Love lessons

I’ve been thinking about something Pico Iyer wrote about traveling, that it is akin to falling in love. The metaphor works, not only on a basic level but on many of the deeper ones. Falling for someone is a profound thing. You’re feeling such an incredible sense of newness, giddiness, and uncertainty that you’re sensitive to any possible provocation to express what you feel to anyone who will listen.

But falling in love is also a private thing. In this sense, you’re inclined to keep it to yourself and protect the preciousness of it. You can’t tell your friend about the complexities of this person who now occupies so much of your identity. Sculpting these feelings into sentences taints the purity of it. Rather than risk cheapening something so precious, it’s safer to keep it hidden.

To extend the idea further, staying with that person for a good four months or so deepens the connection and thereby changes the story. I’ve absorbed enough of my life in Korea to have formed a more logical understanding of it. This makes it more difficult to talk about. I can’t just pull up thoughts and observations, but instead feel like I’d have to start at the beginning, to tell the whole story. And there’s never time for that.

This happened last night at the party. My friend turned to me and said something like “So give it to me; what’s it like over there?” I paused and smiled and said “I can’t do that. I can’t just pull it out and say it. It’s too much.” She smiled back and said “Just give me anything.” Even that was hard; nothing came to mind. “Ask me again when we’re alone.”

As much as I want to talk, I can’t, or I won’t, I’m not sure which. I’m fine being back here and enjoying my time in this world. Maybe being here feels like going back to the wife. It’s not as stimulating and new, but it has its own sense of comfort. It’s easy to fall back into the familiar rhythm.

If anything, America is charming to me now. Driving through the Sacramento Valley, I could see its history better than I have in the past. A nice home on a plot of land, some crops to grow, a boat on a river, privacy within a chosen community. The good life, the dream. When you’re living within a particular existence, you’re mostly seeing its immediacy. When you rediscover it, there’s more depth there — time lengthens and you recognize some of the broader scope of that world.


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