Bangtan is Coming for You, America

lv-0-bts

BTS (방탄소년단). 2017. Photo courtesy of BigHit Entertainment.

Let me preface this by saying that, yes, I am somewhat a BTS fan. But no, I am not an ARMY. Like some of the groups I listen to, there are quite a few reasons why I tend to avoid their fandoms and sometimes have a love/hate relationship with their companies. But I digress…this is not about the ills of Kpop. This is about how BTS is coming for America.

And none are prepared.

In all seriousness…when is anyone ever prepared for Bangtan? 피 땀 는물 (Blood, Sweat, and Tears) came out and fans just about lost their minds. Honestly, you should’ve seen the views (and comments) skyrocket in a matter of moments. Although it wasn’t the first time, this particular music video (MV) reminded me that YouTube is clearly not prepared for repetition of a single MV during comeback season. YouTube actually freezes the view count thinking some to be spam.

Maybe on another video, YouTube. These views, regardless of the short time frame, are real. I promise you they are.

(That goes for most MVs of Kpop groups during a comeback. Just look at Monsta X, Twice, Seventeen and EXID’s recent comebacks and the number of comments about frozen views.)

Billboard thought they were prepared for Bangtan, but they seriously (and I do mean, seriously) underestimated the power of Kpop fandoms. They thought they were handling fans well with Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. Let me tell you a little not-so secret: fandoms roll deep (internationally). Good or bad, they will stand (emphasis added) their group and some will even bulldoze a path for their group to get to the top.

And that was just for an award from social media. Now you’re putting this group on local news stations AND having them perform.

So again I tell you, you are not prepared.

Kpop groups, Bangtan included, get just about as many views for their dance practice videos as their official MVs. Non-kpop fans are about to be dazzled by colors, J-Hope’s hair flips, and about 5 million hours worth of practice. Not to mention that you caught them JUST after releasing a new single and album (full-album, too) that’s already pretty Westernized (along with the “name change,” which is a whole separate discussion). I guarantee there will be new people tuning in to the American Music Awards tomorrow who wouldn’t normally watch it.

Now the question(s) of the weekend: will you watch just for BTS (and apparently GOT7’s Jackson is supposed to attend as a representative for China’s Alibaba Tmall)? Are you hyped for their performance? Do you prefer English versions of their songs or the original? What do you think about this American takeover business? Let me know in the comments!

Well, whatever you watch/do tomorrow night, just remember, stay legit my peeps.

Nyke

Speeches and Platforms, Pt. 2

The entire month of October has been crazy, y’all, let me tell you. For one, I officially began my final course (capstone) for my master’s degree in technology and social entrepreneurship. I’ve got two big things going for it (growing the KeativeTherapy brand and a girl’s group) and now I’ve got to buckle down and do it. Two, I’m planning on joining a new church—one in which I have already been sucked into the Children’s Ministry. And by “sucked into” I mean it called to me. I seriously love kids and want to protect them so yeah, I was going to join the team. Didn’t I say it called to me?

The craziest thing that happened this month though was winning the Popularity prize in the Korean Speech contest. Yes, I won something! Although I did hope to win, I wasn’t completely expecting to actually win. I was grateful for the free classes next term and the opportunity to speak using the language in which I will eventually become fluent. Icing on the cake was the amount of congratulatory words and encouragement given to and from the contestants. Of course, us beginners and intermediates aspired to be like the 1st place winner who was truly fluent.

To celebrate, I used my gift card from Genwa to treat my mom to a (very) late Korean BBQ birthday lunch. I got my mom to eat ojingeochae muchim (spicy dried squid strips)—TWICE. AND SHE TOOK SOME HOME. This is a woman who can barely eat shrimp if it’s not fried and is not a big fan of spicy foods. I should’ve taken pictures of her face when she found out what it was. I think she’s still in shock.

As we now enter into November and the rest of the Autumn season, I’m excited to see what these next months will bring. I’m looking forward to having the site completely finished so I can move onto other things on my to-do list, but one step at a time. I have to trust and enjoy the process.

So remember, always stay legit my peeps. c;

Nyke

 

Speeches and Platforms

Pray for me y’all. I made the leap. I entered the Korean speech contest hosted by the Korean Cultural Center here in LA. Okay, forget leap—I jumped off the cliff and into the deep end. I’m going to be standing in front of native speakers, fluent speakers, and my classmates talking about my journey with and love for Korean culture.

And in honor of Hangeul Proclamation Day (which is actually on October 9th, by the way).

Now there were two reasons for me to force myself to do this, even though I’m kind of terrified, and they are the same two reason for me taking an actual Korean class instead of learning on my own and through friends. I started taking classes to one, force me to speak instead of always listening/writing, and two, be a part of a community. The first reason is kind of obvious because I’d rather talk to a person who can correct me than try and correct myself. The second reason is because I’m building a foundation, a platform so to speak, to aid others as well as get some help for myself and to show love in LA.

When it comes to platforms, you know, the word we now use for those who have access to presenting themselves or their art/words/businesses/etc., I’ve seen a lot of people abuse their positions. Some get to a position of power and recognition and they like go rogue or something. They were going for the power and recognition under the guise of helping others or wanting to be in community with others and then their real selves came out. I’ve also seen lots of people who have stumbled onto platforms or been given platforms that have aided them in their true purposes.

Like my mother, for example. She’s always been a singer and actress, starring in Gospel stage plays, but put a lot on hold for my brother and I. Now that we’re pretty much adults, she’s actually been blessed to be in commercials! However, instead of bragging about her commercials (this latest one was for GE’s Sol Lamp powered by Amazon’s Alexa), she’s used her funds to help out her communities here in LA and in her hometown in Mississippi. She’s also used her influence on set to not just brighten up people’s days, but also to speak about the Gospel of Christ to individuals who want to hear it. It’s honestly brought people together and shown me that influence (platforms) amplifies what’s really in your heart. So, please, build platforms for community—not destruction. I will do the same.

And remember to, stay legit y’all!

