Couple of days ago, Y and his family left Boulder, not temporarily, but permanently. On the night I got a phone call from him because he needed to get rid of his old bookshelves, I thought he already left the town we started getting familiar together. He told me if I could get the bookshelves before he decided to throw it away, and I accepted with other things that are useless for him anymore. We carried all the things together from his house to my home, which were just 2 minutes away each other. After carrying the heavy things, he asked me to shake hands, which is usually performed when people meet a monumental moment and want to “carve” it. At the time we met around about 11 pm, the handshaking meant say goodbye, forever or not.
He was my former roommate. No, he was not a roommate. When I started a new life here in Boulder four years ago, and struggled in a math review session that is normally given for two weeks in summer as a preliminary course for a upcoming economics graduate student, he arrived the town after the short coursework already finished its first week. He suddenly changed his school from North Carolina to Colorado, and needed a place to stay until finding a real house to live with his family. I was asked to offer a room for him, and accepted it. We lived for about 15 days. I slept in living room after giving my bedroom to him, because I though he was 10 years older than me so that begin nice to the old guy is ultimately required for the Korean younger. Since we were not intended to sleep together in one bed, we had to borrow a small, old, and shabby bed from the other Korean neighbor. We carried the heavy thing together. The 15 days must be modicum, or miserable part of our four years life in Boulder. But it was the only time I spent with the other Korean guy in this town. I live with three roommates for one year in Louisville in my second academic year, even with one Korean, but it was not a real “living together” thing to me.
Y is the only Korean male graduate student (Oh, he is not a student anymore. He is a doctor right now) whom I have liked since arriving here. I do not like Korean community in this small town. They crave to talk about the other one badly, and feel happy with successful behind-talking. He does not. They do not understand how they fail to reach the original goal they had aimed and what to do at each step. So they fail permanently. He does know the things. That’s why he finished his doctoral career in four years which are even designed for five years normally. They always try to make a illusion about themselves so that they pretend to be great, while the fact does work with the desire. He always tells true status where he is and always concentrate on his family. There are the other many things explaining differences between “them” and him.
Carrying heavy things together might be the only thing we did at the same level. He has been a great mentor for my academic life. He worked at a company for many years, and used the experience to help me out and to make me convinced what I should do for the higher level. He has been great friend of chattering as well. When we started to talk at a coffee shop or an any place, it took several hours. He gave me a joy of talking in Korean.
I will miss him. I may have to finish my doctoral program in a year, and even when I go to Seoul this summer I will be able to meet him at a conference that we will be attending for the presentation. But his departure reminds me many things. These are not a simple nostalgia, or a grief of having to say goodbye. But these are, maybe, complicated thoughts on a person who already progressed the way that I want to go, and have to go. He is a tremendous 선배 of 인생. I thank him.