When I first brought you here to this land, I was barely alive. As a warrior, death was always a part of my life but it was also something I fought against. I had a country to fight for, a family to protect, and a love to cherish for the rest of my days. But after the king I risked my life to serve took away that family and love from me, death was no longer an enemy but a friend I was waiting for. Life merely became a march towards death and I scorned all those who struggled against the inevitable. I closed my eyes against life, unable, no…unwilling to see the bright daylight that reminded me I was still alive while everyone I loved wasn’t. So when I couldn’t keep my oath to you, and you in your anger dashed toward me, I welcomed the blade that promised to shut my eyes forever.
Imja. I am sorry. I’m sorry for bringing you here and tearing you from your life in your world- from your family, friends, and safe haven. I’m sorry that I couldn’t send you back as I promised and you had to face danger and bloodshed here in my chaotic world. But I couldn’t see you then, because death began to envelope me and I welcomed it, in my despair, with open arms. I descended deeper into the frozen depths of my heart and sought refuge in the silence and darkness that I had long waited for.
But you. You unearthly creature. Somehow, someway, your voice broke through my frozen heart and you breathed life into me. I felt your warm tear on my face and your quivering lips on my own. I felt your fear and earnestness reach out to me, begging me to come back, to stay by your side as I promised, to keep fighting for life.
The sun was blinding that day when I opened my eyes. It was like I was seeing light for the first time in a very long time. I was opening my eyes to a new world- a world that had you in it. Death still waited for me around every corner but you were now the sword I could cut it down with.
But in truth, I was just waking to another foolish dream- a dream that you will be here by my side forever. Imja, you don’t belong here in this world full of bloodshed, death haunting your dreams. You need to go back to your world where you can sleep peacefully once more.
Imja, from the moment I realized I needed you by my side, I had to prepare to say goodbye. Time that seemed so endless when I was asleep, now races by me. So with every precious moment I memorize your face. I memorize the way you smile, the way you cry, and even the little frown line between your eyes that appears when you are intently patching me up. I’m even memorizing every heavenly word that you use, even though I have no idea what they mean. I want to remember everything about you- the way your hair felt on my fingertips, the way your fingertips felt on my arm, the way your eyes looked up at me with trust and hope, and the way you waved goodbye, saying “Come back soon.”
I know it was foolish to bottle up that flower. It will turn to dust, just like any other trace of you left in this world when you leave. But memories will remain and so will the lessons you taught me. I will be left alone in this world once again but you will remain in my heart as a shelter from the battles I will face. The wind will continue to blow, carrying your fragrance in the air, and the rain will continue to fall, washing away the blood on my hands. I will carry on, wide awake, just like the way you live your life. In that way, I will remember you, every moment of my life.
Goodbye, Imja. I hope death never touches your hand again. I hope that nightmares never haunt your dreams. I hope you will continue to smile and laugh that boisterous laugh of yours. And I hope, selfishly, that you will remember me as I will remember you.
Imja, will I ever say these words to you?
I love you.