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I miss the smell of grass cut from your own yard, way in the back where the neighbors can only just hear the sound of the push mower, a little buzzing noise from a motor unseen. Cut the grass around the apple tree, newly flowering, around the old car, left slowly rotting.

I have been eating too many cherries this season. They are deep purple-red, sweet, tart, juicy. One tastes like soap. One tastes like the sour apples I bit into too early in the summer – tart, bitter, sour, green. Not ready yet.

No longer mine – the grass or the apple trees or the push mower, or the land that held all of it.

The grass still grows there – and is cut. The apples grow, ripen, fall, rot on the ground in the shade, or are nibbled on by deer, raccoon, fox, squirrel, rabbit.

The stream will trickle by, as it did before I arrived, and long after I am gone and gone forever.

The sun beats down brightly here, but it is empty warmth – a smile without friendliness. Much is missing. The blue sky smiles sadly at me, the clouds offer their best wishes for future summers full of smells.

 

The skies here are gray forever. The last dandelion of summer is gone from my walking trail. The season is on the edge, it is on the edge, we are all on the edge forever.

Somewhere in my father’s house there is a box of VHS tapes covered in the dust of a decade. My cartoon friends live there, abandoned on strips of film – baby happiness, streams of joy, dancing smiles, tea parties with friends and balloons.

The things that we love and cherish become vintage collectibles to be sold and then given to museums if they survive long enough to deserve a little placard with the date stamped on the face. Those are real things. We are real things.

We cannot say how the past should have been lived. I cannot tell you about my long-gone family. We have too many stories to share with our children. They forget most of them, passing down shorter and shorter sentences until there are no words left.

My grandfather standing at the top of the stairs. He brings us Kit-Kats and grapes. Cinnamon gum. My grandmother’s house. The smell of the basement laundry room. The yellow eyes of a black cat staring at me from the shadows. Black Cherry ice cream. A napkin holder with a picture of Jesus. A swinging chair. Purple was her favorite color.

If you start enough adventures, they never end. One after another becomes a single journey. A place on a game board briefly visited. Gum Drop Mountains. Molasses Swamp. Lollipop Woods.

I don’t know what the past was like. I can barely remember my own. I wonder if it has ever been like this before. Is this the most terrible? Are we? Is this the worst it could be? This could be the worst it could be. What a thought. What a thought to be capable of having.

We are all of the past and the present. We are all of the cycle of the universe. Gray skies and blue and black and red and pink and cotton candy summer’s end and bright orange leaves on the ground in piles we raked together and our old dog jumping in them and gobbling snow and sawing down pine trees and vacuuming up tinsel. Cycles and cycles and adventures and hoping we’re all going the right way and that no one will hate our old photographs but wonder who we were instead.

 

 

 

I was laying in bed thinking about how I miss the sixties and also how I have practically no idea what the sixties were like but that my mom was born then and my dad was young then and my grandmother was alive then.

It is such a rush. We are all in such a rush. Where are we all going? There is only death at the end.

My grandmother died when I was 3. I remember her as a tall, thin, cherry of a woman. She looks elegant in photographs. I think about her a lot, though there’s not much to think.

I’m going to be 26 next month. That’s happening. I don’t know how. My mom called me old last time I talked to her on the phone. How did that happen? I wasn’t even rushing.

I have a cute apartment. I like it a lot. There’s lots of windows and sunshine and pillows and plants. That’s happening. I still want to run away from all of it; I still plan to. I still don’t want to be the person with a nice car and a nice, well-paying, boring job. I never want to be that.

My grandmother was that. She was a proper lady of the fifties, with lots of babies and a full-time job at a car factory. She was beautiful. I wear her jewelry now. She died of Leukemia.

It all ends in death or changes which is another death. All I want to do is fill up my life with colors and adventures and happiness and lovely people for as long as I can.

Happy Spring.

