I remember the dark and the quiet, the country roads, the back roads, those long stretches where the only light comes from the occasional set of headlights coming toward you in the distance. In these places there are no streetlights. Though the landfill is lit up some, and the Farmer’s Market looks decorated for Christmas, but these, like the drive home from Palgong Mountain at night, are exceptions.
I had forgotten about this, forgotten how peaceful driving home at night on those roads can be, forgotten how lonely they can make you feel, forgotten how if you’re not careful you could almost fall asleep while driving, lost somewhere in the middle of what seems like an endless road to nowhere. And I’d forgotten that nowhere is usually where you end up.
Or maybe I was always wrong about that. Look where I am. I remember too the sound of a train rumbling down the tracks through the night – always through, never during. Those trains broke the night in half, not with their speed but with their magnitude. I have yet to see, let alone hear, a train in Korea with such presence and power. And now as I lay in my dark and quiet room I miss the sound of trains, the warning lights, flashing, as the arm comes down, even the waiting.
As I sat in the passenger seat of my co-worker’s car, I tried to capture the darkness. It was too dark. We drove on for some time before we reached the city, even before we came across another car. There were no street lights, only the outline of the mountain. I needed some light – some sound, perhaps – and I got it, but I still wasn’t able to capture what I remember.