2011/08/05 F – That Fool

Today I got up and woke Myeong-Seon.  She recounted a cute dream she’d just had about our family.  We sat out in the back-yard for a while, talking and crying, then broke fast.  It was our last morning…

Time passed quickly till it was nearly time to go catch the bus.  Yesterday, I had started wondering aloud whether she really needed to leave.  The question made her silent, and sad-looking…  Today, Myeong-Seon returned the offer, and began repeating the invitation she’d first given a week or two ago, to go with her to California and join her study program under her sponsorship.  I still had a bit of time to pack, and I tried to picture myself going, but couldn’t form a clear image of it at all.  Instead, I encouraged her to get ready, and we finally set out.  We barely caught the bus (but ended up waiting at her car-pool’s meeting point, Denny’s at 4500 South and about 400 West, for at least 45 minutes).

On our ride, I discussed with her the “point of no return” reached in every departure, the moment beyond which the trip goes from imaginary to real.  We considered again going together, though it was a serious possibility only to her.  To me, it was an inconvenient time to do such a thing, since I needed to finish at BYU.  She thought I might just finish in winter instead…

I admitted that accompanying her would mean more than just delaying my study; it would mean accepting her, and her lifestyle — and probably marriage.  Later, at Denny’s, I asked her whether it were impossible for her to be married in the temple, trying to watch my words to avoid asking her directly to reconsider her faith for my sake.  She said she would so marry if she were permitted, since I believed in eternal marriage.  We didn’t quite reach the underlying question of church affiliation, or the deeper still question of doctrinal tolerance.

At length, just as my hopes were beginning to build that her ride wouldn’t show up and she’d be stuck here with me for at least another day, her car-pool driver came, Steve Pratt.  Myeong-Seon was headed to Weimar, California (“Wee-mar”, or yet more accurately, “Wee-mah”, the name of a native chief), while the driver was to pass that town on his way to Sacramento.  They’d connected through the BYU student board.  Also present were a previously unacquainted passenger, Colin Montague (? pronounced with two syllables, with a hard A, omitting the final vowels), and Steve’s young daughter “Kaylie” (?).

They went to use the restroom, and Myeong-Seon and I said our goodbyes — mostly I to her, as she was still sort of hoping I’d go with her.  She’d made good on her assurance of asking Steve if there would be room in the car for me, and both he and I had laughed it off.  As an excuse, I’d already told her I didn’t want to burden him, so she assumed his permission would clear the way for me.  Myeong-Seon had cried a bit over it, but insisted that Steve would grant the ride if he thought we were serious, and made up her mind to ask him again.  The more she pushed me, the more I wanted to be pushed by her… and her offer became more attractive the closer we got to our unwanted separation…

The others came back outside, quickly got in the car, and made to leave.  Myeong-Seon kept urging me to try to ask again to join them, but I declined, stepping away from the vehicle in order to take my last movie of her.

The car pulled out of the parking stall and headed out to the road, and I began to sob… when, out of nowhere, I saw the car returning.  I knew Myeong-Seon was responsible.  They pulled up to me and Steve called out over his passenger, asking whether I had wanted to go with them.  Myeong-Seon started grinning, and opened the back door to make room for me.  I tried to decline again, though, for a moment, staring at that empty seat and her eager smile, I was nearly overwhelmed by the temptation to drop everything, leave my last bit of uneaten breakfast kimchi to rot in the fridge, and go with her, to find my way back later…

I could feel the moment pounding on me…

It never materialised.  I chose reticence and nudged them onward, assuring Myeong-Seon that Steve wouldn’t want to go back to my house to get any stuff, and that they ought to be departing soon.  (Myeong-Seon had earlier argued to me, things don’t matter; only the decision matters.)  Steve concurred that they would need to get on the road soon.  Myeong-Seon’s smile reversed itself as I closed the door, and I tried to calm her (and my self) with the thought of potentially seeing each other in December.  Steve suggested that I may take the train there later.  I blessed her to depart in peace, and they finally left, not returning again…

…I saw them make a U-turn at the traffic light and head back toward the freeway, passing me on the sidewalk.  Myeong-Seon and I waved to each other…

…and then she was gone…………………………. ><

What a terrible mistake, perhaps………………………………….. :”””””(

How could I have abandoned her…

Only the decision mattered……………

She had been my Dongbaek; it was never me.

