Hibiscus Syriacus

Charidnee was oddly vivacious. She lived with her grandparents next door. Sometimes she would use the branches of our dogwood tree to hoist herself beyond the chain-link fence separating our yards. My mum would find her sitting Indian style by our backdoor, waiting quietly for her to release us from our seats at the kitchen table each morning. I never got to finish my cold poptarts, but that’s okay because my appetite was as small as my patience was. I preferred not to wait for my breakfast to warm up, I was always in such a hurry at all times. Charidnee and I got along that way. We could never decide on a given task or activity, we always tried things and just as quickly let them go to try something more enticing. 

She was Korean and her family owned a candy store in the city. Mr. Kim sometimes gave me Almond joys through the fence when my parents were finished having their cigarettes on the back porch, and I lingered to “smell the honeysuckles”. Mrs. Kim did laundry and grew eggplants in the yard. She didn’t talk. Only to tell Charidnee to climb back over the fence to have her dinner. 

Hibiscus Syriacus grew in our yard, and Charidnee enjoyed putting the blossoms in my hair. She said they stuck nice. Curls hold everything in. My dad said that the Kim’s once owned every house on our street. I didn’t believe him because Mr. Kim never wanted to be home, why would he have more than one? He was always tinkering with his boat, and then sometimes he would be gone for days, coming back with nothing but a small corral of fish and nice tan. 

Our small hands used to fit nicely in the holes of the fences, until our feet warped the neat triangle wiring by all our climbing. 

Two weeks after moving into the rancher on Traway Drive, we were invited over for dinner by the Kim’s. Mr. Kim showed up much like Charidnee would, patiently waiting and lightly knocking on the backdoor, waiting for us to oblige him. We had already put on our pajamas and Mr. Kim insisted we come just as we were. The house was filled with decorations and only lit by small red and yellow paper lanterns. They were having a party. Charidnee’s parents had just gotten married. This was the first and last time I would see them. Charidnee wasn’t around then, my brother barely was, for he had been born not seven months before the party but we all crossed the yard to where the Kim’s were celebrating despite our exhaustions and concern. 

That night I ate all the rainbow rice-cakes and fell asleep on the glass table in their living room. I remember all the colors, and the people, and the smells from the kitchen, it is a wonderful memory to get lost in. Sometimes I piece together small pieces of time at that house and attempt to relish, savor the intricacy of it all and although there is beauty all of it, only painful nostalgia surfaces.