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There is a man. He is walking toward me on a long dark path. He could be young or old. It might be a woman. We will pass each other and we will not speak. And the path will still be long and dark.

Let’s go to the rose garden and not take a single picture. We’ll weave past the smart-phone-slingers and we’ll run, colors blurring until there are no colors; until there is every color. The roses — don’t touch them, just smell them, and try to remember the exact shade of pink that no camera could capture anyway.

Death might surely be coming for us soon. And we’ll lie in our beds surrounded by all of the plastic containers we’ve emptied in our lifetimes. Our vision will blur at the edges like it did we when were running past the roses in the garden; we’ll see every color — we’ve seen every color, while we’ve been running — and then we will see nothing.

On the long walk home from the garden, we’ll walk into the city center, and through. The lights will glare down on us, from every angle and corner, every color that neon comes in. The lights they flicker, and drop, and loop, and blink. The signs they politely and shyly and cunningly ask you for every penny you have — every 99 cents. And we will give them most of everything we have, we will leave it all here: some of it drops from us as we run, some we left quietly with that man we never spoke to on the dark park path, some leaves from our eyes as we smile at little dogs and little children and at strangers’ backs as they hold hands with other strangers that they love.

In August, one sign reads, the roses will droop and their petals will fall to the ground. The pinks and reds and purples and yellows will all fade to brown, the same color, the same shade. They will be swept up — this is a tidy city, after all — and dumped into a clear plastic garbage bag and left at the same street corner as the convenience store you bought a candy bar from two weeks ago. Brown and brown and brown, buried unnaturally in the earth. Us, too.

Two dogs are sniffing at each other on the walking path. One is white, a tiny fluffy creature, the other black, with short hair, also small. Their owners smile politely at each other, earbuds in, tugging on their leashes. They do not want to say hello, unlike their dogs, even though they are the ones that are able, and they would very much appreciate if their furry companions would ignore every other living creature around them, as they do. And eventually, I’m sure, the two small dogs were pulled away, but I did not stay to watch it, and you do not, either. We walk away. We do not smile when they can see us. We do not speak.

It is hot, tonight. It will be hot all week. The sun will shine down on us and on the pink roses in the rose garden in the park. The bright light will burn the corners of the flower petals; bleach them, turn them a shade lighter than before. No one will take pictures of the roses by the end of July; they will no longer be beautiful enough for Instagram; no amount of photo editing could bring back that shade of pink; there will be no more selfies.

When we reach our home, we will jog up the flights of stairs to our apartments. We will close the door behind us and enter a dark space. Lying on our beds in silence, we will close our eyes, think of the pink we’ve seen, of all the pink we’ve seen, of all the colors. We will think of the old man on the walking path, the one who we never really saw. We will think of the tiny dogs that wanted to be friends. We will think of all the people who do not see the roses, only take pictures of them. We will try to picture the exact shade of pink on those pink roses in the rose garden in the park. We won’t be able to, and the color won’t be the same tomorrow, when we go back. The sun will have been shining down, the color lost, the day over, gone, wasted.  What a waste of a rose garden, you are. We are, us happy snap-backed photo snappers. We tiny dog owners. We tiny home owners. Tiny life livers.

Tomorrow night we will all go back to the park. We will walk quietly along the cement paths. We will weave around those who walk slower than us; let faster walkers pass. We will march in a small, green and flowery parade, fancy tennis shoes squeaking under bright lights. The roses in the rose garden in the park will be there, too. And the small dogs. And the strangers who will stay strangers. And we will march and then march home. And we will close our eyes and everything will go dark.

I was writing a letter to a friend today (snail mail, anyone? Heard of it?) talking about how even when you live in foreign countries, there are times when it doesn’t feel foreign at all. And then there are times when your “immigrant” status hits you right in your face when you’re crossing the street. Oh wait, that was a guy on a bike. But you get my point.

Today something like that happened, but in a positive way. There I was, wandering around a Seoul neighborhood, with only a vague idea of how to get back to the subway station, searching for a “mart” (aka grocery store) that was bigger than the dinky one in my neighborhood. As I walked, reading the signs that were in Korean like I knew any Korean at all, I enjoyed the nice Spring morning, the weird spindly trees, and noted the location of the numerous parks and libraries and cafes I passed. I had walked up and down three of the four cross-streets near the subway station when I finally found a big ole Mart. I stepped inside, grabbing bananas and hot sauce! and tortillas! and wandered around in the refrigerated section. I was doing some more eye-skimming of Korean words: colorful bags of something that looked like potato chips, crazy-large bottom-feeder fish that were in giants tanks in the seafood area, some tiny bottles of Yakult.

While this gazing and wandering was happening, a song came on the radio and for some reason it caught my attention. The beginning was only melody, no lyrics, and my face crumpled in confusion. How did I know this song? I’m not yet versed in any K-pop, I don’t listen to the radio. I know approximately zero Korean songs. And then…

Paolo Nutini started singing to me in the middle of the snack aisle. In English! My head whipped back in silent laughter. I was just listening to this song, talking about this song to my friends! Good old Paolo. It was a beautiful moment; I could have cried it was so beautiful. But I didn’t. In that moment, there in that strange store in a strange neighborhood in a new country, I didn’t feel so far away from anything, I didn’t feel so foreign. And I may have danced a little after that, still wandering around my new favorite Mart, singing with Paolo and pondering buying a weekly supply of seaweed.

