And so it is.
Well. That's it kids. Yet another fork in the road. Tomorrow afternoon, Michael L. Magnes will depart Incheon International Airport for Tokyo, then on to New York. We had a good run, me and that kid. And there are things that until we are 75 years old no one else will understand about us but each other, thanks to our time here together. Once last meal of wangalbi in a neighborhood that has been a second home to me since I arrived in the ROK, which I will probably have very little reason to visit ever again after tonight. One of the two places where Mike and I could just walk in, sit down and be served, without a word of either English or Korean spoken on either side.
Coffee at the place up the road. As we made our way back to the subway station, we passed a young Korean couple on the sidewalk. The girl, dressed in a micro-mini skirt, was stomping her three inch stilettos on the sidewalk and whining, "Waaaaaaaaaaaae!" as the guy looked put out and threw his arm around her neck, effectively setting her into a headlock to drag her down the sidewalk behind him. I laughed. "You're going to miss this, Mags. 'Dear Magnes, Today I was hit in the face with a purse. Guess which gender was carrying it?' 'Dear Magnes, Today I saw a guy put his girlfriend in a headlock on the street. I thought of you.'"
"I'm not abandoning you, Liz." He said it over dinner. And the thing is, I know that. I've been awful quiet these last few days, but it's because a lot of other things are going on simultaneously, that I don't quite know how to sort out. And because I'm not really sure, to be honest, how I feel about Mags leaving. I think it's for the best for him. And in some ways, in those hard, growing up kind of ways, it may be for the best for me as well. Walking the rest of the way to the subway station alone, after we had parted, I felt like some thin, remaining rope had finally been snipped. There goes my last tie to home, to the life I had before. There is no safety net, now. Everything I have here is only what I've made here.
It's all up to me, now.
Coming back into my apartment complex I ran into possibly the world's cutest student, who for whatever reason never thinks that I'll remember or recognize him. He's a second grader who I, of course, knew lived in my apartments, but he had one of his bolder friends, who is in my after school class and is thereby extremely comfortable with me compared to the others, come over one day and tell me that he was my neighbor.
I pulled my headphones out of my ear. "Hi! How are you?"
The building ajeosshi, who was having a cigarette outside his booth, looked on with a smile.
"I.... go to academy."
"Academy?! Oh no! Too much studying!"
He smiled. "I.... I... Hyoseong Middle School."
"Arayo. I know you. Are you tired?"
"Did you eat?"
"That's good. Okay. Sleep well, buddy."
I patted him on the back, as I turned to enter my building.
And that's all it takes to remind me why I'm here.