P.S.  Go like my mom’s commercial on YouTube, please! She’s the beautiful black woman with curls. C:

Nyke

My Two Cents: Gook & The Battleship Island

In the time after completing a course and preparing for work on the site and my Korean class I saw two films: Gook by Justin Chon and The Battleship Island (군함도) by Ryoo Seung Wan. I figured I’d give my two cents—with little scholarly influence. I’ll save that for my scholarly blog (coming soon!).

Gook (released August 18, 2017) depicts a typical day in the life of two Korean-American brothers who own a struggling women’s shoe store and entertain their 11-year-old Black family friend that is turned upside down by the 1992 LA riots after the Rodney King verdict. Although there is distance from the riots in South Central (where my family resided during the riots) and no mention of tension between Black and Korean Americans due to the death of Latasha Harlins by Du Soon Ja, it tells a beautiful (and hilarious, thanks to David So) story of the camaraderie and tensions between various ethnic groups that juxtaposes the usual LA riots narrative that only deals with Black citizens and White cops. It also adds a perspective that is commonly left out: the Asian American one. What captured my heart the most was the teaching of the real meaning of gook (국), country, and how that related to the connection of two families seemingly distant from one another.

The Battleship Island (군함도, released August 4, 2017), tells the story of an attempted prison break from a forced coal-mining labor camp on Hashima Island during the Japanese occupation-era. Although the film is not all true (based on true accounts, though), it showcases the little known history of Hashima Island and the only recently discussed stories of comfort women in sexual slavery. The film forces all to look at the atrocities of many (not only those of Japanese descent) during this particular wartime, but also displays hope, camaraderie, and love in order to make it out.

What I love about both films

First off, I am a history buff. I enjoy learning and understanding how history influences the present. Another reason is influenced by two quotes:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

George Santayana, philosopher and novelist

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

Dr. Maya Angelou, writer and activist

Both films display why we continue to see war films—especially those set during World War II—films about slavery in the United States, and films that depict little known or publicized histories (sometimes as biopics). I believe that Gook and The Battleship Island are wonderful examples of why films like them should be made.

Secondly, I love how both films dealt with the themes of displacement and home. Gook does this through its depiction of family and legacy from both immigrant and native perspectives in a store that serves as home for both but is being threatened by chaos caused by the riots. There is no protection of these youths’ dreams and futures outside of the little they can salvage with the help of one parental figure (Mr. Kim) and Jesus because of no police protection. The Battleship Island does this through actual displacement (rather, isolation) and the will to go on and fight because of a desire to return home. This desire bands many would-be strangers together for that one common goal: home.

All that said, I definitely recommend both films as I was left speechless at the endings. See them in theatres while you still can!

Stay legit, y’all!
Nyke

2 Legit 2 Quit

Once I was referred to as legit. It was my first time in a community group and my third time visiting a new church in Boston after I felt that God was guiding my life around a curve. I was probably a bit awk because none of the people I met Sunday were coming and on top of that I was the first person there and one of the last to leave this somewhat stranger’s apartment. I may be an extrovert, but I have introvert tendencies.

However, the Bible study was on point and challenging and the conversations afterward made me feel welcome. I explained what led me to the church, sang praises of the trio Beautiful Eulogy and found a fellow Z.Tao fan with whom I could be excited (read: fangirl) about his new music and films. And that’s how I became legit—by way of my love for this former Kpop boy band member turned Chinese rapper. Needless to say, I was overjoyed to have found people whom I’d enjoy having in my tribe.

This same feeling of being legit happened to me at KCON LA last week and I’m having withdrawals. Not only did I win a hi-touch pass for my ultimate bias group, VIXX, but I also got to see swangel Kevin Woo, take a photo with the awesome Sam Okyere, watch KARD’s soundcheck from a private box at the Staples Center and rave about my girl Heesun Lee and Show Me The Money. I had conversations about 슈퍼맨이 돌아왔다 (The Return of Superman), cultural reconciliation, language study tips, and food. On top of that, I met a scholar of Afro-Asian cultural production, Dr. Crystal Anderson (Dr. CeeFu), who is honestly living part of my dream. For a first time attendee at KCON, I had so much fun.

And it solidified me continuing this journey towards a PhD and beyond.

The entire weekend, I was constantly reminded of this deep love I’ve had for various cultures, especially East Asian ones and specifically Korean and Japanese, since a child. I was reminded of why I am becoming fluent in Korean and Japanese. I recognized who I am, who I was made to be, and how my heart beats for ethnic reconciliation, cross-cultural friendships and love that is not flaky or untruthful or lasts only as much as someone is made “happy.”

I was reminded that I, and being a black woman studying ethnicity and cross-cultural interactions, am too legit to quit. And that there were others around me who are just as legit.

So this is why I’M BACK, BABY! KeativeTherapy has been my brain child since 2010 and because of school and life it’s gone through many changes and been put on hold. But I say no more. Thank you to those who have subscribed, read, followed, and supported me in so many ways. Please bear with me now as I keep the site open while it’s under construction. I’m solidifying a biweekly posting schedule and other things, so please hold me to it!

Stay legit, y’all!
Nyke

What Would MLK Tweet?

This morning I read quite an interesting devotional from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s niece, Alveda King. I really enjoyed it not only because today is the day we celebrate MLK’s birthday, but also because it’s fun to imagine the faces of a movement that have passed away utilizing today’s technology. When most people will be quoting MLK on Twitter, I continued thinking about what would MLK tweet himself, especially at a time like this.

Here are a few favs of mine:

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

“We are made for the stars…”

“Agape love, repentance, forgiveness, prayer, faith: all are keys to resolving human issues.”

“Lord Jesus, thank You for the peace that passes all understanding that helps us to cope with the tensions of modern living.”

“Agape love, repentance, forgiveness, prayer, faith: all are keys to resolving human issues.”

 

If you would like to read the devotional (I recommend it!), you can see it here.

Have any favorites from this list? What are your favorite tweetable MLK quotes?

