Chapter Twenty-Two…As Happy As Disneyland.

The first week of February, 2003…I transferred to the Korean American Catholic Church of St.
Basil, in K-town, because I couldn’t see Father Scott anymore. It was too shameful, too painful. It
was the first time that I’d attended a Korean American church since moving to America. The Mass
was all in Korean, from rites to psalms to prayers. It all made me feel like I had come back home to
Korea.

Coincidentally, the first Sunday was the day after Lunar New Year. At the church, we celebrated
Lunar New Year. We shared warm wishes—“Heath and prosperity,” “Good luck with your American
dream,” etcetera—and congratulated each other’s becoming one year older.
Hilary called me: “Happy Lunar New Year.” She made a joke: “Is this the day all Koreans become
one year older?”

I explained to Hilary that “We all become one year older on the same day…unlike Americans, each
of whom gets older on his/her own birthday. Even so, we celebrate each other’s birthday as
well…without getting a number on the age.”

When I lived in Korea, I didn’t realize that Koreans move in groups. It was probably traces of the
Agricultural Age. Working as one, people: plow their farms; sow and cultivate the same crop; and
harvest. The people are born and die in the same village, and they do everything in groups. That
form of agricultural society remains in this age.

Anyway, I made two promises to God. One was, until I got a working visa, I would have no affairs or
sex. The other was, after I got a working visa, I would give up smoking for good. I begged God for
that working visa every night. After I attended St. Basil’s Catholic Church, I began participating in
groups for Young Singles. I met other members and the communal priest, Father Won, who was a
Korean American.

Early in March, Mrs. Jang—my lawyer’s office manager—called to inform me that I’d gotten a
working visa. I was ecstatic. That night, at my church-group meeting, I asked the priest: “Father
Won, I made a promise to God that—if He gave me my wish—I would quit smoking forever. Now He’
s granted it, but I’m afraid to stop. What can I do?” I couldn’t mention my first
promise, the one about sex.

“You made a deal with God?” Father Won smiled. Then he continued, “Younghee, God is always
forgiving, so it all depends on you. But for your own health, I would strongly recommend that you
give up smoking. You know that, whenever you smoke one cigarette, your body takes in sixty
different carcinogenic substances…piling cancer-seeds throughout your body.”

Eventually I kicked my seven-year smoking habit, which I had picked up by watching and imitating
my uncle. Thus, I threw away one of my uncle’s idiosyncrasies…which had been my own, until now.
As a matter of fact, I believed twenty-seven was about time to quit smoking…regardless of the
promise I’d made to God.

Early the following morning, I called Nara first, and then Hilary.

“Nara, Nara…I need to celebrate. I got my working visa,” I mentioned slowly.

“Ohmigod, Ohmigod. What? Oh, yeah!” she screamed, and then continued, “Congratulations…!
…Congratulations! I was really concerned about that…” She stopped, and then came a long
silence.

“Nara, are you there?” I asked. She sounded like…? I had to ask, “Are you crying?”

“Yeah, I’m so happy for you,” she said in a wet voice, and suggested treating me and Hilary to
Disneyland, in order to celebrate my working visa. Unfortunately, Hilary couldn’t make it. So Nara
and I went to Disneyland the following Saturday.

Disneyland was fantastic, just like walking into a dream. Somehow, playing here was like just
another kind of sex…the best kind. The value of spending time in Disneyland was a hundred times
bigger than the entrance fee. We both got hungry soon.

“Look! What is there?” Nara opened her backpack.

“You brought kimbob here?” I was surprised, but I really welcomed her kimbob. There was Kimchi
Kimbob, Beef Kimbob, and my favorite: Nude Kimbob. While inhaling the kimbob, I asked her how
she made kimbob this delicious. Was there a secret involved? I begged her to tell me.

“It’s simple: put every single ingredient together properly…including your heart, as it were. Even
with the same ingredients, the taste turns out differently. It all depends on how you put your heart
into it, with everything else.”