I made my way home by foot and bus in a tear-stained daze, though quivering with a determination to get a job and save up enough money to rise above this necessity of immobility, and be able to accompany her any where she asked…

…On the bus up the road, I found a discarded newspaper, and welcomed the distraction of media brainwashing for a few minutes before descending back into my long-forgotten, just-returned loneliness.  After nearly two months of regular nearness and two weeks of continual company, I suddenly had nothing left here, no one at my side… and I might not see her again.

Finally, back here at home, I found the place empty and cold.

Shanna mentioned to me how warm MS had made things…

Heaven, how I miss her.  I feel dead again, now, swimming in memory.  I feel myself in darkness, and see clearly what a brightly glowing fire she had been in my cold state.

How I miss her.  How easily I could have spent the next thousand days, and longer still, seeing her every morning, and parting only briefly into sleep every night…

All the same, we both did everything we knew how to do to reach the necessary unanimity…

…And we didn’t reach it.

Every few steps I take through the house, I’m stricken by the recognition of her absence, and I’m reduced again to the drippy, womanly grief that seems to have become my hallmark in romance.

I half expect to spy her through the kitchen window at any moment, walking back up to the house and front door, since we both have cancelled our departures before to return to one another…

There sits her cup on the counter.  She followed me and set out a permanent glass, next to mine, instead of always using a new one from the cup-board.  But now, her cup is out of place, stacked on our breakfast plates, waiting to be washed, and not set back again next to mine…

Was this closeness a mistake?  Like shape-shifters, we had liquified and merged together… and now, in a day and a cruelly repetitive instance outside of Denny’s, we were ripped suddenly apart…

It was my choice, to not get in that car…  I would be driving across Nevada by now…

…and not sitting alone here with this vacuum always at my side… this missing person…

Part of me wants to die, knowing deep inside that this “goodbye” was in some way a finality to us.

Part of me wants to die, but still hopes to meet her again, in whatever place or form.

A third part of me, I guess, thinks this sudden, wrenching sorrow is… good, somehow, and preparatory.

And a fourth part admits that seeing her in California is not an insurmountable difficulty, and more than that, seeing her in Korea later is a very strong possibility.

But that was surely a knife she plunged into my back during our long goodbye — her encouragement of joining her.

Now, no matter what else happens, and even though I couldn’t have done it, I will regret not getting into that car.

It wasn’t like leaving Seoul, and saying that last goodbye to the Bomie I never truly saw again.  I didn’t really have the choice to stay there, I think.

I had this choice, and I let it slip right through my fingers…

…considering it… somehow… rash.

And rash it was.  My mind steered me aright, to refuse it.

But “correctness” will not make quite the epitaph on my grave stone that “love” would have made.

I may meet another, but I will surely never meet her superior.  She was my Gu Dongbaek, but I was not her Han Jisu.  I was that poor, sorry fool left staring blankly out the window, Kim Gangmo — not a disloyal companion by any means, but one who merely had another loyalty that he placed above love.

I hope, anyway, that mine will prove to have been placed higher than his.

Even now, I could afford, I suppose, to take a train and catch up with her.  The site says… $97 for tonight’s departure, down from the $122 she was paying.  A round trip would add $78…

Should I do it?  Or just leave it as this messy goodbye, but clean beginning?

Would it be for… three weeks?  Or four months?  What would I do about school?

Should I hurry and try to call BYU and ask about an extension of enrollment?  I was still supposed to get my bishop’s endorsement in…

Do I really want to study there?

We couldn’t really “date” or spend so much time together, as she reminded me, due to the code of conduct at that school.

But, just to see her, and hear her…

Either way, we can’t stay in this present moment.  We had our time together, this “honeymoon”, and now things must move forward…

It would just be a delay, in the end, if I had to post-pone BYU… unless we just left for Korea at the end of the year, worked somehow (and I without a degree…?), married, and eventually moved back briefly to Provo to complete it.

She might like that plan.  But instead, I would probably need to finish the degree first…

…And… anyway… the great source of most of our tears remains.  All else of her, I think I can accept, having come to love her; but we can not marry when we don’t believe in the same marriage, nor can we parent when our differing definitions of parentage detract from one another.

