Open Spaces — Going Off Script
1 mile long by 1.34 miles wide.
100,000 residents are boxed into a square mile full of one-way streets.
Tourists from all four corners of the world come to visit. With cameras glued in one hand, those in matching cargo shorts plod through Chinatown, San Francisco to stop and peer through smudgy windows. Some save a lifetime to travel to the City-by-the-Bay and as a side attraction, make a detour here.
They snap pictures at paper-painted fans, hand-carved jade pendants hanging in glass displays, and rummage through a pile of plastic cable cars on sale for two dollars and ninety-nine cents.
Passing right by them is a different group of travelers. These people gave up everything to breathe the air in this very neighborhood.
They hurry past with solemn faces and blue-collared hands. A Chinese man brushes past, in frayed clothes, cigarette smoldering between his fingers. His eyes are tired from seeing the same street corner, around the same time, for as long as he can remember. He takes a lazy turn into one of the noodle shops.
He is a bus boy. He collects orphaned chopsticks, half-eaten bowls of soup, and dumps them into a large plastic bucket that pushes on squeaky wheels.
He could have been my father.
They all arrive with dreams brimming in their eyes — just like the sixteen year old girl who landed on a transcontinental flight from Hong Kong many years ago. I would soon be by her side. Unamed, yet to be born.
With these two words, fate — according to my mom — plucked her from Hong Kong, the #4 most densely populated country in the world — 7 million people in a 426 square mile island – to the oldest Chinatown in North America. The #2 most densely populated city.
I was born in the largest Chinese community outside Asia.
When she said I do to the matchmaker, my mom said it was a one-way street with no U-turns.
“Why did you do it?” I’d always ask, “How could you marry a stranger ten years older and move where you didn’t know a soul or speak the language?”
“Because… ” Ah-Ma explained, “It was my fate. Our family was poor. I wasn’t the first-born and I wasn’t a son. Poa Poa, your Grandmother, pleaded for my six younger siblings and a better life.”
I was the first-born of Ah-ma’s two daughters. She had no other sons.
That was my fate.
I was excited and nervous waiting for the elevators doors to open.
This park, with more concrete than grass, sits on a sloping hillside, right above the parking lot I drove into. It’s one of the few open spaces in Chinatown. So, it’s everyone’s front porch.
It’s been remodeled. I remember a tree here and there. They’re gone.
One thing hasn’t changed. The people. There are still old men playing Chinese chess and old women sitting on park benches. Kids still tear through the playground, like metal balls ricocheting in a pinball machine.
It’s not like the suburbs here, though. There isn’t a separate playground for the toddlers and another one for the big kids. Big and small, we all played together, fell into the tanbark and got itty bitty splinters lodged in the palm of our hands when we jumped off the monkey bars.
I stopped to look at the small children playing, especially the two to three year olds. They’re the same age I would’ve been. They looked so sweet and innocently happy, impervious to the hopes and expectations of the ones watching them nearby.
In time, they will have dreams of their own.
What will happen when their dreams start to run in the opposite direction than those of their parents?
It can mean different things to different people.
It’s the schoolyard bully we’re afraid to fight.
Sometimes, fate is like a sandy-brown-haired crush, who sat in front of me in junior high math class. We wish fate would turn around and smile and pass us a favorable note.
Other times, fate is a bad dream that finds you, even if you count cute, fluffy sheep and drift off with sunsets in slow descent.
Fate was all these things to me. It was never a friend.
It didn’t matter where I lived — school-aged in a small town inland, collegiate in trendy West Los Angeles, nature-bound in the mission field, or high-heeled in the Financial District of downtown San Francisco. It was all the same.
Running from fate didn’t make it go away.
There will always be a one-way street to walk down.
Right around the corner.
The way to deal with fate is to stop running from it.
To get off the maze of one-way streets, my desire to walk by faith had to grow stronger than my drive to determine my fate. Translation: I had to fail.
Even as a Christian, doubt can make you feel broken enough to try and fix everything yourself. That’s when fate starts to follow and find you.
I came to a point where I had to run for the hills.
Do I believe God’s plan for me is greater than fate?
I didn’t know how to really answer this question until I had enough in life to lose.
When the script in life is still new, it’s easy to say yes. But, when the same script gets played over and again, it’s harder to go off script.
A time comes to break away. It’s the point of no return. You say goodbye to what has been, count the cost, and still lose it all. Even if you have no idea what’s next.
It’s a one-way ticket to wide open spaces.
The good news is that if you’ve taken such a journey once in your life, it means it won’t be the last time. If you haven’t, it’s never too late…
To Be Continued…
Open Spaces. Are you running away from it, towards it, or breathing in it?
What happens next on my journey to find the hospital and home I was born in?
Tune in next time, as I continue the story — “Going Off Script”.
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Faith. It takes us off script.
Going Off Script are a collection of scenes from my story, interspersed along with my regular brews. I'm telling it fresh, for the first time, as I take the journey to remember. Be sure to stay tuned in for my next Going Off Script post, as I continue my story. SUBSCRIBE NOW to get the next post in these series and more from FaithBarista hot and fresh directly in your mailbox via email (click here) or RSS (click here) news reader.