The old woman thought about all this, trudging along, and she thought about America. She thought of how Jung Hee had given that strange groan, and it seemed to her that it held a kind of longing. Perhaps Jung Hee had a secret dream of going there. Perhaps she thought she could find a husband in America. Well, maybe so. The old woman had heard that Americans were different from Korean men, that in America wives did what they wanted and did not ask permission from their husbands. She had heard that an American who took a wife with children would take the children too. Such customs! It was hard to think of such a thing.
She looked sidelong at Jung Hee. In the cold air her twisted lip glowed like a shriveled purple plum. Perhaps in America she could find a man who did not care about it, or about her plain face either. He would give her sons and in return she would help him in his business. But now the old woman remembered another thing she had heard about America, how in the cities black men came in masks and shot Korean people in their stores and businesses. And yet, in spite of this, a man even of the lowest caste could gain wealth and have position in his town. A strange place, this America.
But what of all this anyway? What chance was there for someone like Jung Hee to go to such a place? It was an old woman's foolishness to think of such a thing. Miss Lee had said, though, that her grandchildren might go. She said the women in America were very modern. They worked and grew rich and forgot to marry and have children. When they were too old to bear they searched for children to adopt, but there were not enough. Because of this, many children from the Inch'on orphanage were taken there.
The old woman thought about how her grandchildren might live in America. They would have a new father who would drive his own car every day and not fall off a roof and die, and a mother with her own car too, who did not run away and sleep at night in the back room of a coffee shop, neglecting to bring home money to put rice into her children's bowls. They would have a new grandmother too. She would be like the old women from America that she had seen in Inch'on, tourists come with their old husbands and old women friends to eat at the expensive seafood restaurants along the waterfront. She would wear bright clothes and curl her hair and look at her new grandchildren out of pale round eyes and frighten them. But she would love them, surely, and soon they would grow used to her. She would cook for them and they would eat everything and their bellies would grow round. Each day she would send them off to school with books, and each night help them climb up onto high beds shared with no one else. She would speak to them in English and after a while they would forget their mother tongue. They would forget their family. They would not come back to Inch'on.
The old woman shivered. There would be no one now, at the celebration of the harvest moon, to come and tend her grave. But she could not consider this. She had considered it already, and set it aside, while she was making her decision. Beside her, Jung Hee was crying quietly into her hand. The old woman let her cry. It was good for her to do. As for herself, there could be no crying yet. She must give all her attention to making her feet go down the road. When she got home and lay down on her quilt, she would consider everything. Maybe then it would be time to cry.
Soon they reached the place where they must go in different ways. The old woman turned, holding out her hands, and Jung Hee took them, tilting down her head. Then she turned away and the old woman stood watching her until she disappeared around a corner of the road.
All morning the old woman had been firm and calm, and fear had not risen up to drown her as it had five times the day she talked with Jung Hee's mother. But now, standing here alone in the business section of the town, with strangers going in and out of doors, and motorbikes and bicycles and taxis making turmoil, she saw a businessman in a rich dark leather coat come down the street. He was tall and wide across the shoulders, with the strawlike hair of an American. As he passed, he looked down at her with his pale eyes as though she was not there, pushed though a door and vanished. The drowning started again, and the old woman leaned against the plate glass window of the building at her back and breathed inside the top part of her chest. But darkness came behind her eyes and she felt herself slide down.