Album Spotlight: The Movement, Vol. 1

Ello peeps! I know it’s been a while, but I thought instead of waiting for the KeativeTherapy revamp to be completely done, I should just come and start posting again. I missed posting and getting feedback so, here I am! But this post is not dedicated to that. I wanted to share some new music with you all with an album spotlight!

 

Runtime: 12 songs, 46 minutes

Overall Rating: 4/5

 

Dropping from the label Good Fruit Co., The Movement, Vol. 1 is a blend of not only various artists, but various genres and sounds that will not leave you bored listening. Not only does it feature one of the 15 from Rapzilla’s 15 Freshman of 2015, but it also features an entire list of artist that will make you want to hear more.

From the time it began with “I Know” by Verseatile, I knew I was in for a story and not just a group of songs that may have had the same overall theme but really didn’t flow together. Every song takes you on a journey of hope, questioning, wondering, believing, but all the while, being honest with yourself. Each of them touches on a different aspect or feeling of those walking in the Christian faith and being real with their walk. It truly does show people moving from just the local church’s doors and into the world, experiencing and sharing life with others.

Soon from “I Know” as the introduction, you move into “Hi Time” by Dru Bex and then switch to “Into the Clouds” by Shopé, which pretty much sums up the direction of the album. As you listen, you experience the highs and lows of life as the songs transition to another, until you finish with “Say” by Promise ft. J. Han, realizing that it really doesn’t matter what they say, especially when it comes to your purpose in life.

Overall, the sound and the creativity are best. I love how consistent it is, where every song remained chill and car-ride (or public transportation-ride) worthy and I could listen and enjoy without being stopped by a sudden change in volume or hype level. It’s also an album that one can listen to Every song feels as if there was effort put into it and just as much put into the decision to feature on this album.

Though there were a few that I did not personally enjoy (because of my own emcee and hip-hop style preferences), this is still an album that can be played from beginning to end without skips. I, myself, have listened to the album on repeat over 10 times since purchase and still can’t get enough of it. All in all, people need to not sleep on this album or the other music that comes out of Good Fruit Co. Well done, my brothers. I am looking forward to the next one.

Have you experienced this album? What did you all think?

Recommended Tracks:

“The Battle” – Manifest ft. Lyricks: The honesty and the flow of the emcees are fire; I felt like I was listening to another “Forgive Me For Asking” by Propaganda. The track also features a guitar riff that makes you want to sway with it, while the rhythm makes you want to bob your head.

“Stay” – Sam Ock: I’m going to need him to stop playing with my vocal and musical heart. His voice is so smooth and the track had a certain emotion to it that connects with you upon first listen that won’t let you loose.

“Our Sound” – HeeSun Lee ft. Sam Ock: This song should be KeativeTherapy’s theme because it touches on the aim here when it comes to the discussion of race and ethnicity and coming together. I am also very tired of seeing my Asian brothers and sisters left out of the race discussion (or pushed out). I will raise my glass, Sam. We are the children of these times.

“Fragments” – NAK: My first exposure to NAK, but his sound…I’m so excited for more. And although the lyrics of this song seem to pull in all the listeners, it truly felt like a personal conversation that followers of Christ have and should have with themselves.

“Slow Down” – J. Han (click for MV): Seriously, since my slight obsession with Art of Starch, “Tired” and “Han Solo” from Tower Ivory, my ears were eager for another J. Han feature and they were happy with this. His emcee style and voice over the type of this track makes you want to put it on repeat. (I also kinda geeked when I realized that the MV was filmed in Seoul, Korea. But don’t mind me. –exits the building-)

Get your copy!

iTunes: smarturl.it/MVMTvol1

Spotify: bit.ly/MVMT1Spotify

Amazon: bit.ly/MVMT1AM

Google Play: bit.ly/MVMT1GP

Follow GoodFruitCo. on social media as well as all of the artists! (That is, if you don’t already)

Follow Good Fruit:

http://youtube.com/goodfruitcompany

http://twitter.com/goodfruitco

http://instagram.com/goodfruitco

http://facebook.com/goodfruitco

This was not a sponsored review.

Letters and Grad Schools and Time, Oh My!

First of all, THANK YOU FOR CONTINUING TO READ!!! ❤ ❤ ❤ I know I have been gone for a LONG time, but my time has been consumed by something I’d like to call graduate school applications.

I just wanted to come and give you all a post to let you know that I am not AWOL or MIA or anything like that. This time snag will only last, hopefully, until December 15 (when just about all of my applications are due). I want to be completely focused on these applications and alleviate any added stress, so that’s why I’m taking this little break.

I have not encountered writer’s block (THANK GOD) for Surface, and in fact, I have a few ideas for a couple of short stories (no celebs portraying characters) and fan fiction. I want to put something up for the holidays, which may or may not be a holiday story (heehee), but that all depends on what is happening in my personal life and if I have time to post something of quality. 🙂

But as for my graduate school applications, I have to get them done first. Prayers and encouraging words are very much appreciated. ;1 I plan to use KeativeTherapy in my grad school work, so comments on my writing is appreciated too!

Be blessed! HAPPY THANKSGIVING! And keep having hope. 😀
Love,
Nyke P

Thirty Pieces of Silver

THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER

The second time I ever tasted wine was at, what is called, the Last Supper. The first time was at a Methodist church on Duke University’s campus on communion Sunday where, after about fifty or so people, I dipped my tiny piece of broken bread into the golden cup that was once filled to the brim and put it in my mouth. This time, however, the wine didn’t taste like my bread soaked up straight alcohol mixed with a deep red food coloring; it was sweet.

Though none present seemed to notice me, I still sat on a wooden stool away from everyone in a small corner overshadowed by a wooden support beam and an elegant curtain that made the large open room somewhat private. It was fully furnished; an unnamed man’s guestroom built atop his own home. This man found Peter and John when they entered the city, exactly the way Jesus had told them, and the two of them prepared the Passover feast for Jesus and all of the disciples.

