사랑한다 “I Love You” (Gaksital)

September 2012

by mdimples

His fingers moved over the simple wooden box. He remembered the first time he laid his eyes on it. He was as curious as a child would be. Often, his mother had admonished him not to touch it. At that time, their home was sparsely furnished and all they had in the bedroom was an old cupboard which held all their possessions. There were no drawers that could be locked and this box was among those things which he was not to touch. The fact that his mother had single it out from all the rest made him even more curious. Finally, one day it got the better of him. While his father was out and his mother was making their dinner, he stole into the room and laid his hands on the box. He let out a sigh of disappointment when he opened it and beheld the contents. It was just full of folded papers. Some were turning yellow and some looked newer. Not satisfied, he rummaged through and found a photo right beneath the pile of papers. It was a wedding photo of his father and mother. Then he squint his eyes and rubbed them. He looked carefully at the photo. That’s his father for sure. He looked so young and handsome then and although he has aged somewhat, it’s undeniably him. But the woman standing next to him does not look like his mother. His mother was the most beautiful woman in the whole of Korea, as he often told everyone. However, as prejudiced as a child might be, he still couldn’t deny that the woman in the photo looked more beautiful than his mother. And that smile.

Just then, he heard footsteps approaching and when he saw his father standing at the doorway, the box slipped out of his hands and all the contents strewn over the worn mat. The photo of the woman with the most beautiful smile lay right on top of the pile of papers. His father stood there rooted to the ground, his face had turned ashen grey, a look of indescribable grief overcame it and that it made him even more frightened. At that moment, his mother who must have heard the sounds, came running in. When she saw the scene, she rushed forward, grabbed him and started to spank him with all her might. “You naughty, disobedient child! Why didn’t you listen to me! ” All this time, tears were streaming down her face. Before her hand came down on him again, his father grabbed it in his and said hoarsely “Please…stop.” Then he pulled her towards him and embraced her tightly. They stood there holding each other for the longest time.

There were a hundred and one questions he wanted to ask his mother. Who was that woman in the photo? Did Father love her? What happened to her? But he knew in his heart that he should never bring up the matter. Over time, he forgot about the box and that woman with the most beautiful smile.

Earlier in the morning, he had his father’s will read to him at the lawyer’s office. His father had very little left in his estate. For as long as he remembered, his father was always giving to anyone who asked for help even though they were far from being rich themselves. In the years after the war, they had lived hand to mouth. When things started to look up, he remembered the first thing his father bought was a simple pendant for his mother, his mother cried for days after. His childhood was simple yet enjoyable. He remembered the little house they lived in before they moved nearer the city. He loved to walk in the woods behind the house, chase the butterflies and catch insects. Many times, his mother would send him to look for his father who loved the woods as much as he did. Although his father and mother were not as expressive as couples these days, as a child he never doubted their love for one another. She was a wonderful mother and loving wife. She supported him in everything he did, cook for him every meal and look after him when he was sick. He was also a wonderful father and loving husband. He was always gentle with her, he thanked her for cooking for him and he looked after her when she was ill. They did not even quarrel. So, he did not think about the woman. The woman in that photo, the one with the loveliest smile he had ever seen.

He opened the box and cramped inside were letters, various degree of yellow and age. His fingers reached to the bottom and found the photo. It was inserted with one of the letters. His hands trembled as he opened it.

My dearest Boon Yi

I miss you so much that my throat gets locked up as I say you name. I call and call you, saying I love and I miss you. Can you hear me? One year has passed. I miss you so much. Your face that I long for, lingers around me. You keep entering and filling up my eyes. I will always love you and you alone. I will be your shadow and as I am behind you, I will live for you. I can only do this much for you. I wish time will stop so that my heart that let you go can become ashes and it won’t hurt anymore. My love, I long for you. I miss you, I miss you so much.

I love you, I love you, I love you.

Your love forever

Lee Young

He sat there on the floor, stumped. Then he opened up each letter and read them. There were 68 of them, each for every year passed. It was like the story of his father’s life unfolding before him. He cried when he read in one letter how his mother touched his father’s heart after many years and he asked for his first love’s blessings. He also found out that he was named after this woman’s father.  Then he came to the last one, 2 years ago, written before his father became too feeble and his sight failed him

My dearest Boon Yi

I think the time for us to meet again is near. 68 years have passed but I still miss you. Memories fade and my sight is faltering but your face still lingers in my mind. And I can see your beautiful smile as clearly as I did on our wedding day. Thank you for watching over me all this time and blessing me with a family to love. I have kept my promise and lived well.

Time will soon stop and my heart will not hurt anymore.

I love you, I love you, I love you.

Your love forever

Lee Young

The photo fell from his hand and landed on the floor. Although it was frayed at the edges and the picture faded, the couple in it looked as radiant and happy as they did years ago.

 BM ll

 

                                                                                                사랑한다 – I love you

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