The Wave

The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Hokusai  1830-33
The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Hokusai 1830-33

In the afternoon I swam and did a second load of laundry: the darks. It was a pitifully small load, devoid of my father’s thick navy polos purchased in bulk at Costco and my mother’s nylon badminton shirts. This is laundry when you live alone: just your dirty clothes in a small, limp pile. Small because you’re not the type of person to let the clothes pile up. I used half the detergent I normally use and closed the lid, suddenly unaccustomed to the silence. 


My parents have gone to Taiwan on a biannual trip, a recent implementation of their plans for partial retirement. When my grandfather passed away two summers ago, my parents had said with forced light-heartedness, “Well, now we don’t have to go to Taiwan in the dead of summer.” My grandfather’s birthday was in July and for my entire life until two years ago, July was spent in Taipei. Now, my parents have chronomobility – the luxury to go in May or whenever, really, when the weather is only humid and not sweltering, though in truth my father can stand neither.

They are edging into retirement, my father more rapidly than my mother, who still maintains a rather full teaching schedule despite my father’s grumblings.

“You shouldn’t teach during dinner time,” he said one evening as my mother came home at 7:30PM. She rolled her eyes at me as though to say, “This is what happens when you have things to do and your spouse doesn’t.”


Two weeks ago I turned 26. I meant to write another long, thoughtful post about aging and accomplishment and how it was very obvious the former was happening without the latter. It was depressing, not because I was depressed, but because what I wanted to write seemed like a shadow of what I’d written at 25, which doesn’t seem so long ago. Not much has changed. I typed, then deleted, then typed.

In the end I clicked the throbbing red ‘X’ on the top right corner. A little window popped up and asked me if I was sure I wanted to navigate away from the page and risk losing my work. I took that risk. There is more work ahead.

I’m sure now of the next few years in that I look forward to them. My heart rolls around on waves generated by the fluctuations of my various mindsets. Some mornings (mostly weekends) I wake up and everything is good and light and filled with promise. Other mornings (mostly weekdays) I wish it was stay dark outside so that I could continue sleeping. I wish things were steadier in here, but then again, if they were, I would find a way to unsteady them. That’s being human.

What did happen around my birthday both energized and exhausted me. I found another writer at work who shared the same birthday. He gave me a book of short essays and I gave him a short story I’d written two years ago, when I was still madly in love with. We agreed to start a two person writing group. After lunch, we were both awkwardly stunned in our break room where Madam Receptionist had gathered our friends to surprise and sing us happy birthday. My boss was there too and he asked us each to say something about ourselves.

“I like it here,” I said, blushing suddenly because it was true and not true, “I’ve never had a full-time job before. It’s nice that this is my first one.”

My coworkers laughed, which made me sad because I could not see myself standing there next year.


That night, my parents asked me to pick a restaurant and I chose a Japanese hole-in-the-wall so small that even a modest crowd meant an hour wait. Somewhere in the back of my head I remembered that the restaurant only took reservations between 5 and 5:30PM, but I had forgotten and now subjected my family to the wait. My father doesn’t even like sushi. I stood in the restaurant’s small, crowded entryway, half listening to my parents discuss their upcoming trip to Taiwan with my aunt, (who also was not too fond of sushi). I examined the restaurant’s wall art, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by Hokusai.

I was tired, not too hungry. The wave, even from this side, overwhelmed me. I was twenty-six.

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