All thirteen men sat at the long and narrow, yet sturdy table, with Jesus sitting somewhere almost exactly the middle of them. On it was a piece of purple cloth, seemingly lined with gold thread, which extended across the entire length of the table. Two lit candleholders marked the outer thirds of the table and outlined where Jesus sat along with providing light to the entire room. The stools we all sat on were made of the most beautiful round pieces of olivewood, topped with cushions matching the purple and gold cloth of the table. Atop the cloth, the feast was laid out—wine and the oddest mix of foods I had ever seen: eggs, lettuce, unleavened bread, some pieces of lamb meat, and different vegetables.
Before I could even wrap my mind around the furnishing of this guestroom, Jesus stood and said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer because I will not eat it again until its fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

I watched the twelve men’s faces quickly change from joy to sadness. Here they were with their Master and Teacher, ready to take part in the Passover, and He reminded them of the suffering He said would come. And everything their Master said would happen, happened.

“Take this and divide it among you,” Jesus said as he lifted a cup of wine after giving thanks. “I tell you, also, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

With this thought in mind, the men solemnly ate what was on their plates. No one said a word. Some kept watch on Jesus, probably wondering when his suffering would come. Even I anxiously waited in the corner for someone to burst through the door and take Jesus from his seat. I, unlike his disciples, knew what was coming. I couldn’t say or do anything, but I stayed and watched. It was like watching a film where you already know the ending and yet there is nothing you could do about it.

There was nothing I could have done anyway. I knew his purpose. I knew why he had to suffer.
Breaking the silence, Jesus took some of the bread, gave thanks, broke it and passed it down the ends of the table and said, “This is my body which is broken for you: do this in remembrance of me.” He looked at each one of them and paused at each one of their faces as they ate.

He didn’t smile.

Then, with the same gentleness and care, Jesus picked up the cup and said, “This is the new testament in my blood which is shed for you,” and just before anyone could drink any, “Even for the one who sits at this table and will betray me. The Son of man will go, because it has been determined. I will go, but tragedy will come upon the one that has plotted to betray me.”

Each of the men began to argue with one another, pointing fingers at each other, stating who would be the most likely to betray the man they called Master.

“You!”

“I knew you would be the one.”

“Me? No you! You were the one always complaining about where we had to go and what we had to do.”
“No I could never betray the Master. I would never.”

For a moment, I got lost in the words of their arguments. I kept my focus on one man and his defense, hoping that someone could see what I saw: a tiny bulge in the side of his tunic. Bold move: you conspire against the man who cares for you, protects you, comforts you, performs miracles in front of you and you have the nerve to eat a sacred meal with him, like his family, while the money you were paid is weighing your very clothes down. Then I had to remember what was said about him: Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot. It was not Judas; it was more like the shell of his body controlled by something or someone else. Then I remembered something else: these things had to happen—as it is written.

Then the disciples started arguing about something petty: who is the greatest among the twelve. Who cares? I thought. The Master is sitting right here with you, and even said, “For who is greater, he who sits as the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.” Here he was—Master, Teacher, the prophesied long-awaited King that King Herod wanted to kill—sitting at the table, serving mostly fishermen.

And he still gave to them.

To settle their dispute he said, “You are the ones who have continued with me and my trials. So I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as my Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” To their Master, each one of them were going to be like him, with the same power, authority, and responsibility.

The Jesus suddenly looked to Peter, though he was addressing everyone in the room—even me. “Satan wants to cut you down, trample you, and toss you about like wheat because of your following me.” Jesus kept his eyes focused. “But I have prayed for you that your faith does not fail and when you return to me, you will strengthen your brothers.”

Peter, with a surety and honor the others did not possess, said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison and to death.”

“Peter, you will deny me three times before the rooster crows,” Jesus responded.

The men fell silent again as Jesus explained more of the suffering he must face. When the disciples went out before, Jesus told them not to take anything with them—but they lacked nothing. He told them that if they have something they should take it, including a sword. None of his closest friends understood it then and I have yet to understand it fully now. But he did say, “What has been written has yet to be accomplished in me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ All the things concerning me have an end.”

After all was done, Jesus then directed his disciples to go and pray with him. They went to the Mount of Olives, as was his custom. His only instructions were, “Pray that you do not enter into temptation.”
Alone Jesus went away from them and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if it is your will, take this cup from me. But not my will, Father, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared, giant and illuminating, to strengthen Jesus. I heard nothing if it did say something to him. Continuing so hard in that prayer, I watched Jesus’s sweat increase and increase to where it was like blood falling to the ground. But Jesus stayed in prayer until he was finished.

Just like a father finding his son not doing what he was told to do, Jesus found his disciples sleeping from the tiredness of sorrow. Yet and still, they were told to pray.

“Why are you sleeping?” he questioned. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
This was the time that I just fell in awe of Jesus. While he was still speaking, a crowd came up to the Mount. The High priest of Jerusalem and all. Judas moved toward Jesus without saying a word and attempted to kiss his cheek.

Before he got close enough, Jesus spoke. “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
The other eleven disciples pulled out the two swords and said, “Lord, should we strike them with our swords?” Before they allowed him to answer, one of them raised his sword and cut off the High priest’s servant’s ear.

Jesus stepped in, “No more of this!” And sure enough, right then and there, in front of everyone, Jesus touched the servant’s ear and healed it. Then he said to the chief of priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders who had come to take him, “Am I leading a rebellion that you have come with swords and clubs? All the time, every day, I was with you in the temple courts and you did not lay a hand on me.” He paused and walked closer to them. “But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”

Who do you know would have done anything like that? What man could instantly heal the ear of another man? In addition to that, what man would heal someone who was coming to take him to prison—to kill him? Who do you know has enough restraint, compassion, and love to go with those who were unjustly charging a man innocent of all crimes spoken against him?

He did not fight back, but I am very positive that he knew what he was doing.

Even when they mocked him, beat him, forced him to take the place of a murderer, made him carry his own cross and walk to his own grave, he did not fight back or even utter vicious words. His response was to pray, for even those who hated him.

“Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.”

For everyone to see, he hung there, between two thieves, for hours. Every breath was a struggle. Every moment made gravity feel more painful than the moment before until everything finally collapsed.
And his last words: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

He did not curse anyone. He did not yell at anyone. He did not come down, though he had all the power to do so.

