Nearly ten years ago, I returned to Pusan, walked down the halls of the hospital where I was born. I honestly don’t remember very many details about those few days spent in the city of my birth—I was too lost in a haze of grief and longing. I do remember walking ceaselessly along the shoreline, searching the tides for something I couldn’t name. In the journal that I kept during that trip, the entries from my time in Pusan are smudged and tear-stained, filled with sadness and unanswerable questions:
July 14, 2001
Find me, find me. I’m crying and I don’t know how to stop. I hurt. Fill these holes that bring me down. I have so many questions, and I’ve fooled myself into thinking that you hold the answers.
I’m here where I began, and I feel so lost. It’s so beautiful here, on the ocean; I feel so close to you. Did you walk on the beach while I grew inside you? Did you listen to the monsoons tapping on the roof? Are you still here somewhere? Night falls and I get so scared. I need you. I need you to be my light. Chase the shadows away and make me whole. Hold me and let me know it’s okay to be broken for a while.
Since then, that one question, “Did you walk on the beach while I grew inside you?” has always been so important to me. Even now, when I run with Olivia along the beach in San Francisco, I gaze out to sea, knowing that Omma is somewhere on the other side.
Now, in my 27th year, leafing through the photo album I had brought for Omma, I point out the photograph of Mum and me standing in the door of the hospital. It takes Omma aback—with the help of the translator, she explains that it brings back such difficult memories for her, that hospital. It was where she had to leave behind the little girl she had carried within her for nine months, kept safe just below her heart. She told that her 27th year was the hardest year of her life. She was so scared, so confused. She would walk down to the beach every night and cry under the moonlight.
I am reminded that this woman and I are so inherently bound, our fates tied together in inexplicable ways. And I find that I am content to allow the inexplicable to remain unexplained.