We gave each other every chance at unity.

However it is, though, I will and must see her again.

Now my mom is talking to me on-line, asking if I want to take advantage of a Denny’s coupon with her.  I had considered using the same with beautiful Myeong-Seon before we left, but our breakfast meal worked out differently.

Beside extra food, she left her shoes with me, hoping that I might repair them.  She’d tried to get me to help fix their soles, but when we finally made it to the cobbler some days ago (the same I once took Eunhee to, “Steve’s”, down on State Street and half this far south), we were disappointed to hear a high price and too-long wait time.  I told her she should either fix them herself or just take them back to Korea, since she didn’t want to discard the pair.

Now, it will be me taking them to Korea, when I go.

She also left the Book of Mormon the elders had given her, saying she’d get it later.  I’d suggested that she do so, knowing that she already had one Book (but not knowing whether she still had it with her), and not wanting to increase her luggage.  She also somewhat less expectedly left the two pamphlets they’d given her.  Maybe she didn’t realise she could take them separately from the heavier book, or thought they were heavier than they actually were.

The elders had given their witness, and she’d agreed to read the Book, and pray about it…

If she is able to do so, so be it.

If she isn’t, then all I have said about her remains, and I still owe her everything I can afford.

When we talked out on the front lawn last night, after her excellent gift [see below], she kept telling me to not to try to repay her (I kept mentioning my inability to do so), as it would signify that I was trying to erase (and forget) the debt, and the connection that underlay the debt.  I answered that although Koreans were loathe to think of “repaying” gifts of friendship, they nevertheless repayed them faithfully — and more still — with their own friendship.

I will, I will, I will see her again.  I shall.

“It’s not ‘goodbye’,” she had repeated.  “I’m not leaving you…”

…But we both knew what it was.

And, I suppose…

…we both know what it shall be.

I’ll remain here.  I’ll work, and finish my course of study, and then work some more.  Even with her funding, our bond couldn’t be indefinitely maintained unless I laid down my indolence and traded my life instead for that which cannot be carried with me, but which can be traded again for good here.  I couldn’t leech her money forever.

How I love her, for her selfless goodness.  She has been better to me than any other girl I have known, even Heidi.

We’re perhaps thinking of working in an institute together in Korea.

-Steve Foster

(p.s. More later.)

Before posting this one, I read through some previous entries and recovered some strength.  My mother had come home and told me of the play she had tickets to attend tonight.  We talked about Myeong-Seon’s trip before leaving for Denny’s… the same I had just dropped Myeong-Seon off at.

During our meal, we discussed my and Myeong-Seon’s religious interface…

The play was very rousing: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”.  My emotions were still unbounded, and I was wrapt up in the energetic efforts of the troupe there at the Hale Centre Theatre; I freely applauded, unusual for me.  My mom liked it… and I couldn’t help myself to not think that Myeong-Seon should have been there, and would have liked it too…

My eyes were already feeling strained from the day, though, and at this point, I feel exhausted…

We got home at almost 10 p.m..  Myeong-Seon should definitely have arrived by now, an hour later, according to Steve Pratt’s estimate.  I’m not sure if she’ll contact me…

It feels somehow like several empty days have already passed.

Below I will account for my time between this and the previous entry.

7/21 Th
I found out (or was reminded) that Myeong-Seon would not be leaving later in August, as I’d supposed, but on August 3rd.  I knew I would need to make the most of our remaining time…  From this day on, we met or stayed together every day — mostly the latter.

7/23 S
A nice day spent in Provo.  We went to Myeong-Seon’s church, where her Kennewick hosts, Beverley and David Waid, were there visiting, dropping off their daughter “Bristi”, who was coming to study and clean for one of the Romney sons, who married a daughter of David from his first marriage (their later split was encouraged, as I remember hearing from Myeong-Seon, by the same religious forces as dissuade me and her now; indeed, I’ve used him as an example in my talks with Myeong-Seon at least twice).