He knew why he came to this world, why he was born. He came to die—to free all from slavery of darkness. He came to be the light, leading all on the path of righteousness. He knew, his entire family knew; his mother knew. Though she kept it in her heart, she knew and believed what she was told by Gabriel.

Yet even with all his love and responsibility, he was betrayed. For thirty pieces of silver. Not even gold—silver. And I just had to think; his betrayal was worth thirty pieces of silver. Yet his sacrifice still does two things: angers those who do not comprehend the light and excites those who do. But it will always be a gift for anyone to receive. All you have to do is take it.

The price has already been paid.

SURFACE | 6

6 | JEREMIAH

LIAM was such an actor. He was so fake, but was obviously so good at pretending that he had everyone fooled except for Jeremiah…and now Kaiya. It was bad enough that he had chosen Jonathan and the wrestling team over Jeremiah freshman year and became an obnoxiously stereotypical jock for no reason. Then to make matters worse, he started hanging out and going to parties with Jonathan’s older brother, Westley, who had understanding of the word subtle when it came to his obsession with the “thug life” and all things gangsta rap (even when he wore the occasional preppy outfit to ease the minds of their neighbors); a lot of people already knew Westley was dealing drugs on the university campus and around town.
 
Liam’s casual, “I just came by to drop off homework in hopes you knew where Kaiya was,” the day after raping her was the icing on the cake. What was wrong with him?
 
Jeremiah could not believe that Liam had the audacity to even show up to his house asking for Kaiya in light of what he had done to her—as if nothing had happened. It took every ounce of self-control to keep Jeremiah from rushing through his front door and tackling Liam on the front porch. He could imagine himself, having already the upper hand due to the element of surprise, taking a strong right hook to Liam’s face and punching until he saw blood.
 
He didn’t have a desire to kill Liam, but he was moving pretty close to that much anger. Fortunately, for Liam, all he did was show up with homework and a serving dish. Had Liam said or done something else, Jeremiah was sure his last nerve would have been non-existent and the line would have been crossed.
 
“Is he gone?”
 
Jeremiah looked up from the bowl and homework assignment in his hands and saw Kaiya peep her head around the edge of the archway that separated the foyer from the dining room where she hid when she heard the knock on the door. Both thought it was his mom’s detective friend coming to take her statement.
 
“It was just Liam.”
 
She froze again, staring wide-eyed at him. “You didn’t tell him I was here, right?”
 
Jeremiah walked past her down the hallway and into the kitchen and placed the items on the bar counter. “Of course I didn’t. I just took the stuff while trying to keep myself from strangling him.”
 
She reached over the counter and grabbed his hand. “Please don’t do that. Don’t do anything that’ll get you in trouble…especially not on my account. You’ve already done more than enough.”
 
Kaiya’s facial expression was the same as it was when she showed up on his doorstep: the edges of her mouth curved down, her eyelids were low over her eyes as if she was half asleep, and she kept her head down. His anger subsided, somewhat. He desperately wanted to help her, wanted to figure out a way to get her from being so afraid to press charges and make Liam own up to what he had done. Then he would remember that much of his frustration came from his own vengeful desire to expose Liam for who he truly was. He wasn’t going to push her anymore, especially not now, not after the information he now knew.
 
 
 
THAT morning, his mother woke him up from his cramped position on the floor wrapped in his comforter and leaning on the wall. He had been pushed away from the door to his mother’s room, which was wide open, and it was empty. There was a glimmer of something on the dresser that caught his attention: Kaiya’s abstinence ring lay shiny, the emerald stone glistening beautifully, and unworn.
 
Jeremiah’s mother told him that Kaiya was already awake and in the shower and that he should probably get ready too. She was on her way to meet with her friend, Detective Abraham, to get advice on what she should do with Kaiya in this situation and give him Kaiya’s clothes. The one thing she suggested was going with Kaiya to the church to get her things.
 
As he laced up his shoes, he saw Kaiya standing in his doorway with her arms at her side. She was dressed in a pair of oversized gray sweatpants, a plain white v-neck that from its shape clearly came from his mother’s dresser, his black baseball hoodie and the pair of denim sneakers she wore the day before. Her hair, though still a bit frizzy from yesterday’s rain, had been brushed back into a low bun and she wore a colorful fabric headband. She stuffed her hands in her pockets as she waited and stared at the floor.
 
Jeremiah moved from his bed and wrapped his arms around her. She didn’t move or make a sound.
 
“We should go get your stuff.”
 
When they pulled up to the church, Kaiya kept her focus straight ahead, looking through the rain-covered windshield. She never glanced to look at him or to nod hello to Deacon Allen who came to unlock the multipurpose building.
 
“I’m not going in.” It was the first thing she said all morning.
 
Jeremiah shut off the car before opening the door. “You don’t have to. I’ll just be a minute,” he reached out to touch her, but changed his mind. She continued to look forward down the street.
 
“Hey, Jeremiah. How are you doing this morning?” Deacon Allen asked as he shook Jeremiah’s hand. “How is Kaiya? Some of the kids told me she was sick.”
 
“I’m doing fine. And she’s…,” Jeremiah glanced behind him at his car, “she’s getting better.”
 
“That’s good,” Deacon Allen responded as he handed over Kaiya’s tote bag. “I was worried when she didn’t call for me to lock up. She’s not one to do that. I had to run home after I opened for her and when I came back, she was gone. I’m glad Liam was here when she did leave.”
 
Jeremiah shrugged his shoulders. “Yeah, I guess that was a good thing. But you know it’s not like Kaiya to just leave things. I’m pretty sure she was extremely sick. Thank you for her stuff.”
 
Deacon Allen nodded his head and waved in Kaiya’s direction again. “Let her know I’m praying for her to get better.”
 
Jeremiah lifted up the bag and thanked Deacon Allen before climbing back in the car. He heard Kaiya sniff and watched as a tear slowly fell down her cheek. She wiped it away with the back of her hand.
 