“I see why your kimbob is the best in the world,” I said, biting the Nude Kimbob.

“It’s the same, the way we live. Many different kinds of people and races put their own character
together, properly and respectfully…including their own hearts, as it were. Society turns out very
nicely because of that,” Nara said.

“So that’s the reason you have a great marriage and make a beautiful home; it’s like making
wonderful kimbob,” I said, looking at Nara, who was looking somewhere else. I noticed that her
eyes looked empty. I didn’t think it was serious. After we finished enough kimbob for five people,
our bodies were refreshed. We proceeded to take in Disneyland, refreshing our minds and
emotions. We enjoyed this, that and the other. We especially loved Space Mountain, riding that
three times straight; it made me feel like flying into the sky. Yet, when I suggested one more ride to
Nara, she suddenly said, “Let’s go home.”

“So soon? It’s only 4 P.M.,” I complained, surprised.

“It’s about time to leave, that’s all,” she said without emotion
.
“Pardon me?”

“I want to leave at the happiest and most cheerful moment.” I didn’t ask her why. She was a
married woman, and there could be a lot of stories from her house that I didn’t know about. Or it
might have been something she couldn’t tell me. That was all her business. I simply said, “Okay.
So far, I’ve really enjoyed everything.”

“You always really enjoy everything. I envy your character,” Nara said
.
“I envy you, Nara. You are beautiful and have a wonderful husband.”

She didn’t even look at me, but watched the train in the distance. Then she said, “Let’s hurry up.”


Chapter Twenty-Three…Kimbob Becomes a Terrorist

“Last night…my wife shot herself.” Nara’s husband, Doctor Park, said over the phone.

“…” I had no idea. It was just Sunday morning and I was preparing to go to church.
“Younghee…” the doctor continued.

“What did you say?” I started trembling.

“My wife committed suicide last night.” His voice was dry and emotionless, but accurate word-for-
word.

BANG!

The gun sound hit my ears. I cringed. My hand, which held the cell phone, began shaking. How
could this happen? Now Nara was gone and, with her, my Sunday-morning peace.

“I’m asking this because I understand that you are one of her closest friends, and that you met for
the last time yesterday,” he said, but I was confused. He sounded slightly angry.

Met? We went to Disneyland yesterday! It wasn’t just a “meeting,” either. We’d been planning it for
several days. She made a lot of kimbob…

at least, early Saturday morning. Doctor Park didn’t seem to know that we went to Disneyland.

“If you notice or hear something special like a letter or anything…” he continued.

“She was the same as usual,” I said, instead of: We played at Disneyland yesterday, as cheerfully
as kids.

He hung up after telling me her funeral would be in five days…since her parents were coming over
from Korea.

Nara had been everybody’s dream girl, especially after her then-boyfriend’s romantic proposal had
led to a luxurious wedding. Moreover, she loved to make kimbob. Wherever she went, she brought
kimbob. Even when she went to Las Vegas to gamble, she prepared kimbob. Doctor Park also
loved her kimbob, so we named them a Kimbob Couple. They were a beautiful and
happy pair. Why, why was the Kimbob Couple broken? I wondered. The gun probably belonged to
her husband. She hated keeping guns in her own house. She left, just like when we left
Disneyland. I realized why she was suicidal, after I got a letter from her.

One day before her funeral, after I came home from work, I opened my mailbox. Inside was a
yellow envelope. I thought it was junk mail, but the sender was Nara Kim. Nara Kim? That was
when I first learned her last name: Kim.

I wondered when she had sent it to me, so I checked the date; it was probably sent after she
visited Disneyland, and before she shot herself. Eagerly, I opened the envelope…right there in
front of the mailbox, no less. Before I even started reading, a tear dropped from my eye onto the
letter.

***

My dear friend Younghee,
Maybe at this time I’m not of this world. It’s so comfortable, what I’m thinking about; there is no “me”
in this world. Nevertheless, I’ll tell you my secret because I want at least one person in your world
to know that secret.

