What is this ratty, ripped and torn burgundy thing? It’s my wallet. Well, the wallet where I keep my credit and debit cards. The writing on the front and back of the plastic folio has faded and the pockets inside are split open. I’ve tried taping the sides together but it’s no use. It’s time to let it go.
I’ve had the wallet for almost 20 years. I use it almost daily and every time I use it, I remember where I got it: South Korea. I was there teaching English in the late 90s. I was living in Taejon (spelled Daejong now), and I did my banking in the same building as the school. Very convenient!
Typically, I only used the ATM in the lobby of the Kookmin Bank but one day I had to ask a question at a teller’s desk. I walked in and a man in a suit waved me over to him.
“You run!” he said to me. “I see you. You run.”
I did run. I loved jogging the streets of Taejon and going up the steep, narrow hills or down to the wide level pathways near the river. I always ran by myself and it was time to review my day or think about what to do later. I never knew someone was coming along with me.
“Yes, I run,” I said to man.
He picked something up from his desk and handed it to me with both hands.
It was a burgundy shiny plastic folio with the Kookmin’s logo displayed on the front. It was the same on the back. It was both functional and nice and the present made me smile. It was an act of kindness that was unexpected and appreciated.
“Kamsamnida,” I said, thanking the man.
Since that day, I’ve almost never been without my wallet. Since that day, whenever I reach for it, I think of Taejon. No matter what. Nevertheless, my wallet is more of a sieve now. (Insert bank account joke here.) Nothing stays in its pockets and anyway, I bought a new one in Hong Kong in the spring. It’s time to say to “annyeong” to the old wallet. Even though it will no longer hold my cards, I’ll hold my memories.