He bit his lip before speaking. “How about we grab some breakfast?”
 
Jeremiah’s first idea, IHOP, was denied: Kaiya did not like the idea of being out in the open and around people. Also, she wasn’t quite ready to go home. So they went through the drive-thru at McDonald’s, ordered a sausage McGriddle and an egg white biscuit with tea and orange juice, then drove to Memorial Park where they parked in front of the duck pond and sat in the car as it began to sprinkle.
 
For a while, Jeremiah quietly ate his breakfast. He noticed her watching the raindrops out of the window while she massaged her leg, a constant, painful reminder. Her food was still in the bag, sitting on her lap untouched since he gave it to her.
 
“You really should try to eat something,” he whispered. No response. If she did not want to talk or eat, he wasn’t going to force her.
 
Then she began sobbing. Though he could’ve guessed it was coming, she was so quiet that this sudden outburst startled him. Her crying was so deep and hard that she almost hyperventilated. He had to pull her close to him for her to calm down enough for him to understand what she said.
 
“Why does this keep happening to me?”
 
He had no clue as to what she was talking about. He continued to hug her as her tears created a large wet spot on his shirt.
 
“Why? Why me?”
 
He didn’t know how to respond. He had the same question.
 
He sighed. “Kaiya, tell me what’s going on in your head.” He wiped the tears from her face. “I don’t know what you want me to say or what I can do.”
 
“I’m sorry,” she whimpered.
 
“Don’t apologize. Stop apologizing to me. You didn’t do anything. You haven’t done anything wrong.”
 
She held her hands over her face. “This isn’t the first time though,” she whispered.
 
“I don’t know what you mean, Kaiya.”
 
She looked in his eyes and took a deep breath. “I was molested when I was younger. A lot. By more than one person.” Jeremiah bit his bottom lip. He gently stroked her hands, contemplating what to say to her. “And no, I’ve never told my mom.”
 
“Why not?”
 
She shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. I felt dirty. I didn’t want anyone to know. And now this? Were my clothes too tight? Was my skirt too short? Did I give him the wrong impression? I mean, yeah, I liked him, but I never asked for this.”
 
Jeremiah, speechless, let her talk. Since they met, she was never one to really flirt, never wore skimpy outfits, and barely wore any makeup unless she was told to do so by her mother. She didn’t act any different around the guys she crushed on, especially during the times when she meant business.
 
She cared for everyone like a mother. She listened to people when they shared their problems with her, actually listened and kept things confidential. She watched out for people, especially the little ones. All the things she did for the church. Why would anyone want to rape her? Why would anyone even try to do it? Especially to her?
 
“Are you gonna tell me who did this to you?” Jeremiah finally spoke.
 
She looked down at her hands. “Only if you promise not to tell anyone.”
 
Jeremiah scoffed. “Why are you protecting this bastard? Why won’t you make him pay?”
 
“Because of who he is. It would involve too many people. Too many people would get hurt.”
 
“What about you getting hurt Kaiya? This guy raped you!”
 
“I know that! But…”
 
He calmed down, noticing that she was ready to burst into tears again. Reminding her of what happened was becoming too much for her. He softly took her hands in his.
 
“But what, Kaiya? What?”
 
She averted his eyes. “I-i-it,” she moved her body around in the seat, crossing and uncrossing her feet, “it was Liam.”
 
Jeremiah held his breath until he couldn’t hold it any longer. Liam? How could he? Why would he? What happened? What? Sure he was the jerk jock now, but this was just too far. All the girls that would have gladly opened their legs to him, in and out of the church without anyone telling, and he goes and forces himself on Kaiya? Jeremiah didn’t understand. Had Liam gone crazy?
 
Still in shock, Jeremiah just sat in the driver’s seat, watching the rainfall.
 
 
 
“I’LL be fine, Mom. Really,” Kaiya said.
 
She was finally able to reach her mother in Tokyo over Skype’s calling system. Her mother wasn’t in a place to video call, but after the message Jeremiah’s mother left the night before, her mother had called multiple times to get the details.
 
“No, you don’t have to fly back now. I don’t want you to miss out on your opportunity.” From the kitchen, he watched her pace the living room floor with the phone to her ear, smoothing her hair back with the other hand. Though he heard what she told her mother, he was still trying to process all the things she told him in the car and Liam coming by his house. “I’m being honest. Madrina already said I could stay here with her and Miah until you come back. Yes, she has me talking to a detective. I will, Mom. I won’t go anywhere alone, I promise. Okay. I love you, too. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
 
“She said you could stay?”
 
Kaiya nodded with a roll of her eyes as she entered the kitchen. “As long as I talk to that detective guy and promise her that I won’t go anywhere by myself.”
 
Jeremiah opened the refrigerator for her. “It’s just precaution, Kaiya. If I were her, I’d be ready to come back, too. I’d be on the first plane smoking; forget about a job.”
 
She pulled out a large gallon of ginger ale and poured herself a glass. “I’ll get over this just like I got over everything else.”
 
Jeremiah looked at her with one eyebrow raised. “You still haven’t told her about the other times?”
 
Kaiya sipped from the glass. “I just want people to stop asking me about this. I don’t want to talk about this or anything else anymore. It’s over. It happened. There’s nothing anyone can do about it.”
 
“But there is, Kaiya. All you have to do is tell who—”
 
“I want it to be over,” she said slowly. “I don’t want to think about it. So just…please don’t tell anyone what I told you.”
 
“Kaiya, I can’t keep this a secret.”
 
“Please. I really just don’t want to think about it anymore.”

~ (&) ~

“Hurry up, Kaiya! I will eat this popcorn and start the movie without you,” Jeremiah hollered from the living room as he plopped down on the leather sectional directly in front of the television with a large bowl of popcorn in his lap. “I’m serious! How long does it take you to shower?”
 
