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Getting Old Quickly 1000

Cathreen's sister is fully recovered. Last night the baby had a fever and I didn't know this but I couldn't fall asleep until four in the morning. Maybe this was because everyone else was moving around the house, but I didn't notice their movements, truthfully. I was thinking about how to help Cathreen get all of her things to America.

We're starting a new life, but we don't want to leave behind the old.

She's found a plane ticket to Boston. I'll be there in a week. They wouldn't take her credit card, or my credit card because it's American, so she's at the bank now wiring cash. I thought it would be better to use my credit card, since the exchange rate has made the Korean won worthless. In the news today was an article about how while the dollar rises, and America prospers, the rest of the world suffers. Soon I will leave that rest of the world. But it will not leave me.

The money we have saved, almost a year of work, disappears even as it increases through the interest on it. There seems a lesson in this. Growing, fading.

What's really there and what isn't.

Two days ago we watched a movie about superheroes who weren't super, who weren't really even heroes. Cathreen said she was bored and she shouldn't have let me choose the movie. I didn't realize what I was choosing. I was led on.

Now the cat sneak-attacks the dogs and they chase him to his tower, where he looks down as if he is king and they his subjects. When I try to bring him into the baby's room, he squirms loose, afraid. Youth and wordlessness rule this household.

My back hurts and I'm sick--what timing to fly. I'm worried about a new household, and maybe some of what I feel is stress. But I'm excited to create new rules. Rules for only ourselves.

The dogs holler in the other room, but I feel no sympathy for them. I think it's best to let our cat prove himself.

Last night, Cathreen's brother-in-law took the family out for dinner because it will be the last time he sees me. An hour before we ate, Cathreen and her sister and I ate bread and filled up. My stomach hurt and I wasn't able to eat as much as usual. One baby slept. The other ate two paper cups, cried when we took the cups away from him. After dinner we ate ice cream and I stood on the street looking in on the two babies who tried to reach through the glass. Cathreen's brother-in-law shook my hand and said he probably couldn't attend the wedding, through her translation. This might be the last I see of him, then, for years. There's a finality I don't feel, but which everyone keeps reminding us of. Cathreen feels it, I guess.

For me, of course, it's going home. It's too much of a return to be an end. For Cathreen it's also very much a beginning.

In the morning, she ran her fingers through my newly cut hair and I asked what she was doing.

"Looking for white hairs," she said, as if she is the white-hair police.

"My hair's too short now for white hairs," I said, which I guess didn't make sense.

She soon found one. As she tried to pull it out, I remembered the old saying, pull one and three more appear in its place. Maybe this is what happened the last time, I said.

"But it's not the same place," Cathreen said. But it's all my head.

Now she comes home and says she successfully paid. The ticket, the move from here to there, is permanent.


Getting Old Quickly 0.04

As the day of return gets closer, I try harder to write but feel less able to motivate myself. The time crush seems physical. Plus, there's my birthday. Cathreen says we have to go to see her grandfather that day. Her grandfather is dead. I ask her what time we have to go, and of course she says at night. She says because ghosts come out at night. I think about what kind of terrible juju this is. Birth and death. But it's a family thing, and I have to keep up the impression that I am a good man.

When we fight, Cathreen reminds me she is keeping up this impression. She reminds me how I reflect upon her, something I like to say when we aren't upset, how we are one, etc.

Okay, I tell her. I'm still young. Boise is older than I am. In cat years, he's twenty eight. (Though, in human years, he's three.) Cats mature quickly in their first three years. Or we mature slowly in our first twenty eight.

March third rolls around and I act up with all the stress I've been hiding--an asshole move, I know it, but I can't stop because it will soon be my birthday and on my birthday I'll be with a dead man.

I saw Cathreen's grandfather over a year ago, and he said he was trying to stay alive for our wedding. Then he said to let him go. He wanted to go for a while and couldn't, and when he went, it seemed to be a relief. I think I was back in America then. He lived through some tough shit.

War, for one. He was a policeman. Even his ghost could kick my ass.

I'm trying to be good to his granddaughter. I'm tring to be a good man. But soon after midnight, I go out onto the streets and feel sorry for myself. I drink alone. I come home hours later and the dogs wake up the house and I shiver and dream fitfully through the night.

The next day (my birthday) Cathreen gets in trouble because I woke up the house.

I agree to clean the bathroom and do penance. I clean the bathroom. I think about the graveyard at night; the idea grows in my head and fills me with resentment. I bleach the bathroom floor. I breathe it in, take a shower in the fumes.

I'm a year younger than my cat and I'm old and I'm about to be with the dead.

Except, in the afternoon, as Cathreen tells me she got scolded on my behalf, we realize I misunderstood. This happens to us, with the language and culture gaps. We're not going to a graveyard, only to her grandmother's where a ceremony will be performed and her dead grandfather will eat rice and seaweed soup.

I nearly feel at rest, but then there are the thirty or so relatives I can't communicate with, the social death. I say I feel at rest.

When we get there, we mill about and I try to associate myself with the children. We're the same cultural age. I'm not that much older anyway. But really, it's because they have a more fluid physical language and the same shyness and for once, the babies' vaccuuming of attention is comforting.

Preparations have been underway all day. Finally it's time. The men stand before a picture of the grandfather and a table covered in food.

At the last minute, I get pulled into the ceremony and find myself bowing to the floor with the others. Though they understand what they are doing and when to touch the floor and when to stand and I feel like a backwards puppet, voluntarily pulling my strings to commands.

Cathreen says it's proven that the food weighs less after the ghosts come to dinner. I don't talk back about matter and energy. I eat until my stomach slips out my navel and lies in the center of the table screaming that it's not young anymore. Actually, I get drunk and go home. I don't even get drunk.

I'm old.


Getting Old Quickly 0.04

Soon Cathreen's sister returns from the hospital. The medicine makes her sleepy, and this lethargy seems to rub off on the rest of us. I feel like days pass as I readjust to a full house. They do. Stress levels fluctuate. I can't tell what's up or down with people. We eat out a couple times to remember we have a good life.

At one dinner, Cathreen translates for me as her mom tells me I have to listen to my parents, I have to be good to my parents, it was so so much work for them to raise me, I have to appreciate them. I'm looking at Cathreen and wondering what prompted this.

She's afraid of Michigan, I know, but what else?

I chew on some pork. The baby watches me. He wants to eat like this. His mouth moves, his eyes stay. Don't rush, I want to tell him.

Everyone is feeling older. Our other nephew is starting to crawl. Soon he will terrorize his mother. Babies are so careless.

With no cribs, they're always a threat to roll off the bed. They're always a threat to be mourned. They scratch their faces with their own nails. They look like they've been in baby prison.

As my birthday approaches, Cathreen suggests a joint dinner with her eldest sister, whose birthday is near mine. We drive out to the beef restaurant we ate at with her second sister. We shouldn't expect the same deliciousness, but we do.

It's not new anymore. Something's missing, or something's changed.

On the way back, we get lost. The sun beats in hot; the air outside is cold. The car seems to shrink in on me.

America soon.

This morning, I have my final tutoring lesson, and my student gives me a CD for a going away present. "What's on it?" I ask.

"Nothing," he says. Blank.

We make a book, something for him to hold onto when I'm gone. He runs wild for the last five minutes as I bind it, trying to get it right, as if it's mine.

I keep all the jagged lines he's drawn. They look honest. They look innocent in a way I couldn't make them.

"Is it done yet?" he asks.