Later, we went to the home of Frances and Harvey, who host church members for lunch every sabbath (i.e., Saturday) after church.  On the way, I saw Barbara, an older lady, and at the home, I met Ardeth, another somewhat older woman from Kentucky.  Myeong-Seon’s friend Joy was there, as well as some of Frances’ relatives: daugher Debbie, other grand-daughter Catherine, and great-grand-daughter Canani(?), reportedly meaning “Beautiful One” in Hawaiian.

7/24 Su
Myeong-Seon joined me for the third time at our church (for the last meeting, anyway, when we showed up).  The first time, she’d gone to the Relief Society meeting, but subsequently she has gone into the classroom of my mother, who works with the young women.  Prior to that meeting, we’d bicycled over (late) to the East Mill Creek singles’ ward, but didn’t actually attend any class.

That night, there were fireworks around the neighbourhood, which we patronised by bike.  We ended up by Evergreen Junior High School, whereat a fairly nice firework display took place.

7/25 M
I tried to help send her off to Provo this night, since she’d been gone for too long.  My mom suggested that we visit Tanner Park on the way to the train, which we did.  We had some disagreement and also got rained on before watching the sunset there.  On our way to the train, she changed her mind about going to Provo, and I had no inclination to insist, but rather welcomed her back.  Instead, we drove around town and ended up at the big firework show at Liberty Park.  The crowd density surprised me.  The show itself was nice.

7/26 T
We went to Provo rather early and came back late in the day.  We stopped at the Orem mall to check a movie store, whereat we bought a movie I’d once enjoyed on television, “Shallow Hal”.  On our way from the mall, we just missed a bus after running after it.  A soldier named Williamson, driving behind that bus in a big, white pick-up truck, offered us a ride to our destination, which I told him was the Buy Low market down the hill, not wanting to bother him, and unable to think quickly enough to tell him anywhere better.  He dropped us off right at the front of the store, so we took advantage of it and went shopping for Myeong-Seon’s next cooking project.  We watched the film later at the ELC.

On the bus back to Salt Lake, we met Changhao Zhao (Eric) from Harbin, a former ELC acquaintance.  He shared with me his business plan, an importing/supplying company between here and China.  I appreciated his energy and vision, and, though I had first denied speaking his Mandarin well enough to go in with him, I gave him my scant advice, and asked him to keep me informed.  Shigihara Satoshi joined us on the same ride, on his way to the Ito house.

Back at home, having caught the entrepreneurial virus, we discussed with Shane his and my old plan to be antler suppliers for oriental dispensaries.

7/27 W
We had thought to visit Ito Dan, but we decided against it.  Instead, we ended up visiting my neighbour, my mother’s friend, Cheryl Clark (now Thorup).  She had invited Myeong-Seon over on Sunday.  She was currently hosting two Korean young ladies, student teachers, here on an exchange for school: Kim Jiyoung, and Hwang Mijin, both from south of the river in Seoul.  They were fun to meet.  We also stayed to enjoy Cheryl’s very successful attempt at Korean cooking, her second.

7/28 Th
We planned to go back to Provo — or at least send Myeong-Seon back — but our trip was deferred and ultimately cancelled because I had followed an unusual whim to lend Shanna my bus pass for her shift of work, and she was late getting back.

Ah, it’s 23:55 now, here on Friday the 5th, and Myeong-Seon just logged into Skype…!

…Hm.  Maybe it was bad wires or a relative logging in.  They didn’t get or answer my messages, it seems.

There, she’s back on…

She’s safely there at her destination.  She came an hour ago.  Steve Pratt had gotten a speeding ticket, unfortunately.  She’d had trouble unlocking her room and getting connected on-line.

Ah, I’m falling asleep…  It’s…. 12:21 a.m..  I’ll put the remainder in later.

(It’s Saturday the 6th.)

7/29 F
We woke up relatively early and took my mom’s car to go see a movie.  She’d given us some card coupons the night before, and we’d considered going that night to see “17 Miracles”, a local film, but we put it off.  Arriving at the theatre on Friday, we found that the movie was no longer showing — Thursday may have been the last day.  As a substitute we chose “Cowboys and Aliens”, a movie with an unremarkable plot but an interesting setting, the story-board of which had been worked on by a BYU guy, Woodward.

