A memory. I close my eyes, and if I concentrate hard enough, I can see him. Gazing up at this boy, seeing tummy first, his small Korean eyes rested over two plump cheeks which jiggled every time he laughed. My friend. He was three, maybe four, years older than me. The memory is fuzzy.
Tommy Choi. That was his name. Tommy Choi put me on his shoulders and spun me around until I could barely hold on. I wanted to be just like him. He was my family—the brother I never had.
We were all family at tae kwon do. There were so many older brothers and sisters, but my favorite was Tommy. I wanted to be just like him. He sculpted my tiny mind into what I was and what I was going to be: a leader, someone who people looked up to and respected, a person who people confided in, a strong, kind, fun person. So I was—or at least, I tried to be. Tommy basically molded me into the Anna that I am today.
I modeled myself after Tommy Choi, my idol and older brother. I became a leader and a role model not only in tae kwon do, but in school as well. When Tommy left, I felt responsible for teaching and playing with the younger kids. I did so with such a passion.
However, as the years went on, I fell further and further away from the tae kwon do community. The relationships were left untouched, but the lack of communication ensued. Gradually, I began to forget. I forgot so much. Eventually even the name Tommy Choi became a faint memory somehow related to my once passion.
It’s funny what you learn on the news. One day, I was watching it but not paying much attention. A familiar name popped up: Tommy Young Choi. More followed. Wednesday, March 14, 2007. 12:40 A.M. A car accident. Flames. In Chicago. Three killed. No.
A memory. The room whirled around and around as he spun me on his shoulders. We fell to the ground laughing. His massive tummy heaved up and down as he gasped for air. A memory.
I couldn’t believe his days were over. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten. I couldn’t believe I couldn’t remember. I couldn’t believe he didn’t know all the things he had done for me. I couldn’t believe I never thanked him. I never thanked him for the lessons he taught or the gift he gave me. Tommy Choi will forever be with me, but I will always remember.
A memory. Gasping for air, we sighed our last sigh. Embedded in my mind, I can never forget the image of a chubby Korean boy spinning a tiny Filipino girl around, and I can’t help but to laugh and cry at the same time. I will always cherish the boy who shaped me into the person I am today, and I will never forget the memory he left with me.