There is a boy. He is seventeen. He is young. He sits in his mother’s house. Don’t we all? His world is small. He is looking out the window at it. He is slowly driving onto the expressway of it. He calls it a freeway, I tell him it’s not called that where I’m from, he still calls it a freeway. He is a little bit afraid. He is excited. He is brave. He is me when I was seventeen. We are sitting in my mother’s house. We are all here together, talking. At night, when no one else is with us, he tell me stories of him. His cat is laying on the rug in his room. His cat looks like my cat. He likes pizza. Of course he does. He likes pizza with meat, like most Americans, I tell him he’s got it all wrong, that he needs more veggies. When the pizza is gone, he tells me more. He lives with his mother in a small city in a small apartment. His world is small. He goes to school online, somehow, isn’t it amazing how children use to go to school in tiny rooms holding chalkboards, that’s what the books all say, but he goes to school online. In my almost old age I can almost understand it. His parents are divorced, and that seems to matter. My parents never divorced, but that doesn’t mean they were together. He sits with his cat and his dog and he tells me. Some clock goes off again and again at the start of every hour. It sounds like the grandfather clock that lived in my grandmother’s house, but his runs on batteries, not the swing of the pendulum. The story isn’t straightforward. He is his own narrator. There are questions I have that are not asked or answered. Listening, it is a mystery that never plans to reveal the answer, that never knows where it is trying to go. He might be getting a job soon. He’s so excited, he tells everyone. He is kind. He is silly. I notice we all start to sound the same, make the same jokes, our accents merge into one, we all say freeway when we mean expressway, we all turn a little southern though we were born elsewhere. His mother is not kind to him. We only hear the story that he tells. He might not be kind to his mother. She might be ruining his life. She might be saving it. There might not be anything to save. What damage will we do to other people? We are all laughing together at midnight. My jaw is sore from grinning. It was not like this before. There was no happiness in sitting alone, not this much. We sit together. We tell our story so far. There are questions we do not answer, things we don’t include. There is a expressway that runs from me to you. It might become a freeway before it gets there, or something else. The police came to his mother’s house one night, weeks ago. They put handcuffs on him, or so I imagine, it was one of those unasked questions. When he sat there in his mother’s house, he was still the boy who loved pizza, who was afraid of driving on the freeway, who took silly pictures of his cat that looks like mine. I imagine the clock chiming in the background, the cat winding around the officers’ legs, his mother sitting sternly, trying to teach her son some lesson of life. It is some story I don’t know. I am looking through the window at it, wondering. We might hear about it, someday, but the story is not straightforward. There are many blank pages that will never be written, that might be left alone, that might be filled in later. Imagine an empty pizza box. There is a circle of grease on the bottom of it, where some restaurant worker put the steaming, cheesy, meaty thing. They closed the lid, pressing down on the cardboard. He might be that person someday. His mother might have been. The policeman might have been. You might never know.

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“You should go to the moon,” he says. “I’d go to the moon. And Mars. Did you know it takes two months to get there? Or it takes four years if you don’t leave at the right time. So you’d have to leave at the right time.”

He is sitting on top of a table swinging his legs. He needs a haircut. He is excited and scared and smart and I love him.

“We’ve done all the tests,” he says. “We tried the needle one with the string and it swung and it said it will be a girl. My wife is doing good, she’s happy, she’s healthy, we’re all doing good.”

He is going to be a father, this man. I walk away and write poems about him on flashcards. I think about how he has changed me as a person. I think about him being a father.

“I wanted to be a guitarist,” he told me. “A musician. Now I’m sitting on this table.”

Years later I see him again, with a tiny pink sweater thrown over his shoulder. His baby girl is growing up. Is he still growing up?

“What do you think it would be like to leave? To never see your family again? What if I didn’t hug my father goodbye? Do you think I would regret it?”

“I wanted to go to the moon,” I said, “when I was younger. Now I just want to see as much of this planet as I can. I haven’t even seen much of this country, not yet. How much time do I have? Why is it always going by? Should I hurry?”

“Juxtaposition,” he said from the table. “Do you know what that means?”

The moon is far away now. He is far away now. Mars is farther. I still remember what juxtaposition means. The flashcards are duller and the pencil is smudged but the words are still there.

 

 

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He walks to the middle of the road and lays down on the wet cement. Cars run over him — bump, bump — and he returns slowly to his city streets. Boston, Christmastime. Every pine tree is decorated downtown, filled with lights and tinsel running every which way. Mothers and new wives are in their shabby or chic kitchens, baking, rolling, sprinkling sugar and flour over everything. It is not snowing, not cold; just mildly unpleasant as he rolls across town, smelling the air and imagining something else.

He has seen all of the holiday movies worth watching, and so has everyone else. On the television now are horrid things, awful sequels, revisions of visions of sugarplums. Women and men pretending to be from the 1950s, pretending to sing, pretending to have talent. No, no, that’s enough. That must be it. There must be nothing else, nothing new. No snow on Christmas Eve either, just gray slush in the gutters reflecting outdoor blowup Christmas lights.

After a few hours he sighs and scrapes himself off the road. There wasn’t even that much joy in it, he thinks. The only pleasure gleaned knowing that somewhere there are a few shiny BMWs with bits of him on their wheels.

It is dusk as he makes his way home, and he imagines the yards of colorful paper that will fill garbage dumps in the week to come. Covering other terrible things with their shiny foil masks. He rubs at the sleeve of his suit, a bit dusty from his travels. In his hands he carries bags of gifts for his three children. Of course, he made sure to put them safely aside, as usual, before lying in the road.

He expects his wife is home from work by now, waiting for him, sitting around the tree. His family will be there, as always, waiting. He will hide the expensive presents until the children are in bed, and then he and his wife will sit them all under the tree. They will be there, waiting, until morning.

At his house, he pauses at the front gate. He looks on from the dark street, admiring the strings of lights running every which way. He steps up onto the curb, walks past the sidewalk, unhinges the gate latch, marches up his front porch stairs, opens the door. He stashes the bags as the smell of Christmas cookies greets him. He turns to close the door, catching one last glimpse of the road. He sighs as the door clicks shut.

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1. Don’t let them go just because you’re too tired/lazy/unmotivated to hold on. If they’re worth it, try. But, at the same time, they have to try, too.

