As I started my trek down the mountain, I looked forward to the new path I planned to explore. I have been working at my school near a month and have not taken the same route down to the city twice.
But, amidst my reverie, a car pulls up next to me (a science teacher whom I had never properly met) asked, "Deokcheon Yeok?" (Deokcheon Subway Stop?). Grateful for a ride and shelving adventure, I clambered into the back seat of her car.
An overwhelming smell of Buick LeSabre and nostalgia bathed me. Holy Homesick Batman. That poignant, now familiar, stab of pain does not hurt less the longer you are gone. In fact, it twists into many forms affecting many thought paths and overwhelms me.
This particular monster was one with which I have often battled but never beaten. That smell shot me through the space-time continuum to a time when my grandmother was alive and life was easy. It smelled of leather and love, poppies and stubbornness. And, in that moment, I remembered not saying goodbye to her. I remembered receiving that call from Dad on the snowy Monday night of finals. He said, "Don't worry. This will pass." Then, it didn't. In a stranger's car, a million miles and just as many moons later, this monster pierced a claw through the toughened layers in which I've swathed my heart opening gates I did not know existed.
Another monster, one with two faces, switches her tail in anxious anticipation. My oldest friend, my Piglet, will birth a child at any moment. This monster curls round my neck and coos in one ear an unadulterated excitement for new life. I love this child with wild abandon. Alternately, monster scrapes her tail on my other ear reminding me I will be oceans away from meeting this child not minutes—a tease of immeasurable pain and excitement.
However, the most difficult monster I perceive is subtle. Her lavender- blue scales meld with my early morning ocean exterior. The calm sunrise before the tide ravages the shore. It is this monster who reminisces of maternal touch. All I want in this moment is to hug the woman who gave me life. To hold her close to me. To breathe in her essence. To feel what she feels. This monster lives inside of me. Completely fortified against external comfort and help. I trap this monster within because if I let her out, I will lose the necessary connection the tethers my soul to a point in the atmosphere exactly midway between here and her. A constant battle of where I am going and where I am from.
I exited the car, breathed in my reality—the magnificence of the mountains, the sweetness of the sea, the place where my heart also calls home—and strolled through the underground being exactly where I needed to be.