Two babies are born on the same day in the same apartment complex, a firstborn son, and I, a firstborn daughter. So bright, they sparkled, Umma says. Your eyes sparkled and I knew you were smart. And Appa’s wide grin says amen.
The firstborn son has a beaming halmoni and Appa drives her crazy, my eyes the light of his days, what a superior child! To prove his love for me, Appa once tasted my poo and tasted my pee. Watched me squeal in horror and delight as he did it, so proud of the lengths he’d go. Umma cannot confirm nor deny. Appa plants an undeniable kiss on my face in the church courtyard, the food court, that all might bear witness: I am beloved.
Then, a plague on my body, of too much of something no one can name. Mysterious are God’s ways, to send a plague but harden the heart, that we might see some glory. Umma bears it in tears suspended. She asks God if they loved me too much. Appa bears it in a wearied face turned away. He cannot look at my eyes for long now. On our drives home from the hospital, I lie down stretched across the backseat and scavenge a few recognizable words of murmured Korean. I do not understand and neither do they. Their dreams for me inflame into a persistent plea: Appease the plague with a sacrifice.
With a smaller life. A dimmer light. I’m bled often to confirm that I am living humbly. And the women in my family clasp their hands to better bang on the door of heaven. How long? How much? How could you?
The plague then comes for my brother’s beloved, a newly minted sister, she has a certain shine. We must be doing something right, for the Enemy is coming after us, she says. Perhaps we are destined for something more.
But why is this happening? The fruit of this question sours and rots in my hands.
What glory? The altar is drenched with my family’s devotion yet God sends no fire.
What do you want? And the Plague responds, to be loved as you are. Love me and I will set you free.