Departure

I board the bus and peer out the window. Its heavy tint obscures me from the view of my host family. Still they stand and wave, their eyes full of sincerity, scanning broadly from left to right in hopes of matching glimpses with me. I wave back, even knowing that they will not see.

The bus begins to move. I thumb through the slim envelope of photos Hyeongcheon gave me and discover a letter tucked inside the deck of prints. I unfold it. The message is written in his plaintive and lucid print: a prayer that we would meet again.

As the bus begins to move, my memory flashes to how my little brothers used to play soccer together, their meager figures panicking back and forth in unrelenting pursuit of the ball. The tears finally flow, first thin and acidic, then heaving, obscuring my view of Gwangju’s downtown as it lurches away on dawn's redwood stilts.