You know, that week: A Story of Belonging (Chapter 5)

Friday

“Why is there a bird cage in the living room?” Christopher's sister forgets about 'good morning' and asks her brother the question that's been on her mind for the last couple of days.

Christopher walks downstairs, taken aback by the question. 'Why did I build a bird cage? And now what's my excuse for not starting my job search?' He hesitates. “I'm not sure. Maybe I'll get a bird.”

His sister laughs. “You're really trying hard to put some roots down here. It's nice to have a fresh start sometimes.”

Christopher is offended and he makes his defensive measures. “These are my roots. You're thinking's a little backwards. This is my home now. I mean it's always been my home.”

“I think you left home when you came off the island. It's all over your face brother. You've been angry since you came back.”

“You don't know what you're talking about. It's because of that place that I'm angry.” Christopher starts walking towards the kitchen.

“That's what I'm talking about. You're just angry all the time now. You have no clue about life here anymore because you're still stuck over there. You don't even know about the newest dramas here and you blow up every time someone mentions anything about Taiwan. And you built a bird cage.”

“And now I'm searching for jobs.” Christopher sits at the kitchen table and starts using the computer. His sister backs off and gets to her own business. 'Am I angry all the time?' Christopher thinks back to last night. Mary. Her number. 'Of course I'm not. I'm happy actually.' He pulls out his phone and turns off the computer, then walks outside. He stares at the new contact. Mary. He's nervous and excited. He calls.

It's not even noon yet and Mary's already eaten a light breakfast, worked out, went to the salon, and bought a new wardrobe. She looks like she's ready to go to an awards show. She's a star and the hottest face right now. She's careful to choose every route. As long as she stays in the footsteps of Hollywood then people just treat her like a princess.

This is what she's supposed to be like. It's what all her talent and hard work has lead to. Now she has a whole day to enjoy herself.

She made reservations at a restaurant for lunch and she's going to a tea shop after that to plan out her schedule and catch up on her work. There's a lot to do and too many people to call. It feels good to finally find yourself. And then her phone rings.

Christopher.

She can barely remember him. Small flashes from their time start coming back. 'I can't believe how confused I was.' She stares down at the number and then pushes the button.

Ignore.

She gets into her car and tells her driver the name of the restaurant. Anyone can tell she's not the same girl that she was yesterday. She's different. A new Mary.
Christopher tries to call her a few more times throughout the afternoon in between job searching. At the same time, his friend Petey has been leaving his own messages on his phone. For some reason he can't push himself to call him back.

He finds his sister's voice inside his head. 'If this is your home, why can't you connect with your old friends?' 'Have you figured out who you are yet?' Hugo's question rings inside of him. He can imagine what Mr. Chen wanted to say to him. 'Will you consider sitting down to dinner with me first? We can work this out together. You have something good going here. If you turn away from it now, you may regret it later in the future.' A picture of his father pops in his mind, but he blocks it out before he can hear another opinion. His eyes are red. He blinks tears away and breathes deeply. 'Why is it so hard to just escape?'

It's at the word escape that he realizes something. What is he trying to escape from? Who locked him up? Is his life really that desperate?

He looks around. Each blessing in his life starts jumping out at him. There's something missing though. Something he found when he was with Mary. It's only with her he had a true fresh start. She understood who he is now because she couldn't see any of his previous drama. He could be himself when he was with her. There was no anger or frustration, but it had nothing to do with her actually.

It's because he never gave anyone else the same chance. A chance to believe he's someone else. A chance for them to receive a new kind of Christopher. 'Is that what Mr. Chen wanted? Is that what my dad already figured out? So what am I supposed to do?'

Christopher turns off the computer again. He runs upstairs and packs his suitcase once again. He calls a taxi and waits outside. Then he remembers. He forgot one thing. He goes back inside and grabs the bird cage. His sister walks in behind him as he turns to walk outside.

“Where are you going?” She asks.

He stares at her, thinking her face can share a thousand stories. Countless memories. This is forever.

“Home.” It's all he says.

She smiles. 'About time.'

He tells the driver to stop when they're in front of Hugo's house. He's outside, as usual. He puts the window down and screams out his name.

“Hello Christopher.”

“I'm giving the big man another chance.”

Hugo chuckles, wiping the dust off his hands.

“And sorry about your wood.”

“Be free Christopher.” Hugo waves goodbye and he's off to make his last stop. A one way trip to Taiwan: the beautiful island.

It's Sunday morning before he gets to Taiwan. He sleeps most of the day and then gets his living situation set up again. That night he walks around the city and reflects back on the last week. All of it is so unreal. He's new again. How many times is that going to happen to him? Maybe he always has to be new, and he always has to expect the same in others.

Life on the island. It's always hot and humid and filled with smog. There's too much noise and not enough space. But it's filled with life, from cockroaches filling the sewers, to lizards and spiders, birds and mountains covered in green. This is not just an island anymore.

This is Taiwan. This is the mold that's shaped him, even though some of his corners can never be reformed. It's who he is. He shouldn't sacrifice it. He should use it. It's another work week tomorrow, but this one is gong to be new. It has to be. Because he's new.

Christoper walks up to the door of his old office carrying his bird cage. His name gets called out a few times in surprise, but it's only been a week. They probably assume he never left. Mr. Chen stands up behind his desk, expressionless.

Christoper doesn't stop. He walks with the same determination he did one week ago. Only his anger is replaced with passion. He walks past Mr. Chen's desk and right up to his own. Then he lifts his bird cage and smashes it right into his desk. The skinnier wooded pieces in the middle crack with a loud noise and he strikes it again, breaking it in two.

“Christopher, what are you doing? Are you crazy?” Mr. Chen starts yelling.

“Mr. Chen. I'd like to have my job back. What do you say?”


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