Synthetic describes the overhead, ambiance-ruining muzak that simultaneously blares too loudly and yet, also not loud enough to drown out the obnoxious jingles of the store next door selling electronics-type goods. She imagines that the sound embodies a sort of harpsichord/pianoforte synthesis. Stark, the air grows more dull each artificially lit moment by artificially lit moment. Her grandmother draws her attention away from the bad to her own face. “Do not marry a Korean,” her grandmother states. “Or what?” she responds; luckily for her, her grandmother cherishes rather than loathes this sort of response. “Or your life and marriage will be unhappy.” She takes a sip from her coffee—an americano to be exact, espresso in water, not deliciously brewed coffee—as her grandmother joins her in a solemn sip. Her grandmother winces, “Too bitter.” “Yes. Always. Unfortunately.” They, together, wince through another small, astringent sip.
She sighs, “Grandma?” “Yes,” her grandmother cheerily replies with her full attention, excited, hopeful. “This is why you flew me all the way here? To tell me to not marry a Korean?” Denial washes over her grandmother’s face, “No, of course not. I want to spend time with you.” “But we haven’t spent any time together until today, and I’ve been here for a week.” Slightly put off, her grandmother looks offended, “You are sleeping in my home. We’ve spent every moment together.” “Yes, I know, and I am so grateful and am so happy to be here, but today is the first day we’ve gone out together, alone. So, you can’t really tell me that we’ve spent all our time together.” At first her grandmother smiles at the girl’s attitude, and then she purses her lips and takes another sip, “Fine. I confess. Your mother told me you were dating a Korean, and she was concerned.” “That’s a little, no, that’s more than a little annoying, Grandma,” she calmly states, not upset or angry. “Besides, he’s not a Korean Korean. He grew up here, and anyway, I am Korean after all.” “Yes, but his family. How do you suppose we’ll all get along? We know nothing of his culture, and you—no matter how Korean you may look—are not culturally Korean. You don’t even speak the language.” “Yes, this is all true, Grandmother, but he was born and raised here.” “Do his parents speak English?” She sighs and pauses to scratch her right eyebrow with the middle finger of her right hand, and then she takes a sip of her not-coffee. “No. I don’t think they do,” she admits. “Well, see, there you have it. How do you suppose you will get along?”
The two sit and sip in silence, the type of silence two people can only withstand when both parties thrive within it. Eventually, she breaks the stillness, “Grandma. You’re Korean.” Her grandmother takes another sip, “Yes, dear. Of course, I know this.” “And yet you definitely do not want me to marry a Korean?” Her grandmother sets down the mug snugly wrapped between both hands and looks her deeply in the face, “I of all people should know, dear.”