By Kyung Sam Hong
Illustrations by Noah Dempewolf
It was a chilly morning, but it made me feel good. My wife and I took a walk along the shore. Below us were shells, clams and sandpipers busy looking for breakfast.
The tide was coming in rapidly, and a gap in the walkway was getting wider second by second. When I came to the gap, I saw that my wife had already crossed it.
“How did you get across?” I asked.
She said she jumped. I couldn’t believe she jumped that far. When I was younger, I could do that, but now I thought I shouldn’t try.
So I walked around the water and met her on the other side. We matched steps, left foot, right foot …
While we walked together, she told me, “My feet so cold.”
I asked why.
“When I jumped over the gap, one of my feet landed in the water, and one of my socks got wet.”
So I told her, “It’s a cold day. Do you want to have one of my socks?”
She said, “If you do that, it would be a very nice thing.” She never says no when I offer to do nice things.
So I stopped in the middle of the road and I took off one of my socks. I held it out to her, and she grabbed it.
When she put it on, she said, “It’s so warm!”
It was only a small thing, but I felt like I had given her a great treasure.
A happy life is being close to your wife or husband, and giving and receiving the little things. It’s not about getting big things, but about taking care of each other every day. That is what I realized.
“Our cell phones”
By Abraham Park
As unglamorous as they may be — Stephanie has an LG Chocolate with horrible Bluetooth reception and I’ve got a little Samsung Juke — our cell phones have served as a lifeline in our relationship for the past year and a half. Thousands of miles separate us, but we’re able to connect for hours each day. We talk about anything and everything, often starting out with how our days were. One day a week, we address a specific agenda of topics, including prayer requests, the health of our relationship and wedding planning. Our calls consist of laughter, tears and everything in between.
Because Stephanie lives with her sister, she doesn’t like to say “miss” or “love” aloud. So we’ve created a secret language, inspired by instant message abbreviations. “I-M-U” is “I miss you.” She’ll whisper it, so I will, too, even though I live alone. Then we’ll start giggling like little children sharing secrets.
Sometimes, when both of us have a lot to do, we stay on the phone and continue with our daily routines. The mundane rituals of life become new and exciting since we’re able to share those moments together. I can hear when she’s doing the dishes, eating, typing, flipping pages of her book. In the end, it’s her I look forward to meeting again and again, each and every day.
“My Immunity Idol”
By Yul Kwon
I don’t think of myself as a particularly materialistic person. I still live in the same small one-bedroomapartment that I’ve rented for the past five years. I still drive the same old car I’ve driven for the last nine. I still wear the same clothes that my mom bought me in high school … just kidding. I may have the fashion sense of a baboon, but I’m not a complete idiot when it comes to age-appropriate attire. (I’m usually off by a decade at most.)
But there is one material object that means a lot to me, not because it helped me gain a small slice of fame and fortune, but because it helped me win true love.
I met Sophie when a mutual friend set us up the week I won Survivor: Cook Islands. I knew early on that she was someone really special, but the first few months of our relationship were — for lack of a better word — rocky. I’d spent my entire life trying to find my soulmate, yet I happened to find her at the worst possible moment to start a relationship. Not only was I constantly traveling, but winning a reality show doesn’t lend itself to be taken seriously by potential mates, at least among the population of women I could actually see raising my kids someday.
Despite my best efforts to convince her that I was committed to our relationship, Sophie remained skeptical. Things finally got to the point where I felt I had to give her some tangible proof of my commitment. I thought about proposing, but figured that such a sudden and dramatic gesture would only make her think I was even more unstable than I already was. So I decided to give her the only real thing that held any sentimental value to me — the hidden immunity idol I found on Survivor that helped me win the game. It’s basically an ugly compass on a leather necklace, but I decided to keep it with the vague notion of giving it to my kids someday. (You know, if my teenage children ever think their dad is old and uncool, I could bust out the hidden immunity idol and suddenly I’d get invited to all sorts of parties with upperclassmen.)
