He was born the only child to a farmer of the deep water. His mother had died in childbirth; his being born at nearly fourteen pounds was not much help. Help was in short supply and from birth, he learned to conceal his yearnings for knowledge behind a facade of stone. Stone so unyielding that even the armed warfare of World War II couldn’t leave a scratch on the young man.
Being of Korean descent in the Sulu Archipelago southwest of The Philippines didn’t open too many doors. What opened doors was his size. His strength. His quiet power of personality. When the other children felt the urge to mock him for his silence, they thought otherwise. The doors that would not open were the doors with locks. The locks needed keys and to gain the keys, the raw materials of strength and discipline needed to be cast into a mold.
His father had given up on casting the keys to the locks. The young man knew his father had resigned to fate. As he grew, he saw his father begin to bend beneath the weight of the world. His father’s spine curved and his back grew hunched from days upon days spent pulling buckets up from the South China Sea in hopes of finding pearls. Pearls that could be sold to the Americans and fashioned into stylish trinkets in time for Christmas as Rockefeller Center. Or so the GI’s said. Their tales of those with money were the spark that ignited an inner flame.
Watching his father’s desperate work rewarded with a forced and forever imposed bow to the more monied of the world, the young man knew he was meant for more. He was meant to be more than a servant, a cog in a primitive machine, operated by pale faces with pink cheeks. It wasn’t the green of the money that drove his will; it was the marvelous yellows and oranges of the sunset. True luxury meant enjoying a sunset and nothing captured his attention more than the color of the setting sun.
To enjoy the sunset, the young man would have to hoist the sun himself. To hoist the sun, he needed to become stronger. Ever more powerful and resistant to the pains of fatigue that threatened to bow him like his father. He lifted every weight he could and soon the villages carried tales of his strength like molten metal into a casting mold. The tales flowed strong enough that the molds became bigger and spoke in louder voices.
Then it was the one mold above all that the metal of his strength had the harsh, ghastly happenstance in which to flow. It was a very beautiful, very alluring mold at first. She was a beautiful woman of Anglo-Saxon descent that any man would desire but no good man dare assume to have caught her fancy. She and her cadre of fellow pilots had flown in on official business when tales of his strength and mental fortitude came up during a casual dinner. Tales of a stout young man with near Herculean strength, hands steady enough to perform surgery, and a keen set of motor skills more suited for a wolverine than a human of his size and stature. It was the tale of his unwavering discipline that interested her most.
Meeting the woman from the west was akin to being appraised at an auction. Her eyes bored into him but his eyes remained in constant contact. Her lips dodged slightly into a smirk and with a nod of her head, his life had been cast from raw molten fossil fuel into cold, hard industrial servitude. She had spoken in an accent more lovely than he dared to appreciate.
“You’re a strong one. I can teach you.”
He understood her words just enough to know their impact.
A pardon had come from the west. His back would remain unbowed and his father would see his grandest of dreams come true. All his father had wanted for his son had been a life of dignity that only the occidental worlds of Europe could provide. During a childhood trip on a raft in the sweltering sun, his father told tales of men in fancy dress. The pink faces of money, luxury, and avarice who drove fancy cars and owned the molds that cast the keys were the faces that wore the fancy dress suits. Then his father told tales of men with darker skin and quiet obedience currying favor with the fancy suits. Sometimes the men with darker skin would receive their own fancy suit, a black suit, and even a black hat.
His father’s dream was for his son to wear a black hat.
The woman from the west spoke again, “Mr. Goldfinger will be very keen to meet you. Your job is an odd one, but I know you’ll adapt.”
A father’s dream had come true.