Track Changes in English

Kenneth Lee

After Jennifer Lunden’s “Evidence, in Track Changes”


Date: November 16, 2017 at 4:28 PM

Subject: Help my review assignment, please!!


Hello, Kenneth,


I have a review assignment and I choose movie review.

read and please fix my writing.

If you want to add something please do so.

Thank you!!


P.S. let me know when you plan to come home for Thanksgiving. I

have a school for next Tuesday. But Emily is off from this Saturday.




I was seventeen, sixteen, fourteen, ten years old. 
That time when I was sitting in my room, watching TV, playing a video game, working on homework, and I heard your voice calling my name. 

I was so annoyed. Not again. C’mon. 

You bought things from eBay and other online stores. Sometimes a package would be missing, or it arrived, but it was something you wanted returned. Other occasions, you were typing emails for Emily’s teachers. You needed someone to revise your writing, and it was often me.

In these emails, I pretended to be you.
I was talking to strangers on eBay, customer service employees, administrative workers, Emily’s teachers, sometimes my own teachers. 
In these emails you were able to speak freely in clear and deliberate sentences.



After the five-ten minutes it took to proof emails, you always said thank you. 

Once, when I was revising sentences, you said you were happy you had such a smart son. I remember saying, “This is so easy.” 

I didn’t realize how small I made you feel.



“Think of the children. What about them?”

That’s what my stepdad said when you were thinking of taking a few classes and pursuing a degree. 
I was nine, Emily was three. 

“Who’s going to take care of the children?”
So you stayed home.



I hated the way you spoke. The accent you carried, the one I inherited. Teachers called me shy, wondered why I never spoke more in class. But I was afraid of how we spoke, ashamed of how broken and fragmented we sounded. 

Remember when I was in second grade? I was taken out of class every week for speech therapy and during one of my sessions, the instructor implied my speech problems were because of you.

When I returned home, I told you what happened, and you turned angry. 

“No. Not because of me,” you said. “Did you tell her? Did you tell her not my fault?”



But I did blame you. Why couldn’t you speak English properly? Correctly?

One day, you returned home after an exchange 
with a confused cashier at Walmart and broke
into tears, sobbing and sobbing. 

“No one understand me here.”

I held you. “I understand you.” 

You continued crying. “But one day you won’t.”



When you were twenty-one, a man from the Army took you back to the States with him. You couldn’t speak English then, and when he died two years later, you were told by white people to avoid Korean and only teach English to the one-year-old son he left you.

“You don’t want to confuse him,” they said.



I never told you. I practiced in front of the mirror. Rehearsing simple words over and over again. 

“Thirty” (approximately twenty-nine)
“World” (planet) 
“Kenneth” (Ken) 

Kids made fun of me, asking me to say words 
they knew I couldn’t pronounce. 
You didn’t know how to help me, and I blamed you. 
I wanted you to be perfect.



That time you were on the floor. Your eyes were red, your voice was breaking, upset at the world. 

“I wanted to teaching you,” you said. “I wanted to teaching you my language. But they told me not to.”



You once told me you were afraid of growing old, forgetting all the English you learned. You said speaking was like searching and fumbling for words in a heavy fog. 

You asked me 
how are we going to understand each other 
if you ever forget English, if I never learn Korean.

I didn’t know how to answer. So I made a joke. 
“Caveman grunts. UGG UG UGG.” 

But I never forgot your question, and I still 
don’t have an answer.



That time when I thought the problem was Georgia.


“Why can’t we move to Seattle? Or California?” 

You laughed. A sad laugh. 

“Racists everywhere. Even Seattle.”



That time when we were fighting. A long, stupid fight about nothing.

I was yelling. “What? I don’t understand.” 

You cried and yelled back. “When you saying you don’t understand, it hurting me. Like knife 
in my heart. It hurting me.”



That conversation when I was seven 
and wanted a lunchbox. 

7 p.m., an hour before my bedtime. I was watching 
a commercial on TV. Was so excited. 
I raced out of my room to find you. 

“Mom, I want a lunchbox.”

You were still learning English at the time and couldn’t understand me. You didn’t know what I was saying. You didn’t know lunchbox.

I had to explain it to you. I tried, and yet 
we still couldn’t understand each other. Annoyance transformed into frustration, then terror, 
a loud sadness. 

Was it my fault? It felt like it. Years later, 
you told me you felt like a failure,
how you couldn’t understand your own son. 

“Lunchbox, lunchbox. You put food inside,” I said 
in between muffled sobs. 

You were hugging me tightly. My face was buried inside your arms. I didn’t see, but you were crying too.



My stepdad would always correct you during dinner when you spoke. 

A singular-plural disagreement.

A tense error.

A pronunciation mistake. 

I sided with him when I was younger. I thought 
we were helping. But I was wrong. 

Lately, whenever I return home, and 
I hear him correct the way you speak, it annoys me. Because I want you to talk freely,
not just at home, inside your house,
but always. 

Listening to your voice, sentences drift 
in and out of tense: 
past, present, and future 
all intertwining together.



10 p.m. You finally figured it out. I had to draw you pictures. Grabbed paper and crayons. And after a few more rounds of guessing you figured it out—lunchbox.

I was still crying at the hours wasted, the difficulty 
of trying to communicate with my mother, but 
I stopped after you told me it would be okay. 

“It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay. I’m sorry. It’s going to be okay now.” 

You drove us thirty minutes to Walmart that same night
for me. 

Normally, I would be in bed, already asleep, 
but I was at the store, holding your hand and 
walking the aisles. I picked a lunchbox. Blue. 
There were Hot Wheels on the cover. 

It was beautiful.

Date: Nov 17, 2017 at 12:55 AM
Subject: Movie Review


Hey Mom!


I gave you revisions in Word doc. You have to go to the above tab and click "Review."

Also click "All Makeup" in the tracking section. Then you can accept or reject my revisions.


Hope this helps! Love you!

Kenneth Lee is an MFA candidate in creative nonfiction at West Virginia University. His writing has appeared in jmwwThe Collapsar, and Entropy.