ALLAN CHO is a writer based in Vancouver, Canada, and a librarian at the University of British Columbia. His works have been published in multiple literary and arts magazines, including Ricepaper Magazine, Georgia Straight, and Diverse Magazine. He volunteers for a number of community causes in Canada, including organizing literASIAN, the very first Asian Canadian writers’ festival.
Allan Cho with Korean Canadian poet Bong Ja Ahn.
Read a section from Allan Cho’s story:
COUNTING DOWN THE MINUTES
by Allan Cho
April 2, 4:53am
Faith Yeung was woken up by a glow of yearning. She yawned and stopped to think about his voice.
From her apartment, the landscape over Vancouver’s English Bay was still sleepy. It was so quiet that she thought she could hear the rain lightly slap against the raincoats of pre-dawn joggers. Although she enjoyed this same scene every morning for the past twelve years, Faith Yeung felt a new agitation this morning. Things were out of place, the outside was as foreign as the inner workings of her mind. Only eight hours ago, every day had been the same. Now, today stood out and wouldn’t roll along as inconspicuously as yesterday or tomorrow.
“Will you miss me?” That was his voice from last night. She closed her eyes, and felt a dash of wetness on her cheeks left by his kisses from last night. Unbeknownst to her until this morning, everything could have shifted, the earth, the sky, and the time.
Faith Yeung realized that she had found what her childhood friends dreamed about and what she never thought was possible: the one. She whispered his name, then uttered it aloud, and then screamed only to cover her mouth, fearful of waking her neighbors up. Peter Shin.
The last time Faith Yeung’s confidence was shaken was only days ago.
“My dear, as the mother of a beautiful professional who is just turning forty, will I live long enough to see my grandchildren?” Her mother asked in a resplendent Queen’s English while the rest of the Yeung clan sipped their oolong tea, their eyes scanning their menus, ears soaking in the drama. Although the restaurant was filled with Cantonese and Mandarin speaking people, Faith Yeung could barely understand the words that were flowing from table to table as smoothly as the aroma of hargau (shrimp dumplings) and Shanghainese xiaolongbao (steamed dumplings).
Auntie Yee, who acted as Faith’s conscience for much of her adult life, interjected, “No matter what you do,” she said and took another sip of her tea before continuing, “do not settle.” Nestled deep in the woods of her mind, those words of advice carefully guided Faith Yeung as a little girl.
Her mother shot back, “Don’t teach my daughter such nonsense.” The two continued with their bantering while Faith Yeung coolly fiddled with her Blackberry. Two messages were still left unanswered.
It was difficult to match Auntie Yee’s ideal man. After all, her husband had committed treason for love.
“The Yeung family was quite prestigious before 1949, that’s why our family didn’t think he, a low-ranking army officer, deserved me.” As usual, her aunt began the narrative from the first obstacle her husband had fought, “But he never gave up on me until Mother finally relented. We married on the eve of the retreat.”1 It was also the beginning of another tragedy. The Yeung family was deliberately abandoned on the mainland because they were mistrusted by the Kuomintang2 government.
“He had sailed across the strait along with the army, but when he found out that I was left behind, he immediately turned around and exchanged his life for mine.” Auntie Yee sounded sad yet proud. Her husband sold military secrets to Communist China in exchange for the Yeung family to go to North America.
He was later found guilty by a military court and executed.
It was at that time that Faith Yeung once again drew an inevitable conclusion:
No man could possibly compare to him.
But everything is possible, as long as time marches on.
1 “The retreat” refers to Kuomintang’s retreat from mainland China to Taiwan in 1949.
2 Kuomintang refers to the political party that governed all or part of mainland China from 1928 to 1949. It is also translated as “The Nationalist” as it appears in Rui Wang’s “A Hero of Our Times”.
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