At this point, I don’t think I would be surprised to learn that I had been wrong all this time. That I had, in fact, been taken. There is evidence, after all, that this was not uncommon. Although there is a way in which this does not matter – what’s past is past – the question operates on an emotional level, reverberating into the present – the past is never past, etc.

Who leaves? Who is left? Who acted first and by what barely perceptible means?

Leaving as not a single isolated act – the door slams shut – but as a continuous disengagement from the present moment. Or perhaps it is to say the act – the door slams shut – is the culmination, the manifestation, the physical representation – of a thousand otherwise unremarkable denials.

I am thinking about the intricate and subtle ways we undo each other.

Here are two things I have learned about the Korean language:

On syntax: subject / object / verb. The verb is always at the end of the sentence, a kind of syntactical punchline: Wait for it –

On time: Korean verbs are always in the present tense. This is not to say that there are not ways to indicate tense, but the verbs themselves offer only a continuous present.

(“Koreans are impatient,” the instructor jokes.)

One of the platitudes I remember being told in my youth, over sadness about leaving – a place (the shore as night fell) or a time (summer as the air grew cold) – was to focus on what was ahead and not dwell on what was behind.  

Our preoccupation with barreling forward at all costs. Our pathologizing any examination of the past. Get over it, as our national tagline.

To come or go back to a place. To go back to a particular state or activity. Give, send or put back. Reoccur. Repeat itself. Reappear.

An act of returning.