Ten years! Ten years passed, and I thought I had left everything behind, embalming all these memories, leaving well enough alone.
But on the plane, I picked up a newspaper. The second page had a picture of you in it.
I could only half make out the text, so I asked a stewardess what it meant.
This person, she pointed out, was taking over her father’s company. Her father’s company owned buildings and hotels and offices, a huge portfolio of the same buildings where we had once laughed and played. Your father’s company, now your company, was a subsidiary of one of Korea’s biggest global conglomerates.
As the plane descended into the city, time and space warped and swept through me again.
I knew enough about Korean corporate culture and succession, that for this, you had to have been groomed. But starting when? From a young age? Had you grown up with chauffeurs and maids, attending school on scholarships?
Those men you got into cars with, had they been drivers in jackets, these men with whom I had accused you of cheating? Had you been thinking of this fate, all laid out for you, when you first disappeared and you reappeared again, that night we drank with Yong and Moon and Katherine?
Had you been thinking of its consequences, of this fate, every time you bit your lip or creased your eyebrows when I asked you what you were going to do after graduating?
You had to have been thinking of these things every time I asked you about what your family did and you played dumb, saying it had something to do with real estate.
Whenever I asked you where your house was, you refused, saying that it was scandalous for me to know, and whenever I said let’s meet at one of those department stores managed by your father, you started talking about that one very bad experience of customer service, making faces, saying that it had just been bad, so bad, that you would never go there again.
But surely, you had considered this life, spread out before you like a banquet, that night in Chuncheon where having drunk profusely, we stood under that full moon huge above the mountains, as if ready to be plucked right out and eaten piece by piece, where the dark valley spread out before us, gaping and vast, over a frozen river that clink clinked and echoed throughout when we threw rocks down on it, where the snow whispering under us was the only other sound.
It was that night we talked until the words themselves changed meaning, forming stars streaming across a new perfect world, when we discovered that we had been looking in exactly the same direction.
That night we covered each other with down and rolled together, and when I touched your face you curled up beside me, because it was so, so cold, and there was the landscape of your neck, alabaster sheen, and we moved together in the stillness, with slight sounds, like lotus leaves dropping slowly from the ceiling, and I laid you down on the bed, light lapping over your body as I held your thighs until they opened and something broke between us and we flowed and cried and laughed, and then we held each other and were brushed with dark fingers, fronds of a plant that grows only in the night.
That night of my mistake, that night when I hesitated, when right before the dawn shot over the hills, you looked at me soberly, from the other side of the fog, directly into my eyes, with your own eyes full of fear and watery courage and said with vicious calm:
Tell me to come with you.
You looked directly into my eyes and whispered, tell me, tell me that.
And I didn’t.
What is love?
Courage, you said.