Miyoko was standing amidst a great tsunami of homo sapiens, all rushing to get out of their respective workplaces and to finally return home after a grueling and monotonous day of work in the Big Apple. Exactly who or what was waiting in the abodes of this anonymous mass of people was completely unknown, but nevertheless their hurried strides were steady and brisk, and their lethargic faces wore deadly grim expressions, as if something unimaginably horrific were about to happen if they did not get home in the shortest amount of time possible.

Miyoko, petite and barely over five feet tall, found herself struggling to keep pace with this forward-moving wave of people. She wasn’t as much walking as she was running in order to keep up with the swarm. Miyoko started to pant for breath, and her legs began to cramp, sending out a tight and uncomfortable sensation throughout her tiny little body. But despite the discomfort, she could not stop moving; otherwise, she was in the danger of being quite literally stomped to the ground from behind. The Americans were so much bigger and taller than the Japanese. Some of these people seemed almost twice or thrice the size of the average Japanese, and this noticeable difference in stature intimidated Miyoko greatly. She had always been insecure about her size and height, and although she was a fully-grown adult, Miyoko saw herself as a child attempting to masquerade being an adult, and thus felt like a fraud always in the danger of being found out for who she really was. Back home in Japan, her insecurity was less of a problem because people there were generally physically smaller, like herself. Here in America, however, things were a little different. Here, even some of the women were taller than a relatively tall Japanese man, which was frightening, to say the least. This difference in size accentuated Miyoko’s insecurity to a whole new level she had never felt before.

Lost, yet again, in the vicious cycle of depressing and self-sabotaging thoughts, Miyoko suddenly began to feel sorry for herself. She felt pathetic. An almost unbearable feeling of sadness and isolation slowly crept up within her mind. She was living alone in a completely foreign land without anyone that she knew. She did not speak the English language very fluently, and she had trouble understanding and conversing with people. It’s been three months since Miyoko arrived in the States, but so far, she did not have even one person whom she could confidently call a friend. Maybe the lack of friends was due to her shyness, or maybe it was because of the language barrier. Whatever the reason may be, Miyoko was alone and had no one, absolutely no one to rely on for emotional support. She could feel a wave of tears forming behind her eyes. “Who am I? Just what am I doing here?” Miyoko asked herself.

Straight out of university, Miyoko had endured four grudging years at a marketing job which she had no passion for and hated. During those years, Miyoko had felt stifled by the strict Japanese working culture. Unreasonably long work hours beyond scheduled work times were a given. Unpaid overtime hours, obnoxious demands from the higher-ups, silencing of employee complaints about the company, and many other grievances strangled and disillusioned the young college graduate. The Japanese even had a specific word for death by overworking, karoshi. Such was the working culture of her industrious homeland. Miyoko had always been a meek and obedient girl, always following the expected, never following her heart, and certainly never taking bold risks. All throughout her life, Miyoko had secretly been dissatisfied with her passivity and her habitual fear of the unknown. She was fed up with being that kind of person and wanted to take her life in a new direction. She had heard from somewhere the expression, “Fortune Favors the Brave.” And so, just like that, Miyoko suddenly decided she wanted to live on her own in a foreign country. She had been frugal with her savings from the marketing job, so she had enough money to last her at least for a time, without asking financial help from her parents. She decided that her new playground would be America, the most powerful and influential nation that the world has ever known, and New York City specifically, the “City That Never Sleeps.” She would forge her new life there, leaving old Miyoko behind, and becoming the person she had always wanted to be: confident, strong, charismatic, bold, adventurous, and, most of all, beautiful. In this new home, Miyoko would break out of her comfortable shell and make new friends and form new hobbies and interests. She would transform into a new person, so much so that nobody back home would be able to recognize her, or so she thought.

Unfortunately for the hopeful Miyoko, the reality was harsh. The glorious life in the big city that she had envisioned was nowhere in sight, and now she found herself in an emotional breakdown in the middle of 39th street amongst an ungodly number of pedestrians who looked more like machines than people. With teary eyes, Miyoko quickly glanced at her wristwatch, a parting gift she received from her beloved parents before her move to the States. The thin, barely perceptible clock hands marked 5:32 p.m. A peculiar mixture of fresh autumn breeze and stuffy body odor emanating from sweaty pedestrians suffused the late September evening air. The odor made Miyoko slightly nauseous. The Americans are taller and bigger than the Japanese, and smellier too, Miyoko thought quietly. Spotting an opening in the forward-moving swarm of people anxious to return home, Miyoko fortuitously managed to separate herself from the crowd so that she could catch her breath. Like a newly escaped prisoner from an underground dungeon, Miyoko felt liberated enough to finally not be surrounded by so many people. After a moment of catching her breath, Miyoko looked up at the sky like a curious child trying to make out familiar shapes within the nebulous cacophony of clouds. Ever since she was a young girl, Miyoko had always loved looking at the sky, as it brought her comfort and relief from the daily routine and stress of life. Tall glass buildings restricted the full view of the heavens that Miyoko sought for, but nevertheless, an iridescent mixture of red, yellow, and purple light beautifully painted and rejuvenated the gray New York skyline. The setting sunlight, which bounced off skyscraper glass windows, created a blinding light show, an exquisite aesthetic collaboration between nature and human-made structures. Nearby, Miyoko heard a piece of lively music playing from Bryant Park. The lyrics didn’t sound like English to her ears.

“Maybe it’s Spanish,” Miyoko wondered.

It took a moment for Miyoko to realize that her tears had dried up and that a gentle half-smile had formed on her lips. The steady beat of the rhythm, the sky, and the light show had distracted Miyoko from her despair. As if being drawn by an invisible power, her body unconsciously gravitated towards the source of the music, to the park. Climbing the solid stone steps, Miyoko’s eyes caught sight of a wide, open grass field where hundreds of people were either lying on the grass as if they didn’t have a care in the world or gently rocking their bodies in unison with the music. She could smell the liveliness in the air. Just then, Miyoko’s cellphone rang. Surprised, she wondered who could be calling at this time. She practically didn’t know anyone in the States, and she certainly wasn’t expecting anyone’s call. The few calls she received so far during her stay in America were all fishy phone advertisements. Miyoko let the phone ring for a moment as if pensively deciding whether to answer the call or not. After a few rounds, Miyoko finally broke the silence and clicked on the answer button, and with broken English nervously let out, “Hello?” Through the phone, Miyoko heard her mother’s voice, and she felt a tsunami of tears forming in her eyes again.

Geun Ho Kim is a sophomore. Design major. Dreamer. Minimalist. Philosopher. Immanent. Transcendent. Soft. Introverted. Quiet. Geun’s poem, “A Midsummer Day’s Dream,” is also published in this issue.