From her window seat on Korean Airlines flight 11, Eun Pahk looked out over the city of Los Angeles. It is vast, she thought to herself, just as Father described it. As the plane descended, the city seemed to open itself wide, as if it were saying a quick “Welcome” before turning its attention elsewhere.
Eun was tired. The 11-hour flight from Seoul was long, and the days before her journey had been full of activity—farewell lunches, packing, organizing, and worrying. She had spent weeks worrying about what life in Los Angeles would be like, especially what it would be like to live with her father. She hadn’t slept well for weeks, lying awake wondering whether moving to California was a good idea.
No more wondering now, she told herself, because she was about to find out. There was no turning back now.
As the tired passengers shuffled off the plane, she remembered her father’s instructions: go to baggage claim, then customs, and then look for someone who would be holding a sign with her name on it. That was her driver, and he would take her to the office.
At the moment, she felt too tired to go to the office. She would rather go somewhere private and take a hot bath and a long nap. But that was not an option. This was her opportunity to get to know her father after all these years, and she would not start out by disappointing him. She had to admit she was also curious to see the office. She’d be working there soon.
On the escalator down to baggage claim, a small boy who had been on their flight stood just ahead of her, along with his family. He yawned and reached up towards his father, hoping to be picked up. But his father ignored him, so the child gave up. As they stepped off the elevator, the boy dropped his stuffed bunny and walked away without noticing. Eun scooped up the bunny and quickened her step to catch up with them.
“Excuse me,” she began. They ignored her.
“Excuse me,” she persisted. The child pulled on his father’s jacket and pointed to Eun and the bunny. The father turned.
“Excuse me,” she began again and then realized she’d have to continue the sentence in English because this family was not Korean. Eun’s English was excellent, but she had never lived anywhere that she would have to speak it all the time.
“You dropped this,” she said to the child.
The child took the bunny from her, and no more was said. Eun thought it strange that the father didn’t tell the child to thank her. Then she noticed the mother saying something to the little boy, while the father ignored them both. The mother and child approached Eun.
“Thank you,” the child said quietly.
“You are welcome,” Eun replied. And then remembering a more casual phrase, she added, “No problem.”
With a slight smile, the tired mother led the tired child back to wait for the luggage. The father glanced at Eun, and she noticed a sizeable scar over his left eyebrow, a permanent scrape ending at his eyebrow. He looked like a convict. The US was a dangerous place, guns everywhere, she’d been told. He looked like a man who owned a gun. Eun shuddered slightly at the thought, then told herself she was being overly dramatic. He’s a father, she thought. It’s just a scar.
Eun’s bags were the first ones dropped on to the conveyor belt. She grabbed them and headed for customs where she waited some more–just what exhausted travelers would rather not do. Finally, she emerged from customs and spotted her name on a sign, just as her father had said she would. The man holding the sign was tall, and Eun had to look way up to see his face.
“I am Eun Pahk,” she told him.
“Great! Hi, I’m Rob,” he answered with a smile. “I’ll be taking you to this address.” He handed her a slip of paper. The address looked correct, so she said nothing more.
“Correct?” Rob asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“I knew that,” he said smiling. “I work there. I just wanted you to know I was legit.”
“‘Legit’?” Eun asked.
“For real,” he explained. When he could see she still didn’t understand he added, “I wanted to assure you that I am here for you.”
“But you have a sign with my name,” she pointed out. He smiled again. She couldn’t help but notice that he was quite handsome. At dinner with her best friend Yugyoung two nights before, she had left Eun with a wish that she would meet a handsome American man in L.A. and have a wonderful romance. And here the first person she met was a handsome man. Off to a good start.