We Band of Brothers by Azzurri


We Band of Brothers – Choi Myung Hee’s Monologue

A few days ago, we had an unexpected visit. A face right from the past.
Actually I thought I saw that face some weeks ago coming out of Moon Shik’s office... but never mind, that is a story for another day.  But that day, it was truly that face. Jung Seok’s face. But on his son, Seo Jung Hoo. Jung Hoo, the little boy we all had loved, and who played with my Ji An, had now grown up, the very image of his handsome father. Seeing his face, and remembering Jung Seok brought back many memories for me. Of another time in my life, of another me.

What brought us together those many years ago? Similar ideals, similar dreams for a better Korea, patriotism, youthful vigour perhaps?

We met all those years ago, in the university as students shouting slogans against an oppressive government adamant to control and shut us up.  We five crazy kids. Oh Gil  Han and I, Choi Myung Hee. We were the thinkers and writers. The talkers. Seo Jung Seok, our best friend. The tinkerer, who loved to fix anything. Who built our radio transmitters and complicated gadgets. Ki Young Jae, our martial artist. Our look-out on his trusty motor bike. And Kim Moon Shik who drove his family’s truck, that JungSeok modified to meet our purposes. Of course I can’t leave out little Kim Moon Ho – who was still just a little boy, but he always came with us as Moon Shik was his guardian and they only had each other. So six, not five crazy kids.

Those exciting days in the year 1980, when we rode that big truck and broadcasted. “Min Joo (democracy) where are you?” Those were the happiest times in my life. It still lives in my mind like it was yesterday. The truth is that I probably live in those times more now than in my own reality – which is just a long and empty nothing, filled with doctors, nurses, medications.... and Moon Shik. My second husband.

He married me, and took care of me. Me, whose body and mind got battered from the tragedies of that fateful night in 1992, no longer to be the me I was before. For starters I cannot walk – the accident had battered my spine, and it’s a wonder that I still have use of my hands. But at least that enables me to not be totally useless. I can still cook, and knit and sew. I just cannot get up and run. Out of this place. People call it my home, but oft times, I feel like it’s my prison.

Anyway, he married me nonetheless. And takes care of me so tenderly and lovingly, that sometimes... sometimes, I wish I could return those feelings. He never asks, never expects, and just loves me anyway and for that, I have been grateful for Kim Moon Shik. He knows I live my life for those two days a year – the death anniversary and birthday of my Ji An. Other days, and other times, I am resigned to my semi-drugged stupor and my foggy brain.

But seeing JungHoo again – seeing that smile, so very like his father, triggered something inside my heart. Stirred something inside my soul. For the first time in a long long time, I think back to those old days. I remember Gil Han and our daughter Ji An. I think about what happened that night in 1992 when Ji An was lost to me. I can do that without getting catatonic, because I stopped taking the medications they have been giving me. So I can pretend to sleep when they put me to sleep, but instead I lie in my bed and remember. And think. There is no fogginess, and everything is crystal clear in my mind. For once I can do the arithmetic – two plus two can indeed be 4 and not 28. I asked Moon Shik recently, how he managed to pay for my medical bills. I stayed in hospital for more than a year,  and always in the most expensive room available. He laughed and told me, because he sold the junkyard. But my mind isn’t as foggy as it was before, and I can do the math. A junkyard minus a year in hospital in a VIP room would definitely return a negative number.
I stare at the picture of the 5 of us – that one picture so treasured by each of us, taken by Moon Ho. And suddenly lines from Shakespeare that I had learnt in university so many years ago came to me.

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”

We were few and we were happy. We believed and fought for the same things. It was a dangerous time of secrecy, defiance and protest. But we five were that band of ‘brothers’ fighting for a just cause. Perhaps because of our youth, but I believe more because of our love and trust in each other, we dared to fight. And voice our anger and defiance.

Young Jae was caught and went to jail, for all of us. He never ratted on us even once. Now my friend Ki Young Jae has died – died, just like Jung Seok, in police custody. Of the six of us, 3 have already gone. This force we have been fighting, for the last 20 years, they have remained.

And now... now I think Jung Hoo is fighting them, right along with Moon Ho. Moon Ho is doing something – I don’t know what, but he’s doing it. And I hope to be of some use to them, so I’ve agreed to meet this very sweet sounding girl reporter who works for him. Chae Young Shin. Yes, that’s her name. She sounds lovely and bright, and it would be wonderful to talk to someone young and full of life again. Perhaps, it will rub off on me.

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