My eyes were staring at the blackboard – our homeroom teacher was writing examples of different types of literary metaphors – but my mind was on the game I played yesterday. I was behind in territory, but Brad had a weak group that he would eventually need to take care of. I waited and waited for the perfect time to attack, to use his weakness to catch up in territory. Yet, it never seemed like a good time, and at some point it became too late for me to gain anything from merely attacking. I had to capture the whole thing. And of course this attempt failed completely and I had to resign. Was there a better way I could have played? I kept reviewing the game in my head again and again.
“Ugh, I really don’t want to go to math academy today. The weather is so beautiful!” Mina said. She had come up to my desk at the end of the class.
“Yeah, I really don’t feel like going to the baduk school today either.”
I wasn’t just saying it to agree with Mina. For some reason, I was dreading the idea of going to the baduk school today.
“We are studying fifth grade math, and it’s boring. And most likely I will be doing this again when I do get to the fifth grade! Are you doing fifth grade baduk, too?”
It was a funny question. There was no third grade baduk or fifth grade baduk. However, it was true that there were some unspoken expectations about how strong one should be at each age to be considered competitive. No one told me about this, but I could sense it when people asked me about my age in baduk events.
“It’s not very clear, but I guess I do try to advance faster than other people.”
“What if you just don’t go to the math academy today? Then what happens?”
“My mom will insist that I can’t skip it… And if I don’t show up at the academy, I suspect they will call Mom.”
“Well, makes sense.” We looked at each other and exchanged a little sigh.
“Do you study anything else?” Mina asked.
“No, just baduk. I have no time for anything else.”
“That must be easier, no? I wish I did only one thing too.”
“But I do it for like five hours every day, plus sometimes on weekends too.”
“Oh, you are right. Maybe it is not easier after all…”
On the way to my grandparents’ place, I couldn’t stop thinking how I didn’t want to go to the baduk school today. But what could I do? I would probably go anyway and have the same day as yesterday or the day before yesterday.
“Hajin, did you have a good day at school? Our lunch is almost ready.”
My grandma greeted me happily as she opened the door for me. Jane was already sitting at the dining table.
“What about grandpa?”
“He will be having lunch outside with his friends.”
I had a peek at the kitchen and noticed some bulgogi on the stove. It looked really good. I dropped my backpack in the living room, washed my hands, and took my seat next to Jane.
“Jane, how was kindergarten?”
“It was alright. How was your day?”
“I guess it was alright.” I couldn’t think of any reason to be sad or upset. In fact, seeing the bulgogi coming to the table, I felt like the day was getting better.
After lunch, Jane and I went to our playroom as usual. It was the smallest bedroom in our grandparents’ place. We kept our books and toys there. Jane suggested that we put together a 200-piece jigsaw puzzle, and I gladly agreed. We both like puzzles, and we have many different types of puzzles here and at home. My favorite one is a 20-piece slide puzzle, which I can solve in three minutes. We had all the edges of the jigsaw puzzle done, and several clusters of center pieces assembled, but it was about time for me to leave home for the baduk school. Once again, I was feeling a strong resistance to the idea of going to the baduk school today.
“Jane, maybe I won’t go to the baduk school today. What do you think?”
“Really? That would be awesome!” Jane seemed genuinely excited by the idea. After a few minutes of hesitation, I went out to the living room and picked up the phone.
“Hello?” Mom’s familiar voice made me a bit nervous.
“Mom? It’s Hajin.”
“Oh, what’s up?”
“I am not feeling well today. Can I miss the baduk school?”
“Are you sick? Do you need to see a doctor?”
“Not really… Just a little headache. Can I stay here with Jane today?
“Yeah, that’s okay. I will call your baduk teacher then.”
Once I finished the phone call with mom, I felt a huge relief. Going to the baduk school was something I thought I couldn’t avoid, but both mom and grandma seemed to think it wasn’t a big deal. In the meantime, I was extremely happy, realizing that the whole afternoon was open to me. I first wanted to finish the puzzle with Jane, then maybe read the short story book again about the farmer who ran into a ghost. At some point I could even go out with Jane and get a small box of chocolate cookies to share between us. We had plenty of time until Mom and Dad would be back! Then, I wondered. Will I be happy like this everyday if I just stop going to the baduk school completely? I don’t know. For now, I just want to enjoy my freedom.