More Than Candy

I didn’t eat much candy before I met you, fiendish angelsMovie Fifty Shades Darker (2017)

transformed by the very mention of sugar, the crinkling

sound of promise giving voice to the twinkling

of your eyes as I reach into the colorful hanji box

that always sits oh-so-conspicuously on the corner of Teacher’s desk.

As the bell has not yet rung, you linger

little hands

now timidly lifting the cover,

now gently touching the contents,

now reluctantly replacing the lid,

trying (but not too hard)

to hide the wistfulness on your face

as you examine my wry smile,

looking sidelong, gauging

whether it will be worth the effort to expend those English syllables and ask,

Teacher, candy?


***

 

We navigate the hallway from opposite sides,

pushed forward by steady tides of short skirts and pink plastic curlers,

lock eyes—

 

hello!

                                   hi!

 

You seem surprised by the exchange;

though to me, it’s routine, a hundred times a day

(like the half-hearted nods that define the stairway)

to you, painstakingly crafted, that syllable conveys

Connection! Communication!

A crossing of the abyss you never dreamed possible.

 

I smile, I nod, I go on my way

but you turn, touch my arm

and it is my turn to be surprised

as you press something small (but I know it’s not small) into my palm—

your heart, delivered in the form of a powdery red sweet  

and that ever familiar phrase, only

this time with nothing but a pure intent to give —

 

Teacher, candy?


***


I wish I could give you more than candy.

Confidence, for one, to know that you are Beautiful

and bold and brilliant and it doesn’t

matter what the scales say but still I

hesitate

to give you this colorfully wrapped piece of

immediate gratification.

I wish I could give you all the candy in the world

if that would help but I can’t help

thinking it is a bittersweet

contradiction to your (imagined) happiness, marred by a fear of

What?

 

Teacher, I’m scared of P.E. test today.

Why?

Teacher, I’m so heavy.

Heaviness,

weighing more on the heart than the body,

the like of which

I have never experienced because of

a mother who always told me I was Beautiful,

even when I cried and stormed in anger against her

for reasons no longer remembered

because of her beautiful words,

words that I try to repeat to you,

hoping to lift the heaviness, even just a little.

But I don’t know if you understand them

or believe them, as I did

when I looked in the mirror

and my eyes were still heavy with tears

but my lips could not suppress the smile that came from a Lightness

I wish I could give you.

Teacher, I’m so heavy.

you say, and in the next breath,

Teacher, candy?

 

I wish I could give you more than candy.

 

Victoria Su is a 2015-2016 ETA in Yecheon Girls’ Middle School and Yongmun Middle School in Yecheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.