Afterward, we went to the Korean markets at both State Street and 4500 South, and 700 East 700 South.  At the second one, I noticed a poster for a community Korean class.  The background had a picture of a group of people involved in the program, mostly children.  Looking closelier, saw the face of a boy whom I remembered as my classmate at my own Korean class a couple years ago.  Next to him was an older man, another of my classmates, and I realised at once that this was either a subsequent offering of the class I’d taken, or my class itself.  Between those two faces, I finally noticed my own face; it was our class after all.  I remembered that graduation picture, and I fetched Myeong-Seon’s camera to record the poster.  It seems unusual that they would be using a two-year-old picture on their 2011 advertisement, but maybe we were just the handsomest cohort they had.

Ah; between those markets, we stopped at the cobbler I mentioned above.  After the markets, we visited the Itos, where we found Juan Artal; Miyamoto Mai; Shigihara Satoshi; Satoshi’s friend, Emily; and the Itos.  At the conclusion of that visit we drove down-town to see Temple Square again (well, first, we’d gone around the canyon and up the mountain side).  At the corner of North Temple Street and Main Street, we found a bagpipist, “Piper Bob”, who was packing up to leave.  We greeted him, and were surprised to learn he was a former Pusan missionary.  We talked for a while before continuing our brief tour and heading back home by way of the University of Utah and Foothill Drive.

7/30 S
Myeong-Seon got up early and caught a bus back to Provo in order to make timely attendance of her meetings.  After waking, I drove my mom’s car, arriving in time for the lunch at Frances and Harvey’s house.  Ardeth and Joy were there again, along with Debbie, Catherine, and her daughter.  We were also joined by Harvey’s son, Fred, and his wife, Martha.  Lastly, there was a young lady there named “Angel”.

After the lunch, we went to Myeong-Seon’s apartment till about 6, when we drove up to the MTC to attend the Cantonese teaching sessions (an e-mail earlier in the week had let me know of the larger-than-usual number of missionaries needing practice).

We were assigned the two sisters, Sisters Kelly (Gwok3) and Burningham (Lei4).  I was startled to recognise the latter as the Chinese-looking friend of Josh Cotton, a young BYU student who had once befriended me randomly at the Cannon Centre, and whom I later saw on numerous occasions at the library with that same girl.  She turned out to have been Korean (seemingly adopted but still fluent with the language), and she was able to translate for Myeong-Seon in the lesson (I’d brought her intending to try to translate myself, or else use English, since I thought it would be good for the missionaries to be aware of international residents of Hong Kong.  Both of our sisters had been assigned to Hong Kong.

Following that very nice lesson, Myeong-Seon wanted to go up the canyon or hill-side, which we did.  Some rain fell, and after a short hike, we turned back.  We stopped at the Little Caesar’s pizza shop back down in north Provo and bought a pizza there, which we ate at her place.  We loaded some of her things into my mom’s car before leaving back to Salt Lake at about midnight.

7/31 Su
We got up rather earlier for church, at which I asked the bishop about a BYU endorsement.  There was a combined meeting for the third hour; a man named Atkinson (connected to the mission here) spoke about praying “who[m] is it?” for missionary contact.  After that, the newish Tongan family in the ward provided a mango/papaya drink as refreshment.  The elders in our ward (Elders Mowatt and Ngauamo, also Tongan) scheduled us for a meeting, to which Myeong-Seon was not opposed.  We set it for Wednesday.

Back home, my mom played a sentence game with us (repeatedly illustrating and verbalising an original sentence in sequence), and we ate.  The YSA ward home teachers dropped by, Jason Breazard (“Brazard”) and substitute Cavet Nelson.  Next, we walked the neighbourhood, stopping under trees for the rain.  We went up to Upland Terrace Elementary School, my primary school, then back home.  Datus and Cheryl Thorup (with their two guests in the back seat) happened to drive past us, and offered us a ride to the ward party on Monday.

8/1 M
We bussed to Provo in the afternoon and finished cleaning out Myeong-Seon’s apartment before checking her out.  We met Mai on our way back to Salt Lake.  In the evening, we attended the enjoyable ward party with Cheryl and them.  Back at home, we took another walk around Craig Drive and the old O.C. Tanner property.

On our way to meet Cheryl to ride up to that party, Shane passed us on his bike and said that Amtrak had called to let us know that Myeong-Seon’s Wednesday-night train had been cancelled.  Later that night, we confirmed it, and decided that we’d either try for the Tuesday or the Thursday train.

