The McKinley Review Magazine

A Father-Son Bonding

By: Phillip Lim | Posted on: March 2018 

The guest’s dark dry-cleaned clothes, the glass lens of the camera filming the ceremony, and the small ornaments and flowers on the table surrounding the marble jar and portrait, were all plume in a rifted silence. Jae-Eun sat on the first row of an array of wooden benches, a first class view for his father’s funerary urn. His sweat ranked on the skin of his neck, slowly evaporating into the gelid air of the air-conditioned funeral home. He stared blankly into the microphone of Mr.Um, who dabbed at his eyes with a cream handkerchief, ignoring the horn-rimmed spectacles that sat on the tip of his nose, lenses coated slightly in a film of tears.


“Mr.Lee was a selfless man.” Mr.Um whimpered - his co workers, sitting on the bench adjacent to Jae-Eun - nodding in approval.


As Mr.Um said one more sentence about how good of a man Mr.Lee was, he took one last bow and sat down, signalling for the end of the ceremony. Jae-Eun then pulled up his weight, cuffed his blazer and slipped through the guests, who were adjusting their dresses and straightening their ties.


Outside, silhouettes of birds flew across the magenta sky, beams of the mauve light sliding through the shafts and windows of the home, reflecting off the clock that was stuck on five twenty. The home was perched on a hill overlooking a valley of marble tombstones, some crumbling from the weathering of decades, some with crisp black writing, laid with floral tributes alike the ones by Mr.Lee’s portrait and urn. The assortment of white marble was complemented with newly manicured grass, comfortable under the flat step of Jae-Eun’s shoe. The cemetery was resplendent with squirrels racing up the ornamentary Aspen trees on small hills, making the area resemble a park for some of Manila’s residents. Jae-Eun would come to the cemetery on Sunday afternoons with his father, with the sticky rice and lemonade his mother would have packed in a wooden basket.


Jae-Eun walked through the rows of cross tombstones, mouthing out the italicized words on the marble. As he breathed in the geosmin scent of the opened soil, he pulled at the back of his dress pants when he sat on the bench shaded by the tallest Aspen tree. He thought about his father coming back, how they should have been, sipping on fructose filled drinks that afternoon. And there he was, Steve Lee, laid back on the wooden bench, his arms spread like an eagle’s towards both edges of the seat. His legs were swinging underneath the mahogany, kicking at the grass with his battered running shoes that seemed almost attached to his intact navy jeans at the ankles. He smelt faintly of an ashened cigarette, tickling at Jae-Eun’s nostril. The sun was setting in an eastward direction, glistening his blank eyes the color of baked clay, which occasionally stared at his drink whenever he took a sip.


“When are we heading back?” Jae-Eun asked him, loosening the constraint around his tie and unbuttoning his shirt cuff.


“After the sun sets.”


“Seems like that’s going to take a while.” Jae-Eun replied, screwing up and returning his half-finished drink back into the wooden basket. He then reached inside his left suit pocket and pulled out his phone.


“What game is that.” His father asked him, taking a curt sideways glance at the screen.


“The name’s complicated.”


After several moments of silence except for the slight hum from the blinking screen from the phone, Jae-Eun pushed off a plank on the bench.


“I think I’m going to head back first. Mom is probably waiting in the car.”


“She’s going to wonder why you aren’t spending much time with me.” His father called out, keeping his eyes on the sunset, still clasping his drink.


“It’s not like we spend a lot of time together anyways. She won’t bother.” Jae-Eun walked away from the bench, being pulled by the small incline of the mound under the tree. His father let out a sigh, just audible for his son’s ears and followed him.


Jae-Eun looked at the empty bench, how the small planks had left vertical dust markings on the backside of his pants. In the distance he could hear his mother calling his name, telling him to start bowing the funeral’s guests goodbye. The sun had almost completely set by then, but in the corner of his eye, he could make out the shadow of a small crevice of soil kicked underneath the bench, and a finished bottle of sparkling lemonade, stuck through the dirt. Jae-Eun turned and trudged up towards the bench groping for the bottle underneath. He placed the dirt glazed bottle on his father’s seat and sat next to it, watching as the remaining rays of sunlight was poured through the glass, gradually being flickered off into a shadow.

Phillip Lim is a fifteen year old Singaporean currently living in the Philippines. He is a competitive swimmer who enjoys writing about his swimming.