2. I recommend recording the people you love talking. Anyone. Your friends, your family, your cat, yourself! These things are wonderful possessions to have. They’re like memories, only they don’t fade, and you get to take a little piece of those people/cats with you wherever you go for however long you’re going.

3. My friend has never been on an airplane. He’s never been in the sky. He’s never seen the clouds from above, never experienced that sensation that happens when the plane turns at a crazy angle and is no longer parallel to the Earth and you look out the window to discover (for the first time, or again) that there is no such thing as “level”.

4. What happened to Twitter? Is it dying? Did everyone leave? Hello?

5. Don’t forget about what’s truly important to you.

6. Watch ‘Soul Mates’ from ABC2 in Australia. It’s amazing. Plus it has my favorite guy, this guy.

7. Fuck you Whatsapp! No, I will not pay 99 cents for a year!! Peace out! Who do you think you are? Don’t you know about Kakao Talk??

8. Stop thinking about how great they are. If you’re worth anything, you’re great, too. Or can be. Don’t spiral down into mediocrity (if you don’t want to!)

9. Maybe it’s just time to move (on).

10. You can talk about having adventures, year after year: oh, the places I’ll go! But if you have the ability to go, and all you do is talk about it… not so adventurous, eh?

 

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The old men in the old country
die with unannounced poison in their bones
cheeks turning red to black,
far past rosy vodka friendliness
whispered slurs of slipping away
wrapped in the same white sheets they were born on
surrounded by ancient grandmother pillars of pillows
soon to be buried next to all previous generations
under neon-colored plastic flowers
and broken china cups of rain water to eternally sip
worn out weary legs bent under hay-making shoulders
rheumy watery eyes and lotion-less skin
big belly gut heaving from the lung stress
sitting splayed on the one one person-sized mattress
thinking of his father
thinking of me
thinking of nothing
semi-encircled by the entire village family
throwing arms in the air clutching vodka swallows;
nothing much is different on this his last day.

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He said his name was Darcy. He said he was 47, although I probably misheard him, and he’s probably 27. He said he grew up just across the river from me, a few hundreds miles away, in another country. And there we were, meeting on the other side of the planet, somewhere in the jungle of Thailand.

I saw a wild monkey that day, as we drove away from the jungle in the tour bus. There he sat, on the edge of the dirt road, chewing on some kind of fruit. I blinked and he was gone, we had passed him, but he stayed in my mind for several more minutes. A monkey. A wild, tiny monkey. What an adventure my life is turning out to be.

These are not my words. I read them, translated them, because they were in some language I can’t speak. Spanish? No, Portuguese. The words said that everyone has dreams. But that some people have dreams when they’re not sleeping, too. Some people live their dreams.

Today is my birthday. I woke up, on the other side of the planet from where I was born, alone in my tiny Korean apartment. My family Skyped me and sang me happy birthday, holding up the chocolate birthday cake they baked and frosted to celebrate with me. I “blew” out my candle and made a wish. I thought about what else I want to do with my life. How do I want to spend age 23? What do I want to do? Where do I want to go? What sorts of people do I want to meet?

When I ended the call with my family, I didn’t feel particularly adventurous. Part of me wanted to immediately pack my belongings, leave Korea, go home, and have a piece of cake with my family. And I could, of course. I could go. But what kind of story is that? Where are the wild monkeys in that tale? What dreams would I be living, then?

A larger part of me wants to stay, wants to go on more adventures, do more things, dream more dreams. It’s always been this way, for all of my 23 years.

These are my words, translated from whatever is up there in my head. Sometimes it’s hard to read, sometimes the grammar isn’t so good. I don’t really know where I’m going, anymore than I know where that monkey is right now. But it’s okay, because so far it seems like I’m going along just fine.

 

 

 

 

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1. If my Korean next-door-apartment-neighbor and I ever meet, and we somehow manage to understand each other, he’ll be like, “Hey, great singing!” and I’ll be all, “Hey, great puking last Tuesday night! Also, can I use your microwave?”

2. Remember Vine?

3. Where are all these engaged people coming from? (She’s engaged? When did she even get a significant other?) It is surely Spring.

4. No matter where I go, Bob Dylan follows me around and sings to me (figuratively speaking). It’s lovely to be sitting at my window at night, gazing out at the multitude of neon lights of Seoul, and think about how I listened to this same beautiful song in so many other beautiful places.

5. “It’s fine to be alone.” “Is it?”

6. No, I am not interested in buying expensive lotion-covered plastic wrap, thank you. Where are these things coming from?! Why?! Why?! 

7. I’m a pretty chill person. I don’t get upset easily. I don’t hold grudges. However, if you tell me you’re sending me a letter, and then 1 to 2 weeks pass, and I receive no letter, just know that I now hate you. Don’t mess with my heart like that! 

8. Be kind.

9. It’s 2014. We have all kinds of efficient, safe, comfortable ways to travel. So, why have you not left your mother country? Your homeland? Your place of birth? Sure it’s great. I get it. Guess what else is great? Basically everywhere else.

10. Recently I googled broheim to make sure I was spelling it correctly. I was.