We sounded a greeting from the doorway to the subway station entrance in Seodaemun, Bellowing loud thunderous applause from the metallic echoes, from that shiny, pulsating, writhing beast of a city, looming at dusk, invitingly hypnotic in motion.
And we all always seemed in motion.
Those last few days, those 72 hours, that lifetime spent watching a video barricaded behind the door, high, high on the fourth floor. We never talked. We never mentioned the approaching sense of an unwanted independence. We never tried to make amends for the past eight years of friendly solitude, of endearing exile, we never tried to close the book.
Perhaps I will see you again there. My wife will travel back and forth across the Pacific, slurping the same seaweed soup on the same airline served by the same smiling apparitions, snug in the same aisle seat. Perhaps I can come with her one time and we can reconnect. Perhaps it will be a disaster but I am hopeful.
If you are not there, I am not sure I ever want to go back, to walk those seamless streets, to be drawn by that same neon, that daunting sense of history, that hefty sense of place, that love of Asia, those nights of wandering aimlessly to benches outside our apartment.
And as soon as I left our neighbor to the north got back to being himself, however incoherent his ramblings are, trying to pry sympathy from a clenched fist, like a schoolyard bully foaming at the bit. He doesn’t know you, though. He doesn’t know his own people. Never once did we let him interfere in our reindeer games, never once did his insolence sever our absurdity. Never once did I feel like a moment was stolen.
I have returned to the United States and I sit here on the longest of long islands and stare at over a later October sky, the wind pulsating with a crisp electricity. The possibility is here, just as it was when I was young, the same anticipation of autumn, the same thoughts, the same abating sense of destiny, of grandeur. I expanded as the days grew shorter, I was in an enviable conflict with my own environment. I was the contradiction I had always hoped to be, if only the fall, if only for awhile.
I sit here now, older and more aware. I am married now, a little over a week and I am in love with a woman I have been with for much longer than a week, my bride. I have responsibility and the talk of children has increased in intervals of two: two times a day, two children, two years apart, too many. The words come from my mouth in the fall as things wither and die; life shall spring from me as it ends elsewhere. You would understand this deluded sense of importance, the monumental substance of my dreams, of my change, of my power to deflect, of my arrogant aspirations.
On Long Island now, I am older though. These dreams have been dulled somewhat with time and practicality, that most unholy of all poisons. I sit in this chair and drift back across the Pacific to pay homage to my greatest audience, the substance of my isolated legend. You are my legacy.
My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.