To Memorize

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.   

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