For the first time in many years, my ex-fiancé and I sat across from each other in the Korean church we grew up in. It was lunchtime on the Sunday after Christmas, and we were seated in the former Pizza Hut turned cafeteria, eating rice, kimchi and ribs.
We avoided each other’s gaze.
The holidays bring people home, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to see him. But I was.
He’s a Marine stationed in North Carolina with family who long ago moved to Korea. As for me, this was only the second time I’d visited the church since I returned to Augusta six months ago from almost 10 years in Charlotte; I’d only come because a good friend and her family was in town, and this was my last chance to see her kids.
Despite the awkwardness I felt at sharing a meal with a complete stranger I’d once planned to marry, I made small talk. “How are your parents? Where’s your brother at nowadays?” I think he felt as uncomfortable as I did; he kept staring off toward the kitchen, where the older Korean women, my mother included, were milling about.
Afterward, when we had nothing left to say, I latched onto my good friend like she was my bodyguard, left the lunchroom, and waved awkwardly when he drove off in a black truck.
Now that I’ve had a little time to digest this peek at my past, and reflected on 2015 in general, I’m realizing just how much I needed that unexpected encounter.