I came to study in America because my parents sent me here, for the sake of their own reputation,
not my will. After I got married, I realized my husband and I were vastly different. He was American,
not Korean American. I was Korean, not Korean American.

I tried harder and harder to be an American, or at least a Korean American. But there were so
many misunderstandings between us. In fact, trying to figure out one misunderstanding gave birth
to several more. Those misunderstandings sparked an even bigger fire, which brought us to war
against each other.

My mom begged me not to divorce until I got my green card, ostensibly for the sake of their
reputation. They didn’t want to have a divorced daughter. Afterwards, my husband begged me not
to divorce, because his father was going to be a political figure.

During all of this, I met my classmate Peter again, for my PhD-dissertation. You probably
remember Peter as Jude Schwarzenegger, who I briefly dated, after he and Hilary broke up.
After my husband discovered this, he started hitting me and calling me a slut. I lost my baby when I
was five months pregnant, due to its father’s kicking. Nevertheless, he didn’t go to jail, because of
his job as an obstetrician. He faked the paperwork.

After I abandoned the dissertation, I felt suffocated. Therefore, I started to study a New Nomadic
Age. That study was my only escape route from daily life.

Last year, Peter’s mother called for me and my husband answered. He went insane. My husband
was really good at hitting me; I was used to not crying. He raped me forcefully every night. I
pointed the gun at my sleeping husband every night, after he went to sleep.

Living with him, every day was a war…both physically and mentally. Then one day, I decided to be
a terrorist for survival. I prepared a suicide bomb.

As I kill myself, I want: my parents to be remembered as people who had a suicidal daughter; my
husband to be remembered as someone who had a suicidal wife; my in-laws to be remembered, as
people who had a suicidal daughter-in-law.

Please show a smile to those who are wounded by my terror. Anyway, today was my happiest day
since arriving here. So I have decided to leave at the happiest moment, rescheduling my plan for
today. Be happy, and I’ll see you in a hundred years from now.

By the way, don’t forget your identity and who you are. Without that, you will never achieve your
American dream.

Nara Kim

P.S. I left a letter for my husband, too. I lied: that I missed Peter every night; that even though I
was having sex with my husband, I thought of him as Peter; that since Peter is in Heaven, I don’t
have any reason not to go there myself.

P.P.S. My friend Younghee—I wonder—If I meet my baby in the next life, will the child forgive me
or not? Younghee…please pray for me…I’m scared…I’m really scared…but I have to leave…I
have to…Please forgive me for not telling you this story before, and please don’t tell anybody
else…not even Hilary. Because there are so many misunderstandings, those misunderstandings
bring more misunderstandings…and still more, and even more misunderstandings.

***

I hunkered on the sofa and shouted everything out: “Nara…! You’re so bad. You are so bad. I told
you everything about myself, but you didn’t say anything about yourself…”

Holding her last letter, I was reading and re-reading, crying and drinking soju straight from the
bottle. I remembered what Sunmi told me before. She said something was wrong about Nara’s
marriage. Nevertheless, I didn’t catch anything at all. Whatever Nara’s situation, I thought she had
a good reason for staying in it. That was my problem: whenever somebody was a certain way, I
believed there was a worthwhile reason. I hated myself for my character, or my lack thereof.
Nara left this world to punish her husband and parents. Her kimbob, the most delicious in the
world, was broken, just like that. The word “terror” came out of the broken kimbob.

Without mentioning the letter to Doctor Park or Hilary, I participated in Nara’s funeral. It was smaller
than I expected: only a few people participated. Her family, her husband’s family, her other
relatives, and everybody who attended the funeral—especially her mother—were crying
hard…with the exception of myself.