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The words are piling up again. They tend to do that, even when I type and type to set some of them free. But usually the only words that end up spilling out of my fingertips are meaningless, useless; just like the words I spoke to you.

What can I say? Should I say anything?

I saw you today. It was from a distance but not so far that I couldn’t have walked a bit faster or thrown your name into the wind to catch up to you. I was with my friend, so maybe that’s why I stayed quiet. Probably not. I wondered if you would remember me, after all these years, after all those other faces with names. I found that just watching you cross the street made me thoughtful, made me appreciate the world and the people in it. I still want to be like you when I grow up, but in my own way, of course. Quiet and loud and wonderful and appreciative and vulgar and thoughtful. I don’t think growing a beard would work on my face, though. But that’s ok. I was never a beard person.

The words keep spilling out. Is this what I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it? Maybe. I don’t know.

Lately I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with the people I love. Sometimes I forget how much I appreciate certain people when a lot of time has passed since we last spent time together. And I can’t really say more than that, not in a way that would be meaningful and not cheesy. Maybe: I love you?

Is that it? Is that all? Is there more? Of course there is.

What are you doing right now? What did you do today? I have so many questions. There are so many answers. Slowly, slowly, we will find them. Together or apart. Acquaintances or friends. Words or no words. 

1. Take what you can get. Something is definitely better than nothing.

2. It all depends on proximity and timing.

3. People are never going to act the way you assume they will. If you stop expecting people to live up to your expectations, you’ll be a lot happier, and live a better life.

4. Nothing lasts forever. Including friendships/relationships. People leave, or move on, and it’s ok. Even if you KNOW that the person you’re spending time with won’t be in your life for too long, you should still be happy and be with them and treat them like a great human being who you’re happy to be with, for however long you’ll be in each other’s lives.

5. Do something today you’ve never done before.

6. Seriously, I am super funny. I just wish you could understand how funny I am. I am so funny.

7. “Smile! Don’t look so depressed, it’ll be OK!” – guy outside the drug store, to my retreating self. Uh, two things. First of all, no one smiles all the time, so why should I be smiling as I walk out of a rite aid? Second, rite aid does not carry muffins, so why the hell would I be smiling/not looking depressed as I walk out of my local rite aid at nine in the morning, muffin-less?!

8. I’m (re-)learning French on this super cool app I just got on my phone (Duolingo). Je suis une femme blancheSo useful! I’m off to France!

9. Do people really listen to the radio these days? I don’t believe it. Who are you?

10. The closest anyone can come these days to visiting another planet is to go to any Home Depot late at night. Just try it. This sort of thing you just have to experience first-hand.

I don’t want it to be over. But it might be. I didn’t want it to be over before, but I thought it should be, so I let it end. But leaving early to avoid awkward silences doesn’t leave you, in the end, with anything more than what you’d have otherwise. I should’ve stayed. I should’ve asked questions. I should have been less afraid of awkward silences, because silence was all I was left with in the end.

I learned my lesson, though. I didn’t want that to happen again. I wouldn’t let it happen again. Sometimes you think you know what’ll happen in a given situation, but you never know. It’ll never be like that, like the way you saw it happen in your head. I know that now, although sometimes I forget. But I didn’t let it happen again, not really. It ended, but I refused that ending; I ended it again, and then again, like re-doing takes on a film set.

The first time, I walked out to my car and didn’t say goodbye. I got in my car, closed the door, and stopped. It could’ve ended there. I didn’t let it.

I went back, said goodbye. Then I went to leave again, I walked half-way to my car, but then I turned around and walked right back because I wasn’t happy with that take, either. It wasn’t going to end like that.

I walked back again, said hello, and refused the previous ending. I fixed it, I made it better. Everything has to end, but you can guide the ending. You don’t have to accept everything that happens to you without doing something about it. And while you can’t stop endings, you can make them be ok. You can make the silence that you’re left with in the end be ok.

I flick on my blinker and  suddenly realize that I’ve almost driven all the way home without noticing. Twenty miles flew by under the wheels of my SUV as I sat, thinking about other things. Four Corners by Josiah Leming starts to play on my ipod, and I think about how that song always tends to play when I’m almost home.

Josiah sings out of the speakers of my car, and I sing along with him.

“Must have passed at least a million homes,
Can’t but help and wonder which one’s mine”

I got two hours of sleep last night. No, this morning. I went to bed at 5:55am, got up at 8 to finish that paper I had stayed up all night working on. I feel so tired – so tired that I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep. Not the giddy tired, either. Just tired. Bone tired.

“Half of the moon is all that we get this time.” 

I drive down my road, towards home. It’s the middle of december, almost Christmas, really, and there’s no snow. No snow in Michigan in December. I wonder if we’ll ever have a white Christmas again. That’s all snow’s good for, anyway.

“Blink twice, it’s never real.”

I keep thinking about you. I want to hang out with you again. I think about how I’ve seen you more than I’ve seen any of my other friends in the past two weeks. I wonder if that means anything. Maybe I just like you because I like things when they’re new, when I haven’t gotten tired of them yet.

“I wish that my heart could eat away my brain,
‘Cause it swings in front of me and makes me insane.”

When I get home I curl up in a ball on the newish purple rug in my room. It’s comfy. Slowly I come to realize that I’m laying on the floor in my bedroom. I don’t care, though. Sometimes being a girl is painful. Sometimes being alive is painful.

“Four corners make a whole,
And the holes will drag you under.”