The Sky’s The Limit
By Claire Yu
This is an excerpt from a story about a girl’s process of learning to be independent and self-confident after the unexpected loss of her brother.
Sky and Wind
I am Baram,
‘wind’ in Korean
My brother is Haneul,
It’s strange how they knew,
my parents, our names
would be exactly what we would become.
Haneul is perfect—perfect man, perfect son, perfect brother. That list will probably extend to ‘perfect husband’ at some point in the next five years because I don’t see how any woman could pass him up. He’s a STEM student like a good Korean son—graduated from college just last week with a degree in chemical engineering, which he did while traveling an hour each way to school and back every day so he could stay at home, cooking dinner for my mother, and impressing all of us with smart-sounding words.
Taking Root: The Girls Write Now 2022 Anthology
For more than two years, our young writers have weathered an adolescence shaped by an ongoing global pandemic. But a harsh climate can also produce work of rare depth, complexity, nuance and humor. The Girls Write Now mentees in this collection have found new ways to build community and take root. This anthology is a catalog of seeds—each young writer cultivating a shimmering, emergent voice. In short stories, personal essays, poetry, and more, they reflect on life-altering topics like heartbreak, self-care and friendship. The result is a stunning book with global relevance of all this generation has endured and transformed.
He’s tall, and strong, and reliable, the kind of oppa (big brother) everyone wants – the kind who is always there for everyone, with big star eyes. I’m the sidekick, the Doctor Watson to his Sherlock Holmes. I’ve always wanted to be just like him, beautiful and intelligent. I learned quickly that I wasn’t anything like him. I’m daydreamy and indecisive, constantly blowing one direction and then another, like my name. I’m a sophomore in high school now, and I still have no idea what I want to do with my life. All I want to do is stay a child forever, taking hikes with Haneul and singing to the trees. I’m the nerd, the one who reads books so much that I can quote entire passages from memory. I’ve texted Haneul so many of my favorite quotes from books and songs that we now insert quotes into our daily conversations, like our own secret language. Haneul is well spoken, always saying the right thing, and I am the opposite. I never know what the right thing to say is, and so I stay silent. I wish I was good at talking, like him, but he always tells me,
“The ability to keep your mouth shut is usually a sign of intelligence.”
—Holly Goldberg Sloan, Counting by 7s
I guess I don’t like doing anything I’m not already used to doing. Haneul always tries to convince me to try new things as we take our morning hike. He spent most of last year trying to get me to submit to a teen magazine, which I staunchly refused to do. Last week, he said I should join my school’s book club. Yesterday, he told me I should enter the talent show. “You should just do it for fun,” he said. “For the experience.” Smirking, I muttered,
“Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”
— Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
Haneul gave me a look, trying to look stern, but he couldn’t hide the smile that was itching to get out from the corners of his lips. “Okay, fine. I had that coming,” he finally admitted, grinning. “But seriously. You should go and try stuff out, make new friends. You hang out with your older brother entirely too much, Baram. It’s probably not considered ‘cool,’ you know.” I shrugged, and ran up the mountain path ahead of him. At the top, I shouted back, “It’s cool with me!” as I watched him jog towards me, his feet pounding on the well-worn trail that Haneul had found in our childhood.
funny how an eclipse
is anything but abnormal
it is just dark
at the wrong time
and we fall apart
I didn’t believe him at first. In fact, I started laughing…
This is a story about grief and maturity. While I had suggestions to expand on the characters of Haneul (the brother), her mother, and her father, I chose not to in order to focus more on the character growth of Baram. In the beginning, she is a little insecure about herself, and depends almost entirely on her brother to keep herself happy and occupied. Baram is afraid of making choices that will lead to a potential career path or new group of people to spend time with. The reader can tell that she has anxiety about talking to new people and growing up in general—she would much rather the security of knowing the relationship she has with her brother will always be there, and that is good enough for her.
As a reader, we don’t get to find out at the end whether or not she makes any concrete decisions about her future. Rather, I wanted to portray her change in attitude towards life, and her increased confidence, maturity, and hope for the future. The last section of the story depicts her hiking up the mountain alone for the first time. Despite having dealt with grief for the past few months, she is able to smile and remember her brother fondly. The story ends with a poem that references fairy tales—pages in a book, fairy godmothers, palace steps, etc. I wanted to give the impression that Baram is now excited to write the metaphorical story of her life, and is optimistic about what her future in this story will bring.
Claire Yu is a junior from Queens who attends high school in Manhattan, NY. She enjoys writing poetry and memoirs, dancing and playing the flute. She has won regional and national awards at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.