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As they drove home, he remembered the last time he had believed his wife loved him more than she loved their daughter. They were in Thailand, soon after Soo-young was born. He and Min-ji sat outside on the porch of their bungalow, looking out at the ocean. The water was blue under the moon the way it always was in Thailand, and the wind was starting to change directions, blowing back out across the water. He wanted to order a “happy” pizza, and let the high from the marijuana take them out onto the sand, but the baby was inside in her crib, asleep.
Min-ji moved next to him on the wooden swing. He could smell the damp, live, biological smell of the beach and what washed onto it. She put her hand between his thighs. “We can do this,” she said, “even without a pizza.”
“We can do this?” he asked.
“We can always do this,” she said, knowing how sensitive he was when he thought she didn’t want him. They played the game they had made up the last time they were in Thailand. “My jealousy,” he said, taking off his pants. “My fear that you will leave me,” she said, unhooking her bra.
When they had both stripped clean, she said, “Okay. I want it. Order the pizza,” and led him to the hammock from which they could look into their baby’s window. “Quietly,” she said. He loved what the drugs did to her. “This is the last time,” she said, and it was.
On the way back from the mysterious road, Soo-young fell asleep in her father’s arms, sitting on his lap as he drove, holding him as he carried her to bed. She dreamed of his red face, the red palms of his hands. She floated in the ocean while he stood on the beach, watching, growing larger and larger. She waited for him to grow big enough to reach out from shore and sweep her back into his arms. She knew she wasn’t a strong swimmer and she needed both hands to stay above water, but she desperately wanted to wave to him. Then she realized she wasn’t swimming at all, and she let the waves cradle her body. She let them rock her back and forth, up to heaven and down to the bottom of the sea and back.
Edward had fallen asleep as well, his daughter beside him, his wife buried, when he heard the noise outside. He felt for his daughter’s head against his arm—still there. He got up to see what the sound was. He put his hands against the window glass, feeling the difference in temperature. What could possibly prepare you for this, he wondered as he looked out. How was he supposed to know what to do with her? He wanted to ask Min-ji just a few more questions. How would he know when Soo-young was ready to go into the world alone? How was he supposed to get her ready for that? He remembered the day he had decided to run out on his wife and newborn daughter, to return to America and not give everything over to his family. He had slipped out of bed and called a taxi to take him to the early morning flight he had booked out of Gimpo Airport. They got a few blocks down the street before he asked the driver to turn around. It was still dark out, but when he climbed back into bed, he thought he saw Min-ji’s eyes open. She never said anything about it, so neither did he, afraid to hear that she had seen him. Yet now that she was gone, he wanted to believe that she had done just that—she had known exactly how close she had come to losing him, and hadn’t blinked. As he looked out on Jeju Island from the hotel room he had booked for their anniversary, a stray dog trotted around the corner and turned towards the holes his daughter had dug that morning. It sniffed and pawed at the ground, and Edward waited to see if it would turn up whatever his daughter had buried.