Salt and sesame oil

If I seem a little lost, it’s because I am. So lost. Worrisome shadows are constantly fluttering, warring for space inside my head. And the fuzzy brain they end up beating against cannot grasp the significance of a year that sounds like it should only exist in science fiction or optometry (as in, hindsight is…).

Mandu’s parents plan to meet my parents on Friday, hopefully at a neutral Olive Garden where the breadsticks are plenty and any heated discussions about how much the wedding is going to cost are suppressed by a mutual, teeth-grinding agreement to not make a scene in public. I spoke with his family on the phone last night. Their concerns were muddled and curious, at least to me. They wanted to know the hour of my birth and compare it with Mandu’s. His sister, translating from Korean, explained that this information would be used to determine the most auspicious time of year for our union. Before hearing this, I really only had three questions when it came to scheduling: Is a decent venue available? Will it rain? Will I be on my period?

Sorry, I said. I don’t know what time I was born. I’ll ask.

Mandu says he’s never heard of this “tradition,” either. And that wasn’t even the first mention of their mother’s superstitious nature. Growing up, he told me, they’d find satchels of salt surreptitiously planted in random spots: atop pillows, in glove compartments–stuff like that. So, yeah; I’m slightly uneasy thinking my future in-laws might try to place an actual witch’s curse on me or the marriage or both.

Things are also unstable at work. The hospital unit I currently belong to will transition into a labor and delivery floor. I, being totally out of my element around pregnant ladies, will move up two levels to a heart failure unit. Most of my coworkers are transferring to the new building next door, with private rooms and state-of-the-art facilities. Being part of the group they left behind doesn’t feel great. But it pays the bills.

A decade ago, I still lived with my parents. I was too anxious and afraid to drive, so I hopped bus routes and trolley lines to get where I needed to be when carpooling wasn’t possible. In college I watched shyly, jealously, as the senior nursing students cut across campus in their navy blue uniforms while I shed hot tears throughout each prerequisite course and wondered when my life would finally start. I’d never been kissed at that point. Never been on a date. My bookshelf was a cardboard box turned on its side under a small bedside table. I thought I had nothing, and having nothing made me feel like I was nothing.

That was then. It’s the year 2020 now. I guess I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

Or was.

(Reply to this post at r/inbetweendays.)