It had been two weeks and a couple days since Kaiya basically moved in. Ms. Denise and Jeremiah’s mother thought it was their best option until Ms. Denise was able to return from Tokyo: an adult would be there to keep an eye on Kaiya and everyone knew for sure that Jeremiah would watch out for her at school and such, which he did as he said he would. He wouldn’t allow her to be alone unless she needed that privacy. From the night she showed up at his house soaking wet and hurt, he promised he would never leave her alone.
 
That also included the past three Sundays she pleaded with Jeremiah’s mother not to go to church. By the second Sunday, his mother figured it out that the person who violated Kaiya was there; but she was still unsure of whom it was. “Make sure you two get some scripture,” his mother would respond with saddened eyes focused on Kaiya, who would return a half smile. So they did read, Kaiya hoping that they would find the answers to her questions and Jeremiah pleading to God that they would.
 
“Girl, I’m giving you one minute!”
 
He heard the water from the shower in the upstairs bathroom between his and his mother’s room shut off. Kaiya surely hadn’t heard him call her if the water was on because that also meant she was playing music, something she had been doing since staying at his place. She told him it helped her think and somewhat deal with what happened.
 
Since the incident, Jeremiah figured if he never changed the way he treated Kaiya, it would help her work through her emotions. Or at least feel a little normal. She wouldn’t have to re-live the moment, wouldn’t have to talk about it, like she asked. And he didn’t have to watch his best friend wallow in sorrow. He thought that if they acted as if the situation never happened at home, she would be able to go to school without fearing the worst would come to her. He was grateful that the classes she did share with Liam she also shared with him. Jeremiah couldn’t say anything about the rape, but he sure as his name was Jeremiah could keep Liam from touching her again.
 
Before he could call for her again, the bathroom door opened. He glanced over his shoulder and saw a flash of Kaiya as she ran to his mother’s room, the room she had been sleeping in.
 
“Miah!” she hollered. “Could I borrow a shirt?”
 
He laughed to himself as he trotted up the stairs to his room, twisted the little knob of the floor lamp closest to the door and grabbed his oversized baseball camp tee from his drawer, one that she had borrowed before. He had mind to give it to her as a gift or have it ready whenever she had need of it at his place in the future. She wore it more times than he did.
 
He crossed the hallway in a hurry and knocked a little harshly on his mother’s door. “Hurry up, girl! I want to watch this movie before the sun comes up. I’ll leave the shirt on the knob.” She didn’t respond for a long time. “Did you hear me? I’m very serious about this movie.” He noticed the door was a bit open and still rushing, came into the room with one hand covering his eyes.
 
He heard Kaiya laugh. “I’m still wearing a towel.”
 
Jeremiah shook his head. With his eyes still covered, he tiptoed across the white carpet to the edge of the bed where he noticed the end of his mother’s orange duvet and placed the shirt on top of it.
 
“The shirt’s right here. I’ll let you get dressed, and please don’t take long.”
 
With caution he began to back out of the room but then saw her bare feet meet his. She was quiet. He felt her hand softly touch the one that was over his eyes and pull it down. His eyes met hers and all he could see was the perfect oval outline of her face, only covered partially by her black curls. His heart beat a bit faster in his chest and he felt heat spread around his face and neck. He swallowed. Her mahogany skin glistened under the light and from the lingering water drops on her body. All he could smell was the vanilla and brown sugar shower gel she must have used and lingering hint of cotton candy in her hair. She held up her towel with her right hand in the middle of her chest.
 
Everything seemed to move in slow motion. Kaiya stood on the tips of her toes and moved closer to his face with her eyes shut. He now had to look down at her and attempted to look away. He couldn’t see anything past her face. She was so beautiful without makeup. He didn’t blink. He watched her lips part slightly before they touched his.
 
His eyes closed as he kissed her back. His entire body felt electric. His arms wrapped around her out of instinct. With every second that passed, the kiss became more passionate.
 
Then, without warning, she stopped. He opened his eyes and saw her mouth drop open and her eyes grow large in horror as she put her hand over mouth.
 
“Oh my God. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” she kept repeating as she turned away from him and walked across the room to the where the mirror hung above the potted plants and oak chest in the corner. “I shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry. I-I-don’t know what I was thinking. I’m sorry.”
 
Jeremiah licked his lips before rubbing his forefinger across them, thinking. Then he moved behind her, keeping his eyes on her in the mirror. While looking down, she continued to hold on to the towel around her body that seemed to fall around her hips and bottom following the exact same curves. Her pear shape was more apparent to him from this angle. But it wasn’t like he hadn’t noticed her shape before; the weight loss only made it more prevalent.
 
He moved her hair from her shoulders. “Don’t apologize.” She turned to face him, still looking down at his feet. He caressed her face with both hands and made her focus on him. “I’ve wanted to kiss you for almost three years now.”
 
He brought his lips to hers again and gently pecked them continuously. As if following some sort of recipe to the art of kissing, he then parted her lips with his tongue and met hers. He felt her body grow heavy as he leaned against her and she rested on the end of the dresser. He then remembered where they were. If his mother caught them kissing, in her bedroom, with Kaiya only in a towel…she would have more than a fit. This was not at all what she had in mind when she agreed to keep an eye on Kaiya by allowing her to stay with them. Then again, it wasn’t until now that her decision might pose as a problem.
 
He stopped.
 
“Not here,” he whispered.
 
He took her hand then led her to his room. He could still hear the television on downstairs. For the first time in years, he was somewhat glad his mother worked nights at the hospital and Joey had gotten married and moved out.
 
The floor lamp in the space next to his door was still on from when he got the t-shirt—that was now left behind in his mother’s room—showing his unmade dark grey and green bedroom. It was never really neat, but never dirty, just somewhat unorganized—unlike how Joey kept his room when he lived here. There were a few unfolded clean clothes dropped at the opening of his closet and at the foot of his bed. Skyline photos of Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, and Las Vegas hung on the dark green accent wall on the left side of his bed where the covers were already pulled back from that morning. All his shelves were stacked with books, photos of his mother, grandparents, baby photos of him and Joey. Some of his deejay equipment was sprawled over his L-shaped desk in the far right corner. His computer was on, his latest music project in colorful parts across the screen. It was a song he was working on with Kaiya. He had hopes the distraction would change her outlook on her situation.
 
