Expectations

“Hotchkiss School Koreans Spring Meeting 2015-2016”

The banner that was perfectly parallel to the floor. The glasses on the tables with dove-white tablecloths were practically invisible. The seats were evenly dispersed for maximum space between people while still being close enough for conversations to happen around the entire table. What else can you expect from the combined efforts of Korean moms?

The ladies’ mascara covered the dark circles under their eyes as they waited for the guests, boys in slim khaki pants and T-shirts and girls with conservative summer dresses, to enter the hall. Some of the teenagers either tightened the tie they didn’t need to wear or straightened the dress that was too fancy for this event, eager to ask the questions they’d been preparing for the past two days. The others walked in without a worry in the world, as if they had just come back from a yoga class. I, on the other hand, walked in with my seventh vertebrae straight as a habit from Ms. Maria Rosa’s floor barre class. My shoulders were stationed in first position while every other part of my body felt the negative space that surrounded me. Without moving my head, I observed the decorations, the beautiful carpet, and the distance between me and everyone in the room.

“Hey Chris, isn’t this your seat?” my classmate asked me. She pointed at my seat with a smile that disguised all her thoughts.

A mixture of new-coming and returning members of the Hotchkiss community sat down in front of a name tag with their names written without any phonetic changes for once. Since dinner wasn’t going to be served for another ten minutes, everyone started to talk with the new challengers of an uphill academic battle. First came the introductions, then the questions, and then the answers from some of my passionate classmates that were louder than the music I hear in the studio during practice. I do try to give my two cents to the conversation whenever I can, but I keep quiet because I’m better at private conversations without bystanders. On my right, a boy with a black suit jacket and a red tie was in awe of my classmate’s anecdote about his time in Hotchkiss. Hoping to hear something special, he turned his gaze to me.

“How long have you been in Hotchkiss, Chris?” he asked in a tone that made me think he had just finished a successful performance.

“A year and a half,” I replied with my casual smile.

“How were your grades?” he asked almost immediately.

“They were alright,” I answered calmly, baffled by the mere thought of actually revealing them in front of all the moms with secret radars, that can detect anything that could be related to college, hidden under their earlobes. Also, too soon.

“What do you do for your extracurricular activity?” he proceeded to ask, as if he was reading off of a memorized list.

I sighed internally once before opening my mouth.

“Well, I dance.”

The kid didn’t have a good poker face yet. He couldn’t control his jaw and especially not his eyes. I was sure he’d learn soon. After a pause that was two seconds too long, he continued the conversation, “Oh, like street dancing? Do you do things in the choreography in EXO’s new music video? Their moves are so cool! Can you do flips and stuff like that?”

“Haha. Sadly no,” I said to lessen his tension, “I practice more traditional dancing. Modern dance to be exact.”

The newbie’s attempt at a smile was a gateway to his imagination. I saw a Korean guy wearing spandex pants and practicing turns all day long in a dark room with a single light on. The room suddenly brightens, and the guy is surrounded by a bunch of girls who are all wearing the same skintight costume. One by one, replaceable yet flexible future classmates and upperclassmen were being caressed by the same guy. On his face was a smirk that knew that he got to choose whomever he desired, who knows for what. Then I heard the newbie’s voice, “There’s no way he’s getting good grades. I bet he won’t be able to get into a good college either. I feel so sorry for his parents. They must be heartbroken.”

When I looked at the newbie once again, he became speechless. Well, to be exact, he didn’t find the need to talk to me anymore.

Noticing the sudden void in the cacophonic realm of talking, everyone sitting in my table glanced in my general direction. I could hear the inner laughing voice my classmates had as they recognized the boy’s smile.

“Korean male dancer,” they reminded themselves.

Nothing more was needed.

I let my seventh vertebrae do whatever the hell it wanted. My shoulders were slightly scrunched forward. I didn’t need to know what was happening around me. I didn’t want to know.

I just knew what I loved.

Born in South Korea, Sanghyun Park learned English through audiobooks and a ten-month long stay in England when he was in elementary school. In 2014, he enrolled at The Hotchkiss School to further pursue his English education. As a tenth-grader, Sanghyun was first inspired by his English teacher to start writing creative non-fiction.

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