In all seriousness, I knew that there was a pretty good chance this gesture could backfire, too. Sophie could be insulted that I would try to pass off some cheap trinket as a token of true love. She could dismiss me as some poor nut who can’t let go of his days of reality show glory. But with any luck, she could take it in the spirit in which it would be given — as a sign of my willingness to give her the only thing in my possession that meant anything to me, symbolizing my intention to be with her for the rest of my life.
To her credit — and to my enduring happiness — she didn’t run away or laugh in my face as I’d feared. She finally accepted that I loved her, and that has made all the difference in our relationship. We’re now engaged and planning our wedding.
I, however, have been banned from arranging the honeymoon after making the ill-considered suggestion of camping out in the Cook Islands. Apparently, she doesn’t think raw hermit crabs make for a very romantic meal.
By Jane Kim
Our relationship started timidly on the Williamsburg Bridge, despite having known him for years. I was actually quite terrified of being a pedestrian on this particular bridge due to all the cyclists speeding by. For some insane reason, I would rather get hit by a car than a bicycle – think of all the things on a bikethat can poke and puncture you! Yes, I told you, it’s insane.
Every time a bike sped by, he would very protectively move to the side so that he’d be “in the way.” That was when I realized I had a crush on this boy, this boy who was my friend.
For years after that, bridges provided a vivid backdrop to our relationship. We spent our first New Year’s together in Glasgow, Scotland. Even though a storm had just passed and the winds were still strong, we walked home, crossing a bridge over the River Clyde. This bridge was lit up in all its glory and the lights reflected off the river. It was a tender moment for us. At that point, I realized he was the most amazing man I’d ever known.
Whenever I walk across a bridge, my heart feels like it’s being hugged. I know he feels the same way whenever he crosses a bridge alone.
With any challenge that we might face in our relationship — distance, careers, family issues — we will cross that bridge when we come to it. And like John says, “We will cross it together because you are my monkey.”
“A Cat Mug”
By Sung J. Woo
Growing up, I never had a pet: no dogs, no cats, not even a goldfish. So when I spent my first night at my girlfriend’s place those many years ago, I had to share our bed with a Siamese cat named JoJo, and I sort of feared for my life. What if the cat decided to claw my eyes out when I was asleep? Or if it just went berserk and chewed off the side of my face? I mean, there was a reason why these creatures were called animals.
Needless to say, I survived the first night and many more, though I’m sorry to say, JoJo did not. She ended up dying of cancer just a couple of months after I met her, and I never really got to know her well.
However, I did get to know Johnny Angel, another Siamese cat who came into our lives soon after JoJo. Seeing how much I adored Johnny, my girlfriend got me a mug with a personalized photo of him. I thanked her and promptly put the mug to good use, to hold my pens and pencils, and didn’t give it much thought until one day when Johnny disappeared. Somehow our front door was left ajar, and he’d snuck out. As a declawed cat who’d always stayed indoors, he didn’t stand a chance of making it out there. We put up posters and stuffed neighborhood mailboxes with a picture of him, but as the days went by, it seemed more likely that we’d never see him again.
Every day, I picked up the mug and stared into his face. Johnny was out there somewhere, lost to us. He was my first pet, and now he was gone, just like that. Even though we walked around the neighborhood every evening and called out his name, we were losing hope. Then two weeks later, we received a phone call. It was a lady who’d seen our flyer in her mailbox, and she was fairly certain Johnny was sitting on her back porch.
I will never forget Dawn, my girlfriend then and my wife now, running towards me with Johnny in her arms. He looked gaunt and stunk to high heaven, but I’d never wanted to hug him more.
Johnny is about to turn 15, and he doesn’t seem all that different from when we first got him 13 years ago. He still dashes down the hallway and leaps up to the table when it’s feeding time, his movements a perfect blend of speed and elegance.
Back in 1996, Dawn and I were just starting out in our relationship. We were in love, which also meant jumping ahead, looking beyond the present, sometimes scaring ourselves of the pitfalls that await every couple. Thank goodness for Johnny, who put our overactive minds at ease. He’s the epitome of calmness: He eats, sleeps, and doesn’t worry about a single thing.