Rachel Kim, Age 14
“Mama’s boy.” That's what they call me. They don’t say it directly but I can hear the indistinct chatters. Like clockwork, I hide behind my mom to avoid any trivial interactions with anyone I might be even slightly acquainted with. I hope she doesn’t mind. Monthly meetings among the mothers are the few moments where I am completely vulnerable to interactions. These meetings are awfully obscure from topics about where the best meals are found to bragging about their children. I would always find these meetings quite stupid, not because I cared about how time consuming they were, but because I would always find my well-spoken mother to be completely silent throughout them. I always wondered why my mother who had a mouth that couldn't be shut always had nothing to say.
Over the last eight years of my life, I have always found myself to not be the “perfect” son to my father. My father, Peter is known to be the “head” of our colony. While all the other sons are bonding with their fathers, me and my father were quite distant. Ever since I was seven and a half years old, my father had introduced me to something called mating. I don’t like the idea of me being paired up with someone I don’t even find attractive. My father had many daughters from different families lined up to meet me. His need for a grandchild was heavily forced onto me. But I turned everyone down. “Riley, you need to grow up and become a man, and the only way to become a man is to find a mate”, is what my father told me after I refused to meet up with Penelope, a younger female penguin from colony fifty-eight, a few glaciers down south. My father wasn’t very pleased with this and since then I haven’t had the best relationship with him, but it didn’t really matter, we weren’t that close in the first place.
Now, here we are to the present day. I’m currently 9 years old and I still have no mate. Or at least my parents think so. I’ve been sneaking out from time to time to go see him. I remember the bright and full moon that we saw together the last time we met. We were sitting so close to each other, that I couldn’t tell if it was him or the moon that was shining. He looked so beautiful and I looked so small next to him. I’ve never been much of a talker so all the words that should’ve been coming out of my mouth stay in my head. He always worries that I overthink and that one day I’ll run out of fuel to even think in the first place. Of course, I laugh and he comforts me saying that he’ll still stay with me even if that happens. I woke up to the harsh sunlight directly hitting my eyes. I hope I get to see him today.
It was a normal day like always, except it wasn’t. I was finally seeing him again. It was three in the afternoon, just six hours. It was just six measly hours but time seemed petty during those six hours three hours. Two hours. One hour. Half an hour. I stood up and looked at the time, eight thirty. Eight thirty eight, I successfully left until I didn’t. “Riley. Is that you?” The worst had come, it was father. “Yes?” “What are you doing so late at night?” “I just came for some air.” I breathed in deeply to convince my father and myself that I had only come out for some fresh air. “I’m not convinced, I’ve been watching you from afar ever since you were born and not once have I seen you enjoying the air this place provides us.” “So, you’re telling me I can’t even enjoy the air now?” Eight forty-one. “ No that’s not what I was implying but it is suspicious that you suddenly are enjoying the air that’s always been there.” “I just have one question for you, why are you like this?” “Like what?” “Always distant and mysterious, you’ve never once cared about my well-being let alone talk to me. Actually the only time you’ve properly had a conversation with your only child was when it came to finding a mate.” Eight forty-six. “What about you? You’ve also never made the effort to properly get to know me. I understand your frustration towards me and that I haven’t been the best father for you but I tried my hardest not to get in your way. You’ve always been distant and you’ve never had any proper friends or mates either. Why is that?” The slight hesitation I showed was enough fuel for my father to assume all the worst things possible. Eight fifty. “Is it because you’re rebelling against me, because I was an inadequate father? Or did you perhaps catch that disease social anxiety that’s going around the young ones these days? Are you hanging out with bad penguins and you’re too scared to tell me? Like what’s going on?” I remained calm, actually I was tired, tired of trying to explain myself, tired of continuing this conversation. Eight fifty-three. “I didn’t want to ask this, but...are you perhaps attracted to male penguins?” I flinched in shock, then quickly turned over to see my father’s reaction. His jaw dropped, and in that moment I felt all the disappointment in that silent and quiet night.
Panting and panting, I ran and ran and ran. Eight fifty-nine. After calming down for a bit I came to the harsh reality that my father rejected me. It wasn’t anything new but why did the tears flow down even harder than all the other times it happened? Rejection was nothing new, so why? Nine o’clock. Nine o’clock? Nine? N-I-N-E. That’s when I realized I had forgotten about the reason I even sneaked out of the house in the first place. To meet him. I walked slowly wondering if he was still there waiting for me to come, even though I had a feeling he had already waited long enough. As I arrived at our usual spot, I saw him, I felt a wave of emotions come down on me knowing that he was the one. I ran up to him with my arms out, I felt at peace. I felt welcomed. I felt...at home. Nine o’ seven “You waited.” “Of course I did.” “I missed you.” The tears that I once had control over overflowed. “I missed you too, Riley.” “Let’s swim away. Together.” “Riley, this is no time to be joking, I have my family and you have yours.” He didn’t take me seriously. I wish he did. “Come on, let’s swim away to a deserted glacier and live our whole lives together, please?” “Riley...I can’t.” I looked at his face and he looked at mine. “I wish I could’ve spent more time with you.” “Me too, Riley.” “I’ll miss you.” I jumped into the water, not knowing if it was tears or water that was touching the sides of my face. I wish I had looked back to see his face again.
Dear my beloved,
It’s been a year since I left and I feel like I miss you even more. I am always thinking about you even to this day with all the visions I had for us. The visions where we would be holding hands, laughing together, and just...loving each other. I wish that I could have talked with you more. I still cry thinking about you at night. I miss you so much. I wish you could’ve come with me, so we could have fun together and enjoy each other’s presence longer. Our love was euphoric. I love and will always love you, Gray.
-your other half, Riley