To love another is one thing; to love yourself is another. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Korean proverb.
Besides the city, a young farmer was tending his rice field. The year was to supply a rich harvest and more could be given to the Confucian temples further down the track. The farmer’s family were eating a humble breakfast, while in the horizon the vision of the city rose its head. The people did not know then what damage pollution could inflict on the environment. This was the moment of human expansion the most profound and the most deadly.
The farmer finished his morning routine and went in for lunch. A gentle drizzle was soaking the dusty road and cattle hooves stove the dirt, revealing healthy soil. His mother poured out a full bowl of soup and sat down herself opposite her son. “Are you going up to the city after all?” Came the question from the mother. “I still need to think about it”. The two carried on with their meal in comfortable silence. “Are you still with that girl?” Yuan nodded.
For three evenings a week, Samira danced in a show that was customary in the area. Yuan would watch, keeping a respectful eye on the others as well. He knew most of them, as the village usually had a small concentration of personalities. After the shows, he would wait for her and accompany her home, stealing kisses whenever he could.
“But I’ve heard you’re moving up to the city,” she said this time, dodging easily his gauche, trod out gestures. “Yes, I hope to have enough from this harvest to invest in something up there, Seoul way.” As they walked along the sidewalk, Samira thought to herself about what this could mean for them and the future he had been promising her.
“We’ve worked together as a team before, surely we can do it again?” She asked, thinking of a plan to make this work out. Yuan did not feel so confident and with a heavy heart held the hand of a woman he would love to love.
Six months ago he had sworn to her an absolute faith, after a series of trying months, during which both parties had fallen out and learned about the other. They sat back at Samira’s apartment, taking off their wet shoes, her mother making tea in the dimly lit parlour. Their house was on the border of the farmland and the concrete high risers, so stark was the difference between the two areas. “We can earn enough here,” she pleaded with him. He left at 3am, kissing her head, stroking her neck and saying that he will always love her. She stayed up and wrote him a letter.
“Yuan, I will wave you off by the shore and kiss your hands as you leave; I will see your boat fade into the horizon, with me wondering when you will walk again on these pastures; I will kiss the very memory of you on my mantlepiece and stoke fires, thinking how nice it would be if you came into the room with your usual cheerful smile. But if you wish to hold good the deal you made to me, of loving me always and honouring our pact, then I want no other woman to taint your bed.
“You go away and leave me to the threats and calls of the locals, as I lead a troupe of girls across the stage. Your presence kept them from getting too excited, but now with you gone God knows what sort of excitement the men will have. Though I have learnt to protect myself over the years, you never know what can happen to something you are not watching.
“I see what you are doing, don’t try and pull the wool of my eyes; you are yearning for greater things, with youthful ambition. Do I not satisfy you enough? Do you search bigger game in a bigger arena? Or are you looking for a cage to hide in? While you race off into the horizon, ever faster, I will stay here and deepen my connection with the land, but I will always be faithful to you.
“I can see you now, being an intellectual in the streets, earning money sitting down, and joining the right crowds; you have a cousin there you can stay with. I will keep entertaining people; that’s my job and evidently yours is to be the star of your own show. I remember times when you have held a good crowd around you with a strong story. I don’t doubt you will do this elsewhere.
If you want, you will be able to find me by the shore, tending my nets that I put out every morning to catch a little more for lunch, a trout or pike, that come swimming too close to the shore. You will find me there and I will be waiting for you. But respect my wishes, if you truly agree to this pact.
“Fare well, dear lover, and take to heart my words.”
She sealed the envelope and left it on the desk by the front door. She slipped out and got a taxi back to her own apartment. It felt like an age until Yuan woke her up in the morning, excitedly, and asked if she want to come with him and they could go on an adventure together. She sat there, stupefied, wondering if he had read the letter.