for a bachelorette party, i travel to seoul for one week. we stay in gangnam and eat a pastry every day. the coffee is weak, the people are mean, and the girls wear a kind of wet, pastey foundation which later a fobby friend tells me, is beautiful.
we walk around and spend a lot of money. it takes me 10x as long to read korean and i sorta understand and generally have half a grin and quarter bow to my posture at all times. i get away with it; even though i am american, born and raised, they accept my korean begrudgingly. a kind of blood tie, as thin and clear and impenetrable as a sheet of glass.
we have dinner with my uncle at the end of our trip. i haven’t seen him in over 10 years but he is the same: affable, friendly, keen. his resemblance to my mother is uncanny, the same square jaw, jutting with old age, the nose once fine, hooking, round circumspect eyes. and they both look like their father. he shows me photos of my grandfather’s funeral which i missed years ago and is one of my life’s biggest regrets.
my grandfather was a very holy man who believed in nothing but the absolute power and divinity of the lord jesus christ. he believed in this, like wood. i can’t describe it any other way and it doesn’t matter if one is religious, or if one is an atheist or doesn’t care at all; look at the stone frieze at angkor wat, the ceiling of the sistine chapel. you have to admire that kind of dire faith.
can ghosts cross oceans? i don’t think so. it explains why i have never dreamt of grandfather since his death. the night of the dinner with my uncle, my grandfather comes to me in the middle of the night with a resolute grimace, in startling mirrored frames, as if i were peering down a kaleidoscope. that’s how i know it’s a ghost and not a dream, nothing was running in absurd narrative, it was like he had to reach through all heaven and mortal prisms to make himself known.
i don’t know what his message was. there wasn’t enough time. perhaps that was exactly it; urgency, sirin, urgency. i woke up, and the apartment was very cold. i went to pee with the lights on because i was scared. he had 5 children, fought off the japanese, dearly loved one, frail woman, and told me very carefully that despite it all, i was well worth it. they buried him facing a church, which had been his life’s work to build. the church, bear with me, is a kind unorthodox marriage of korean construction and french gothic a la notre dame, its stuccoed double bell towers incongruously rising up in the midst of benign, rice fields.