without a certificate or a diploma, there’s no way to show people the result, thus winning is pointless

When I was in junior high school, there was a tournament of the Japanese classic card game that I wrote about. One hundred cards were laid out before competitors and each card had an ancient Japanese poem written on it. A teacher read a hundred poems one by one and competitors picked the corresponding card. The one who got the most cards would be a winner. The game isn’t as simple as it sounds. While a poem reader reads the whole poem, only the latter half of the poem is written on a card. To pick a card fast before it’s taken by your rivals, you memorize the whole poem. The instant the top of a poem is read, you recall the poem’s latter half, find the card it’s written among the laid 100 cards, and pick it.

Because my family had the game at home and played it occasionally, the poems were quite familiar to me. I was able to memorize all 100 poems easily before the tournament, that let me beat a competitor one after another, as by the time the teacher read a first verse, the card of the poem’s yet-unread latter half was already in my hand. At the finals, I even beat the smartest girl at school and won the tournament. I came home with great joy and told my mother I had won. Her response was, ‘Where’s a certificate?’ According to her, without a certificate or a diploma, there’s no way to show people the result, thus winning is pointless. She urged me to have a teacher issue the certificate and I asked the teacher. A few days later, I received a makeshift paper for the certificate. The pitiful paper was decorated proudly in a frame by my mother…

Since I knew my future

As long as I could remember, my family members had told me that I was a successor of the family and I was to live with my family all my life as my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather and on and on and on did, by taking a husband into our family to bear our family name. They kept saying that as a usual chant so repeatedly that I was sort of under the spell that I would be stuck to the house as a successor until the day I died. So, I was an outsider when other girls chatted giggly about what last name they would bear after their marriage or where they would live in the future. I knew what my last name and what my future address would be because they wouldn’t be changed. My whole life was so predictable for that matter. Since I knew my future, I had no interest in my life, and days were so boring. I changed my future completely by abandoning my family, my friends, my hometown and the old tradition. Now, I’m free from my once-arranged future. Instead, I dread my uncertain future everyday…

door shut before me

When I was in the hospital with nephritis, I shared the room with five
other girl patients. Except for a very small or very sick child, parents
weren’t permitted to stay overnight with the patients. They came during
the visiting hours. I was nine years old and had never stayed outside
home such a long time before. I suffered from homesickness rather than
from nephritis. My parents were too busy working seven days a week as
farmers and only my mother visited me everyday. But she only made it
less than one hour before the visiting hour ended although I was waiting
for her all day long. No matter how desperately I begged her to come
earlier, she prioritized her work and I got to see her merely forty
minutes or so a day. Sometimes my father also came to see me, taking my
younger sister with him. In that case, when the visiting hour was over, I
would see my parents and my sister off. They went into the elevator
together and the door shut before me, excluding me alone. That was the
thickest door I’d ever felt it was. I went back to my bed and lay down
hiding tears from other girls and nurses. Maybe it hinted my future
relationship with my family. The three of them still live together in
our old house that I left after I struggled and couldn’t quite fit in…