Keun Woo’s English was good, but he had a habit of saying “memorize” instead of “remember.”
When we drove past our first beach, he said there is where I showed you the skyscrapers . . . can you memorize it?
“Memorize” made me feel like I was on a Korean bus jerked violently from side to side by an angry driver. To memorize something is so much harder than to remember it: every detail must be there. Can you memorize it felt like an impossible and sudden demand coming out of nowhere . . . it gave me whiplash.
But it also made me think of lovers on their last night together.
She touches him everywhere and it’s not just for pleasure anymore, it has become something serious, an impossible yet urgent task.
She is trying to memorize him.
She traces his slightly downturned mouth
The glasses he always forgets to take off
His thick hands
Worker hands, he told her once
Why do you like them?
Now he is silent
Offering himself up to her difficult inspection
He’s like an old neighborhood she lived in long ago
He’s like another country.
Can you memorize it?
I hear it now not as a jarring demand, but a tender request.