Last night, at precisely 6:07 p.m., I completed the first half of the rewrites on my old/new manuscript, “SPLIT: Murder Below the 38th Parallel.”
SPLIT is broken into two parts, just like the Korean Peninsula where the story takes place.
The first half is all about Seoul in 1988: the DMZ, the Olympics and the Murder. Needless to say, it was hard work, inside and out, to revisit those difficult times so intensely.
One of my most troubling tasks was to piece together the eulogy for my dead friend Carolyn (aka Carrie in the book) which was delivered by her killer, although none of us knew it at the time. So, essentially, I had to get into the head of a woman who was pretending that she hadn’t killed another woman as she told us how much she loved the woman that we’d later find out she’d killed.
Here’s how that turned out:
Carrie Joyce Colburn was light when the world was dark for many of us. She came into this staffroom on her first day and I saw all of you breathe a sigh of relief. Joy had come to ELI in the form of a beautiful blonde girl who also was brilliant. She taught us how to laugh again with her funny travel mishaps in Nepal and Japan. She shared her great love of her family with us. How her sister’s children had stolen her heart the minute they were born. How her father encouraged her interest in photography, even though the hobby was unlikely to ever pay her bills. Carrie was an excellent photographer, though. She took black-and-white pictures even though she didn’t see the world in black and white. Carrie lived in color.
When she walked down the street, she was a torch. Everyone was drawn to her and away from their own sorrows. Our students admired her ability to reach into their heads and pull their thoughts out in English. Was Carrie magic? No, she dared to make herself vulnerable. She dared to be kind. She dared to reach across divisions and pull someone on board with her, or get on board with them.
Jane looked up. Most of us were crying quietly. A box of tissues was being passed around. She pushed a tear out of her eye, and continued to speak.
I hope and pray that because of Carrie, I am a better person. I will take her spirit and incorporate it into my life and work. She can still be the breath of fresh air whenever we need her to be. Just inhale and feel her in your heart. Then, be a light for someone else. Dare to be compassionate. Dare to be righteous. Dare to be Carrie, and she will live forever.
Remarkably, I managed not to throw up as I was writing from a psychopath’s point of view.
The good news is that the second half will be easier to conquer. I go back to Seoul in 2014, like I just did, and make the amends I can. If the first part of SPLIT is about damnation, then the second part is about redemption–although nothing about this entire story can be tied up as nicely as that sounds. A killer is still free and probably always will be.
I am inspired by South Koreans who live peacefully despite the fact that their country is still technically at war. They’ve lived this paradox for 65 years, hoping for the day of reunification that never comes.
There are more twists and turns to grapple with in SPLIT, but I believe the worst is behind me now. I can see the light at the end of the bridge to nowhere–where I was three weeks ago. Both literally and figuratively.