Amazing Kids! Magazine

The Perfect Ride

By Seo Yeon Lee, age 16, Nevada


I opened the book, and out slipped a photograph. The photograph gently landed on the ground when I heard the voice of my mother calling for me.

I opened the door and walked into the living room, where I could hear Mom talking on the phone. She gestured for me to wait. Waiting for the call to end, I looked around the unfamiliar house. It was a small summer house that Mom had bought a long time ago. She didn’t exactly tell me this, but I had always suspected that she bought it in hopes of spending time together here with my father, whose face I didn’t even know. But as usual, I kept silent. As usual, I suppressed my curiosity about this figure I was so well acquainted with in my head but had never met even once in reality, at least to the extent of my memories.

When I woke up from my daydream, the bright, youthful look that Mom had briefly acquired for the past few days in dreams of the summer vacation had vanished. She looked like her usual fatigued, aged self, looking older than she actually was.

Her mouth uttered the words that I had half-expected: “I’m really sorry, son. They really need me. I have to go on a business trip abroad.”

With some hesitation, she added, “It’s probably going to take the entire summer break. We are going to have to cancel the trip.”

My heart sank, and my joys diminished. But then I remembered how much she had wanted to go on this vacation as well. There would be no need to add to her misery.

I forced a smile and lied, “It’s all right.”

Remorse filled in her eyes. I tried to cheerfully tell her that she should not worry about me and she should do what she needs to do. I returned to my room, closing the door.

All throughout the night, I could hear her exasperated and sorrowful sighs. And I knew I was the cause of her sorrow. I could never even attempt to guess all her hardships that she endured as a single mother, raising a son—a brat who would never openly show his affection and love toward his mother. While I lay in my bed, pangs of guilt stabbed me repeatedly with each sigh that she took; they even followed me to the depths of slumber.

My mother left soon thereafter, and being the worrying mother she is, she called someone over to help take care of me in her absence. He was the opposite of both my mother and myself. He was young—about ten years younger than my mother— but he looked even younger than that.

He was an incredible man. There was no further description needed. He was someone who would casually overlook my awkwardness and act as if we had known each other since I was born. The weird part was that I felt the same way, too.

But still, the inherent crudeness in my social skills and distrust of others kept me distant from him. I would leave the house before he would run and catch up to me, confidently boasting his excellent cooking skills and telling me to wait for his breakfast—which, by the way, didn’t even taste that good. Yet, there was warmth in those dishes—something that I yearned for. Whenever I spent time with him, it felt as if I were a bunch of little jigsaw puzzle pieces, and he was a merry child, putting the pieces together to form the person that I truly was.

And that was exactly why I didn’t want to be near him. After this summer, I would return home to endure the usual silence and solitude with my mother being away most of the time. I had learned to fear before fully enjoying something. I was a coward because that’s how my life had taught me to live. It’s better not to have it if I know I can’t have it forever. Brighter the sun, darker the shadow. His absence would mean more to me as I got closer to him during this limited time span. Thus, ignorance was key. If I didn’t fully learn the feeling of companionship, I wouldn’t be able to miss it as much.

These were the things that I would think of as I sat down on the sand, peering into the endless ocean. Although there were countless visitors here for the summer, the only thing that surrounded me was dead silence. I would make myself content by watching the ocean that glistened under the blazing sun.

That is, until, the mirthful man grabbed my shoulder one day and offered to teach me how to surf.

This to me was like the sweet fruit that had tempted Eve. I had always had an indescribable affinity for the ocean. I could not refuse such an offer.

From that day, the man taught me everything about riding the wave, even buying me a new surfboard as a gift. He complimented my surfing skills tremendously in his excited voice. Of course, I didn’t entirely believe him. Still, his words would stir up weird emotions that I never knew resided in me.

As much as I loved this new sport, the waves were intimidating. In my initial try of surfing, I inhaled a lot of water trying to run away from them as I got scared at the last moment. When I would surf, I would get lost in my train of thought. My exceptional imagination would morph the waters into something they were obviously not. It would take the shape of someone whom I knew so intimately in my heart.

