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Manoa 13.2 (2001) 61-66

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Mr. Oh

Jeong Mee Kim

The doctor say he no can help me. He don't find any problem. He say: Mr. Oh, you might think perhaps about consulting another doctor. A psychiatrist. Many times, such phantom aches and pains can be caused by stress or excessive worry. I can give you a referral if you'd like.

No, I shake my head. I know what he talking about. He don't believe this pain in my neck. Almost I can no longer swallow. He think I'm crazy, have some kind of mental problem. What he know anyway? Doctors, they just suppose to find place where pain start and fix it.

Two months ago this start. Sudden pain in neck. Near back on left side. Like somebody take my skin between finger and pinch. Like my older brother used do. Like I do to younger brother. Hard to move with that kind of pain. That kind enough for making stay down. Last week, two days I not get up. I stay in bedroom, watch Korean videos. Usually feel good to hear Korean language, my ear understand right away. But with pain in neck, hard to enjoy. Korean sound like English coming long way to me. It take time to travel, and in meantime this pinching. This the third doctor I see. This one specialist. Always they say they can find nothing. Wife come with me, but she don't believe me either. She just trying to help me.

On way home, when Wife say: What he say? I tell her he say I depress, go see psychiatrist. Wife worry, then mad. She want to know where exactly pain is. I try to explain but car almost hit fence, so she say: Watch the road! Watch the road! I say I watching the road fine, but she want me show her where pain is or not? She say: Your problem you nervous all the time. Never relax. I say she make me nervous asking question and then screaming when we far away from fence anyway. She just say I nervous again. I yell to Wife she never support me. That why I nervous all the time. She only get quiet, watch the road.

I never nervous when I young. I don't care anything. Now worry too much. I almost sixty. How many ahead? I think not many.

Too bad, too bad.

I know it make no sense to look too much at history, but how else we going to understand self? We are--how you say--sum of decision we make. That who we really are. How we act mean who we are. I study Kierkegaard at Yonsei University in 1957. Long time ago but coming back to me now. I [End Page 61] remember he say only understand life backward but have to live forward. OK, but sometime man come to place where not so much forward but much much past. What you do with everything remember but now gone? Can't bring back, can't forget.

I have conversation with Mr. O'Brien last week. He owner of two Texaco stations. Every week he bring his dirty towel from the shop. He say: Mr. Oh, do Korean people drink as much as the Irish?

Yah, I say, even more. You people drink beer. Koreans drink soju. Stronger, I say, patting my stomach. That where it burn.

Mr. O'Brien think for a minute. He say: Somebody told me that the Koreans are the Irish of the Orient.

You know what I think? I think Irish are Koreans of Europe, but he too nice, so I say Korea more like Italy. I trying to think of the word . . . I draw with finger on counter.

Peninsula? Mr. O'Brien say.

Yah, peninsula! Peninsula. Can be attacked from many sides. Always have to be careful. That why they have mafia. Koreans and Italians emotional too. Eating and drinking important.

Mr. O'Brien look like he don't know what I'm talking about, but he smile.

Then Mr. O'Brien say: Hey...


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