I thought it wasn’t a good idea to cry for somebody who had committed suicide; it hadn’t been a
respectable thing for her to do. I just wanted to support her last decision in this world…not crying,
just showing respect for her. Instead of crying, I was tempted to read Nara’s letter at the
funeral…loudly, and in front of everybody. It could be critical terror. My hands went into my purse,
again and again. I wanted to be a terrorist for revenge, on behalf of my best friend. But I couldn’t. I
wasn’t that brave. The harder I tried not to cry, the faster my tears flowed down my face. I couldn’t
control myself. I started sobbing, holding Hilary’s hand tightly.

Two of my best friends left me: Sunmi left after she almost succeeded in killing me. Nara left after
she succeeded in killing herself. After Nara’s funeral, Hilary and I decided on going back to our
homes separately. We reasoned that, if we stayed together, the sorrow would only get bigger.
That was because we had the same memories of Nara. We hugged each other goodbye, but we
cried while doing it. Holding each other, we cried even harder.

On the way home from Nara’s funeral, I stopped by Kinko’s. There I made an extended version of
the picture we had taken at Disneyland. That evening, while I was in bed looking at the picture, the
word identity—which was in Nara’s last letter—dropped off from the picture into my room. Identity!
That was my uncle’s word. He always mentioned this was most important, while he was teaching
me and Dokdo the Crane Dance.

The next day, rediscovering my own identity, I went to Chapman Plaza to buy a Korean-music CD.
There was one CD which captured my eye immediately. It was: Youngim Kim’s Folk Song
Collection. This was an album my uncle had listened to often, since he had always loved her.
I picked it up cheerfully, as if I were meeting my uncle again. Afterward, I came back home and
started listening to the Korean folk songs. It was awfully strange…even though, as a child, I used
to listen to Youngim Kim with my uncle.

I needed bigger things in life, to find my identity. Hence, the following day, I went to Chapman Plaza
again. There I changed my hair from blond to black, hoping it would help me to find my own
identity. Hilary loved my authentic black hair. Since then, I’ve never dyed my hair blond again.

***

Several days after Nara’s funeral…On 3/20/2003, the American military entered Iraq, in the name
of Iraq’s freedom. Whenever I turned on the TV, I heard bombs detonating indiscriminately. I
became greatly vulnerable…over my commitment to the memory of my best friend, and the
bombing sounds.

Just two weeks ago, I was in Heaven—getting my working visa. Then I lost half my life. Now, on the
other side of the world, people started dying: forty-three-year-old Iraqis; seven-year-old Iraqis; and
nineteen-year-old American soldiers…

The wounds of war were not inflicted exclusively on the battlefield. They spread out all over the
world, along with the dead soldiers, to their families and their neighbors.

K-town was no exception. Mourning the Korean American soldiers’ deaths, we started putting
yellow ribbons on the street…and in the newspapers…and on television spots. Patriotism-
marketing also started again, with yellow ribbons, nationwide. At church, we prayed for the
American troops, and for world peace. And I prayed for Nara’s peace.


My Uncle’s Diary: 4/3/1987

Somebody illegally put a big-character poster on the Central Library wall. It commemorated over
fifty thousand citizens of Jeju Island, killed in 1948 by the United States Army Military Government
in Korea.

It happened just two years before the Korean Civil War broke out. Said poster mentioned the
southern island with no sleep, suffering with its people’s mortifying death. I was shocked,
wondering how and why said incident could have remained a secret for almost four decades.


Chapter Twenty-Four…Bisexuality Does Not Exist

About Jeju citizens’ deaths in 1948…Nowadays, such is no longer news. Nonetheless, it looked like
a sensitive issue—illegal, actually—to discuss in South Korea, during the 1980’s.
Anyway, when the Iraq War began, our company got a new client: one who sold air conditioners.
The campaign slogan was: Siberia in Los Angeles. They decided to start their advertising
campaign on May 15th.

My heart was already in Siberia due to Nara’s death…and especially due to my credit card debt,
which never seemed to get any smaller.

Eventually, I decided to give up my one-bedroom apartment and become somebody’s roommate,
so I could save on rent and utilities. There was no hope of Jose coming back; I had forgotten about
him a long time ago, and I reckoned he had forgotten me as well.