8/2 T
After calling Amtrak and rescheduling for Friday (Thursday was full), we rushed down in the early afternoon to the English institute in Salt Lake, Internexus, so Myeong-Seon could take the Michigan Test there.  It was three-and-a-half hours long, so I busied myself by trying to visit the nearby Ito apartment (it was empty), then going to LDSBC to see if I could find Tatsunari.  I met both him and his mother, who were on their way back home.  By chance, I bumped into Radika Selvaratnam, the younger sister of Rekha.  I also greeted the library worker, Lucas, and talked with Rebecca (Penrod) Johnson, an old school mate.  She was tutoring a friendly Micronesian girl named Gina Gilmea (? the second syllable rhyming with “hat”).

I caught back up with the Itos on the train.  I unexpectedly met a young man on that train, Dan, a former Colorado missionary who was studying Information Systems at the University.  I separated from the Itos to go meet Myeong-Seon after her test.  I waited for nearly an hour, and took the chance to get acquainted with a new worker at that school, Maria Ellis from Brazil, who was very sociable.  I also saw Alina, the Brazilian who had helped administer Ito Dan’s test when I helped him with it some months before.

Two others I talked with there were Lee Chungmin, a July student of the school who was here from Seoul’s Hanyang University as an intern, and a Mongolian test-taker named Tuuyaa, whom I seemed to recognise.  Afterward, I and Myeong-Seon returned to the Itos, staying till late in the evening.  We caught the last 39 bus home, where Myeong-Seon prepared some ddeok-bokki.

At some point on this day we cancelled Myeong-Seon’s train ticket and renewed her correspondence with Steve Pratt, who had contacted her earlier offering a ride to Sacramento.  He was leaving on Friday daytime instead of Friday night, and as he only asked for $40 for gas, we decided to refund the $122 train ticket price (for which there is usually a 10% charge, except in situations like ours, when the train was cancelled).

8/3 W
We stayed home all day.  We had a slight disagreement, as I recall, and then the missionaries came.  It was an interesting visit.  Next, Myeong-Seon contacted her relatives by Skype, some of whom I spoke with.  For dinner, Myeong-Seon made naeng myeon, which Mom helped us eat.  Later at night, Myeong-Seon communicated with her dad, and then we walked around the neighbourhood.

8/4 Th
We mostly stayed home.  I applied for three BYU jobs by e-mail, then we rode bikes down to my grandmother’s house.  On the way, we visited the park just up 4500 South from her house.  Once arrived, we watched most of a DVD of hers, “A Celebration of Family History”, a recording of a meeting held in April of last year at the Conference Centre.  We rode home in the dark.

She talked briefly with her first older brother and his wife by Skype, but I was too afraid to venture my Korean or unimposing person to his scrutiny, and excused myself from conversation.  Since this was our last night, we went ahead with the last episode of Keu Pabo, having contented ourselves with a synopsis of the penultimate episode.

When it ended, Myeong-Seon formally presented me with a collection of files: the songs from the show.  I had seen these files some days earlier, but had not yet accessed them.  She told of how she’d bought them for me during the week before we started staying together, and how her first older brother had paid for them as a gift to her, not knowing what they were for.  I was awed by her gesture, and I cried with her out on the front lawn for quite some time, regretting not having dared to talk to her brother on Skype.

I knew I couldn’t repay her for this gift, which reached into my history and touched my core…  I likened the gift to Bomie having slept outside my goshiweon door, waiting for me.  Moreover, I likened her constant beneficence to me to a mother who gives all things to her child, who can never repay her.

Eventually we said goodbye to our last night, and slept…

…And then the story was over.

In our talk last night (Friday 5th), she repeated her idea of my going there… but by now, I’m feeling a little more settled.  She was doing well; I’m not sure how much I’ll get to see of her on-line.

I thought I would go back down to the MTC today, but Ito Dan invited me over to his place.  It’s 2:40 p.m., and seems to be a little late to keep both plans.  I guess I’ll go visit him.  I think they have another friend visiting from Japan.

Maybe I’ll put some pictures in here later.

-Steve Foster

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