“It’s nice to know you’re not as messy as you used to be.”
 
He smiled, still holding her hand and sat down on his bed. She stood over him and let go of the towel when he laced his fingers with hers. He watched it slowly unravel and reveal her naked body. It was just as he had imagined. She attempted to move her arms to cover herself and pick up the towel, but he kept her hands still. To him, even her light stretch marks were in the right place.
 
“You’re beautiful.” She glanced away. “I’m serious.”
 
This was way past the time for them to stop. Yet, he wanted to keep going. He wanted to do more, show her more of him.
 
He and Kaiya had all these talks about how good it was for them to wait until marriage, enjoy sex the right way, the way God wanted them to. He remembered once how in depth she had explained the science and psychology of it and how that clearly showed that God had created something to keep a husband and wife together, not only just to procreate. It was the highest level of intimacy that human beings could share on this earth, which was why the Bible used the word “know,” and only God could know every person in the world at a higher level. She said it was like a little piece of Him that He gave for husband and wife to share with one another and become one.
 
They even had a conversation, just after HGA watched a TEDx-like talk given by a former R&B singer about sex, about how explosive their first time with their respective spouses was meant to be. Similar to the speaker, they discussed all the built up energy they had, how they would remember their first nights forever, and how they would be recreating those feelings with their spouses over and over again, keeping them together. That was definitely her dream and she talked about it with such zeal that it helped him get past his fear of being ridiculed by his friends for being a virgin and actually wanting to wait until he found his wife.
 
Then Liam happened.
 
They hadn’t talked about anything Liam or sex since his mother dropped off her clothes at the police station and Kaiya met with his mother’s detective friend. She refused to say who had taken away her dream and begged Jeremiah not to tell. The whole situation had surely shattered her view of everything.
 
And now, all Jeremiah felt was the heat and the urge to touch Kaiya. He felt the desire to give to her what he knew she couldn’t give to him. He pulled down and she straddled his body, sitting in his lap. He began to plant kisses on her neck and chest and caress her in his arms. He heard her let out a small moan which only intensified his feelings. Slowly, she removed his glasses and placed them on the nightstand beside his bed. After they both removed his shirt and tossed it to the floor, he brought his kisses back to her lips.
 
It wasn’t long before he found himself on top of her, stripped down to only his boxers and between her propped up knees and thighs. She pushed herself up to kiss him again, but he paused.
 
“What?” she whispered.
 
He gave her a half-smile, taking in her entire body. He pulled her left wrist to his mouth and kissed down her arm before placing it around his neck.
 
“I wanna make you feel good. I want to replace every pain and hurt that he caused, that anyone caused you.” He focused directly into her eyes. “I love you, Kaiya. I do. And you know I mean every word.” He could see her thinking, a half smile forming on her lips as she caressed the back of his head and neck. “But I won’t…if you don’t want me to.”
 
Kaiya gave a small laugh, moving a little under him. “If I didn’t want you to, we wouldn’t have gotten this far.” She gave him a full smile and moved her hair from her face.
 
Without hurrying, he leaned over and pecked her forehead, the tip of her nose, and then her lips. He pulled her legs up around his waist and steadily slipped in, watching her face. She opened her mouth a bit as they both inhaled deeply. They exhaled simultaneously and she smiled again at him, biting her bottom lip and letting her eyes close.
 
He couldn’t help but smile back. He watched her grab hold of his sheets and felt her cross her ankles. He kept his focus on her the entire time, taking note of every sound, movement, blink, and breath she made. He kissed her neck and chest in between his movements and allowed her to grab his arms, hold on to his body and move freely with him. He was making her feel better, feel good. And even in his mind, he couldn’t describe what he was feeling.
 
All his reservations about where things were going between him and Kaiya were moved aside for the moment like the pile of his clothes and Kaiya’s towel made on the floor next to his bed. His brain made room for what was happening now as it was being etched into his memory. He was making love to Kaiya, in his room, on his bed. The dim lighting was just enough to enjoy his view of the beauty he had always noticed. The sounds and rhythm of their breathing and her voice repeating his name in his ear, heightening his sensitivity to everything—the warmth of Kaiya’s body as she pulled him closer to her and tightened her grip around his neck and waist, the sweat forming on his forehead, the texture of the wood on his headboard, the pillow soft feeling of her hair against his skin. He was giving himself to her and she was doing the same and that was all that mattered. He couldn’t stop.
 
Jeremiah had never noticed just how much he wanted to be with Kaiya. He had no clue as to what changed in her mind that made her desire him so strongly. He never imagined it would ever get this far, especially with being friend-zoned early in their relationship. Her affection always seemed to be captured by someone else. Most days, he found himself wondering if there was something wrong with him, which would give her the reason why he couldn’t be in the position of the other guys. Other days, he figured there would be a day when they were older, she would finally realize how much she loved him too and they’d end up married with a couple of kids living in some random suburb or college town—and all he had to do was wait for that day.
 
He questioned: was that day now? Had it really come to the point where he and Kaiya had mutual feelings? Everything felt so good and so perfect—he didn’t want it to stop. And since this was real, did it mean what he thought it meant?
 
When all had calmed down, Jeremiah finished the way he started: he kept his eyes on Kaiya, moving with care and watching for her reassurance that it was what she desired. Her eyes were closed, but her mouth curled up into a smile.
 
“How do you feel?” he whispered in her ear, still breathing heavily. She nodded “yes” in response, reaching for his hand as he brought the sheets over their bare bodies and lay between her and the wall. He turned her head to face him and planted another kiss on her lips. “I love you, Kaiya Marie Parker.”
 
She opened her eyes a little, still holding on to his hand. She turned her body away from him, brought his arm around her and curled into his form. She kissed his bicep as he held her closer to him.
 
He closed his eyes and his pecked her neck before drifting off to sleep inhaling her scent, feeling her heartbeat, and listening to her breathe. He had Kaiya wrapped in his arms and for now, that was enough.