At times, the figure would sometimes look down on me, making me feel like a tiny mouse in front of its predator, or coldly reject me as I hopelessly fell into the hands of the tranquil ocean. I knew the waves and the ocean that received me were essentially the same—why was I separating the two? I also rationally understood that I was delving into absurd thoughts as usual. But I just couldn’t stop these images. Sometimes, I would imagine the waves screeching at me to go away. Thus, my surfing skills remained as terrible as ever, but that didn’t deter me from going out every day into the ocean. I wanted to escape and never return to the waves; yet, the first thing I did each morning was grab my surfboard. I did feel very bad for the man who was so enthusiastically trying to teach me the ways of surfing, though.

The days passed by way too quickly with my newfound passion. The summer season was ending, and I would have to return to the city soon. The visitors had left, and the town was getting quieter by the day. In a moment of realization when riding yet another wave, I knew that I would have to leave everything behind with the end of the season—the ocean, surfing, and the man who had taught me true warmth and happiness in such a short time span.

That was the first day where I returned home early from surfing. I returned to the house and locked myself in my room, when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a photo lying on the ground. I soon remembered that was the photo that I had dropped on the day Mom announced she had to cancel the vacation. Still with the surfboard in one hand, I sluggishly walked towards the photo and picked it up. I was still dripping because I had just returned from surfing; the droplets of water from my hair landed on the photo.

It was a family photo. That being said, there were only two people in it— my mother and me. I was staring blankly at the photo when I heard the noise of the door. He probably thought I was outside, surfing. I was about to notify him of my presence when I realized he was on the phone, talking to someone. His voice was trembling, and it lacked the usual gaiety. I stopped myself from opening the door as my curiosity took over.

“I told you that I was now ready to take responsibility for what I had done. But I was wrong. I overestimated myself. I’m still the same as the time when you met me. I can’t; I can’t do this,” he lamented.

When he let out the name of whom he was talking to, I thought my ears were playing tricks on me. He said the name—my mother’s name—with such familiarity and an unmistakable notion of love and passion.

Even amidst my distress and shock, the last few words became clear: “I want to take responsibility. I have to. He is my…”

That was when I ran out of the house.

I was lost. I didn’t know what to do, but I needed to do something, anything to distract my mind. I felt the surfboard and immediately started toward the ocean. I didn’t care it was night; at that moment, I didn’t care about the chills that entered my body. I took up my surfboard and paddled into the ocean. I felt the waves and tried to ride them with no success. They felt colder and more hostile than usual. The waves continued to reject me in my futile attempts—I could not successfully ride even one.

That was when he forcefully grabbed me and took me out of the ocean. He threw a lot of towels on top of me and started to shout about the dangers of surfing at night and in this cold weather. When he calmed down a little, I threw the towels off my body and sat myself down, like I used to do before I started surfing. My view was oriented towards the deep ocean, and I started to talk.

I started, “The image of this obscure figure known as ‘father’ took many forms for me. It would change with every season. During the winter, he would be harsh and belittling. Other times, he would be like the fall—distant and cold, pretending not to know me. At other times, he would be surrounded by life and joy as in spring, and he would look down on me and pity me at the same time.”

I took a deep breath and continued, “But still, at the end, I would hope for a person who resembles summer—cheerful, carefree, and warm, as she described you the only time she ever did mention you. So, I would hope for this person like summer to magically show up one day and claim me as his son.”

This situation was much different from usual: He would normally be the one endlessly talking, and I would be the one listening. Now it was reversed. A short laugh escaped me. I still couldn’t directly look at him, but I could hear his nervous breaths.

“When I ride the waves, I don’t always have to directly confront the waves. I listen to it; I feel it. I let the waves direct me, but in the end, I’m still the one in charge—you taught me that. To me, you were the waves. Now that I know who you really are, I want to show you something,” I finished as I took up my surfboard again.

Before he could stop me, I paddled into the ocean. The darkness didn’t bother me, and neither did the cold. I let my senses take over. As I sensed the waves, I regarded the waves not with fear but with a smile for once. I welcomed and entirely felt the waves—this time, the waves evoked fears of neither failures nor rejection nor unimportance within me. For once, it was a perfect ride.