The next day Sooncheon drove me to the airport. In the car, we sat in silence, an awkward type of silence, as if there was a spirit poking at us in the space between the two seats prompting us to say something, anything, but our lips were frozen. Eventually, I couldn’t bare how uncomfortable it had become.
“Sooncheon,” I started, “I’m sorry for yesterday.”
Sooncheon opened his mouth on the way to reply but instinctively forced it closed half a second later. The tension was palpable.
“It’s okay,” he muttered, in a trepid sort of way. At the same time, his head rolled slightly to the side. The silence that followed lingered like a low hanging apple, waiting to drop.
Sooncheon turned my way, “I’m sorry too. Sorry that I was bad host. Sorry that your trip was bad. Sorry that Seoul is bad.”
Sooncheon’s focus was fixed on the road ahead but it was obvious he was mulling the situation. If I could read energies I would guess that Sooncheon’s energy was saying something like I resent you but will not argue for posterity and convenience’ sake. From the passenger seat window the passing images of Seoul glazed over like ripples on an ocean, fleeting and insignificant, forgotten moments later. My mind was fixed on Sooncheon’s words and the experiences Seoul had left me. When we got to the airport, Sooncheon unpacked my backpack from the backseat and handed it to me. I hoped that he wouldn’t accompany me into the terminal, to avoid more awkwardness, but he followed me through the check-in process. When I got to security, it was time to depart. This was it—the goodbye. I turned to confront him. He stood there emptily across, his hands in his puffy red jacket like the Michelin man. Travelers passed by us on their way to their gates.
“Okay, well, thanks for taking me in and showing me everything,” I began. Sooncheon stood awkwardly, expressionless, like he had in the parking lot. Was I speaking to a ghost?
I spoke again, “maybe I’ll see you in Canada one day?” Sooncheon’s face had a candle-like presence; stanch. And when he replied, it remained fixed.
I nodded slightly, understanding the triviality and superficiality of this conversation. Then I said my goodbye, turned around and left. I blinked a moment and in that time, the image of the pale blue sky from Seolaksan peak entered my mind. I looked back and witnessed Sooncheon walking down the hallway towards the exit. I cupped my hands over my mouth, “Sooncheon!” I yelled. Sooncheon turned around and took me in.
“Again, I’m sorry about what happened.”
At this, Sooncheon nodded in the same way I had moment’s prior. Then he turned around and disappeared into the crowd.