The dream of life, after a long while, the past catches up to you in glimpses, sometimes in memories you wonder what’s true and what’s memorized.