I started to search in www.craigslist.com for a roommate. The following Saturday, 3/29/2003, after I
visited several prospective roommates in Hollywood, I met Hilary at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore
& Coffee Shop…the one in the Grove Shopping Mall.

“Hilary, do you know it’s been over five years since we first met?” I took a sip of coffee.

“Yes, time goes so fast. It seems like only yesterday that you moved into my dorm room.” She took
a sip of hers.

“Is there something you wanted to ask me…something about a misunderstanding?”

“You mean, ‘Do I not understand you?’ Why do you ask?”

“I just hope there are no misunderstandings between you and me, especially ones that might arise
due to my lacking English.”

“Hey, Younghee…Why all this sudden worry about  misunderstandings?”

After I lost Nara, I didn’t want to lose Hilary again. I said, “It seems a misunderstanding can be
extremely dangerous.”

“Misunderstandings? Of course they can be. Some misunderstandings
may even bring on the likes of the Iraq War. There is a misunderstanding that the Iraq War is for
Iraq’s freedom. There is a misunderstanding that the Iraq War is, like, against another Adolf
Hitler…or another Imperial Japan. There is a misunderstanding that it could drive the oil prices
down. There is a misunderstanding that it could bring back the victims of 9/11…”

“Isn’t it your misunderstanding about the Iraq War?” I smiled.

“I hope so. The most important thing is this: America invaded another independent country, and
over that, many innocent citizens are going to die. That includes our young soldiers’ deaths.”

Hilary got a little hot under the collar, but the word “death” brought silence to our table.
We both still remembered our best friend Nara’s death, which had happened just three weeks
earlier. There was silence between me and Hilary. Hilary stood up, saying she had to go to the
restroom.

Sitting at the table alone, I remembered Nara: how she had waited for me, wearing that white shirt
and skirt, at the Gaam Coffee Shop; how her smile seemed to get bigger as I gazed at
At the same time, oh my God! Tom Cruise stopped while passing my table. He said:

“Hi. How are you doing?”

“…!?” I felt like my breath had stopped. Startled, I looked at him…but it wasn’t Tom Cruise, just a
look-alike. He smiled. God, he was beautiful. I wished I could take him and kiss him, fall in love with
him and marry him, get my green card within two years and have beautiful kids with him. I was
walking through a dream world with him.

“Don’t you remember? We met years ago, at the Abbey Café in West Hollywood,” he explained.
At that time, Hilary came back from the bathroom.

“Hi, Steve! Long time, no see.” She recognized him. Then I remembered who this was.
Hilary and I visited in West Hollywood (Boyztown), for research on Hilary’s dissertation: No
Bisexuals; They Are All Liars.

Hilary’s theory was that there really aren’t any bisexuals, that it’s all an act on their part. People
use the word “bisexual” only to process their transfer straight into gay, not vice-versa.
Bisexuality is an excuse for cowards: over the coming-out process they are afraid to accept…the
facts of their own gayness. It is also an excuse for the greedy: those who don’t want to lose the
privilege of being straight…even though they enjoy having sex with the same gender, more than
with the opposite gender.

Hilary wanted to walk through Boyztown for her interview, in person. She was looking for someone
who considered himself a bisexual. At that time, originally, Nara promised to go with Hilary. But
something happened to Nara, so Hilary begged me to go instead. She just wanted me to be there
for security reasons, with my taekwondo.

It was probably a weekend in June, 2001, that my first impression
of the Abbey Café was a single word: “Wow.” It looked like a model’s waiting-room, or maybe an
actor’s audition-room.

One difference was this: they were with their boyfriends, sharing a caress. Hilary complained about
how unfair that was: “How come those beautiful guys don’t love girls? How come we cannot have
one of those?”

