The sun is passing between clouds and lighting up the field in late afternoon. On the way to Budapest, the running train splits green forest and golden wheat fields. The long shadows cast by the low-rising sun in the western sky summoned up vague memories.
Here I am after the blinded running of my life -- in this place where the words are unfamiliar and the eyes are blue. An emptiness inside pulls me. Every day is a blessing and I have so many things for which to be thankful. From the time I wake up until the time I sleep, I have no space to feel hollow or feel what is missing from the life I have in this beautiful city.
Despite that, sometimes … sometimes a yearning that is vague and uncertain suddenly surfaces. Maybe I miss the things to which I can't return. The orange-colored sun, like a tarnished picture, has a talent to evoke the feelings of old days from everything what I see through the window. Light scatters through the trees, calling the figures of my vanished hometown. The town that I can draw even with my eyes closed.
Comes the chestnut-tree house, after I pass the apricot-tree house. When I climb the twisted road where the chestnut trees skirt the mountain, I see my grandmother's thatched house. When late afternoon comes, chimneys are getting busy for dinner time. A boy climbs onto the porch after he passes the fence of juniper trees along the smoke-filled road. The naive and young heart that holds a vain hope for a nice meal, even though he knows what he will have to fill his hunger -- poor vegetables reborn with his grandmother's amazing skill. He misses it a lot more than the fancy meals he has today.
Because grandmother can't come back, because of the food I can't have again, my heart is aching with nostalgia for my grandmother as the train passes through the late-afternoon forest. The steamed rice from an enormous, cast-iron kettle and soy-bean soup and a bowl of kimchi tempt me more than a good beef steak. Whenever I return to Korea, the many friends who welcome me are always taking me to restaurants for grilled meat. Delicious meat, the meat that I always hoped to have. When next-door at Seong-sil's house, there were meat dishes. When Neung-gwon's house had roasted fish, I despised my own poor dinner. But why do I miss her dinners so much now! I never thought I would long for them.
Everything is lost. I miss her dinner so much. Because I cannot get it back, no matter how hard I try. The memories of when she had cancer and I brought a bowl of seaweed soup. She stirred it with her spoon, searching for some meat. I had to tell her we had only beef broth, no meat. That memory hurts me so much. I can make real beef seaweed soup now more than a hundred times. I can run over to a supermarket and buy lots of meat and make it for her as much as she wants.
Suddenly Europe, which has preserved its old things so well makes me sad. Because my old things disappeared even before their own colors had faded. My grandmother in 1985. My hometown, swept away for "development," in 1991. That's why I want to run again on the bumpy road to her house. On the way, even though I must bow to all the townspeople, I will run. Past Jae-jun's house, Hae-jin's house, Seung-min's house. Avoiding the big dog at Mr. Chu's house, past the apricot-tree Seong-woo's house and the chestnut-tree Jeong-nan's house. Keep running towards the chimney that smokes for my humble dinner. I just want to run to a young me and my grandmother, with her few teeth and the soybean soup and the green peppers from the back yard.
Now because I live abroad, I eat kimchi only once a month or twice. That's why? This nostalgia? I need to make jimchi (as she pronounced it in our local dialect, with a "j" instead of a "k")when I get back to Prague. Even though I can't replicate her taste, I should eat well-pickled kimchi more often. Maybe then there will be no sudden attacks from this long nostalgia.
"Grandma! Why is it so delicious even though I know there is nothing much in the kitchen cabinet? I promise I won't complain. Make more. I miss you……" The sun hidden behind the clouds is wet red.