Her loosely organized stream of consciousness was an infant struggling to find its existence, passion trying to become palpable. It had quite a few stumbles, her passion. She had asked me to guide it, to strengthen the shaky foundations of her idea for her paper. “I don’t know what to write,” she told me. She was worried. Absolutely must, must get an A in this class. “But you have so much to write about,” I insisted. Having talked with her before that, I simply did not understand how she could experience so much and not know what she could write about. It didn’t make sense ‘till now: her light was enveloped in darkness. She had a strong light. It acts like a dying candle though; flickering in, out, in, out. Then whoosh, a slightly stronger wind might come in, carrying the flame out of existence.
I worried for her, as I stayed up late at night, my laptop’s screen illuminating my face as I looked at her Google doc. I worried about her light, about her passion. The passion that derived from her pain. I admit, when she wrote of her mother, I winced and held back tears. It was, and still is, a bad habit of mine, originating from my admiration of stoic values. She said she didn’t like to write about her personal life. I only strongly suggested it because her life provided a lot of material, a lot of passion, to work from. Still, this last minute piece of work was beautiful in its own right. The struggle of this summer paper was something to be marveled at. It struggled to find its own form, to find its proper expression. It gave me a reason to worry.
I worried, that like the candle’s flame, her passion could be extinguished. Even with all the winds she had encountered and all the flickering that had happened already, all that it would take would be a slightly stronger wind. Whoosh. Gone. All that energy just carried off into a different place. In a way, her energy already was at a different place though: Los Angeles. “Home,” she calls it. While I’ll never truly understand why, she belonged there. It’s where her heart was. That sense of belonging though, I could understand. It was all part of her passionate struggle.
As I read her essay more, I was surprised at how much light she allowed through. Some people don’t like to show their light. I’m one of those people too. It’s not as much not liking to do so, as it is fearing. We might show our little flames to other people and they might go whoosh! and it flickers a little bit. It’s a painful feeling, that flickering.
Her light, I realized later, was covered by a veil. A veil of darkness, supposedly protecting that little flame from flickering. A veil created by her own flesh and blood. But the most disturbing part was that she allowed it to be draped over her flame without her knowing. It took me a long time to realize I had done the same thing as well to myself. A veil like this one is thick. Small flickers of light run through some weaknesses in the embroidery, but besides that, the light isn’t allowed to be seen. There are people who can lift up this veil. They’re called friends. I wonder now, if that’s what I did. If I helped her lift it up, even if it’s just for an essay.
One time, we talked on the phone and we were talking about Martin Luther King Jr., or at least if the Civil Rights Movement never happened. “We probably wouldn’t even be friends,” she said, referencing her Korean heritage that would have probably prevented any possibility of a friendship if we happened to be products of that time. It seemed so casual and normal to mention that probability, but I was surprised. I thought about it for a second. There was a small warmth in my heart. A flame. Even if it was just for a second, to have your veil lifted, suddenly, surprisingly. Its unexpected arrival… I welcomed it.
As I finished editing her paper, I felt satisfaction from getting it done. It took me a good few hours, time mostly spent to try to understand her struggle so I could make the proper corrections. Her paper wasn’t structured well enough to grant her an A, but I hoped she’d get something decent for it. I thought back to when she described her mom crying. Crying for her daughter. I felt pain for her mom. I felt pain for her. But I was glad that she allowed me to see her light, even if it was just for her grade. I learned how to stoke my own little flame. When I got it to burn bright, it was nothing like I’ve ever felt before in my entire life. It burned bright and engulfed my body. The veil was fully lifted. Whoosh.