We began walking in to pick up our candidates. We both looked at the same table. It was them:
Steve, and his boyfriend…who was rubbing Steve’s thigh while eating lunch. Hilary told me it
looked like “Russell Crowe” was rubbing “Tom Cruise’s” thigh.

We went to their table, and I heard “Russell Crowe” say that he hated Bush. Hilary said she hated
her bush, too. Actually, it was her boyfriend who hated her bush. Then Steve looked up at her.
Hilary said, “Sorry to bother you…My boyfriend hates my bush, so I always try to shave it.” Then
they laughed and we introduced ourselves. After that, Hilary explained why we were there.
Steve and “Russell Crowe” smiled at each other.

“I am not Bi. As far as I understand, once you have sex with a man, you can’t go back to pussy. Not
me. A woman’s pussy can’t make my dick harder, not ever.” Steve said.

“Russell Crowe” said, “Eeeew, disgusting!”

The two beautiful guys made faces like they were eating worms. Steve told us there were several
gay guys who made love with married men from time to time. He knew a lot about the homosexual
world, and he was interested in Hilary’s research…volunteering to help her.

Anyway, Steve introduced himself. His boyfriend was named John Brady. Steve met Hilary several
more times after that, and helped Hilary’s theory that bisexuality does not exist.

I liked Steve. Hilary liked John. After that, whenever we saw any movie with Tom Cruise and/or
Russell Crowe, we would say, “Hey! I saw Steve’s—or John’s—movie!”

Breaking my memory, Hilary asked Steve, “Oh, how about ‘Russell Crowe?’”

“Who?” Steve was confused.

“I mean, John, how about your boyfriend?” Hilary asked, sipping her coffee. Steve didn’t answer;
he just looked out through the window.

“We broke up a couple of months ago. Technically, he left the gay world and went back into the
closet, as it were.” Steve rubbed his chin.

“Oh. Sorry about that.” I remembered he said it was disgusting to have his dick sucked by a
woman.

“Well, he wanted to be a politician. When he left my apartment, he told me he’d love me forever,”
Steve smiled bitterly.

“I’m sorry to hear about that,” Hilary said.

“It is okay. His world was everything commercial, as well. Nevertheless, I loved him very much. I still
have his desk and bed in his room. Eventually, I will have to throw it away. Soon, hopefully…”
Steve seemed lonely.

“You mean you have another empty room in your apartment?” Hilary asked. “Younghee’s looking
for a roommate. She is the best roommate. See? She and I met as roommates; now we are best
friends. Who knows? You and Younghee might become best friends.”

The table turned out unexpectedly for my seeking-a-roommate story. Steve seemed to welcome
Hilary’s idea. In the late afternoon, I went to Steve’s apartment and looked at my future room. It
was a condo in the middle of Boyztown, one block south of 24-Hour Fitness.

When I walked into his condo, I saw a Hail-Mary statue in his living room. I introduced myself as
Roman Catholic, which he also turned out to be. It made me feel more comfortable to have a
roommate who shared my religion.

Then he pointed out a baby picture on the wall. It was his two-year-old daughter Christina, who
lived with her lesbian mother Meryl. Steve and Meryl had Christina via artificial insemination.
I liked Steve’s condo, and asked how much it cost. He said the condo was a gift from his rich
parents, and then asked how much I could spare for it. He added that he didn’t expect to have any
roommates.

“By the way, I’ve never lived with a woman, except for my mom.” He looked excited.
I moved in with him, on the first Saturday of April 2003. Steve was a scientist who researched solar
energy. His dream was to study this until motor vehicles could run on solar energy alone. I told him:

“I’ll run until I catch an Oscar.”


Chapter 1-3   Chapter 4-6   Chapter 7-9   Chapter 10-12   Chapter 13-15

Chapter 16-18    Chapter 19-21



© 2006 Younghee Cha

Thank you for reading this fiction, published January 2006. If you want to know more about this
novel, please visit
http://www.youngheecha.com
After 9/11: A Korean Girl’s Sexual Journey by Younghee Cha©
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