I Want My History

The sun burns yellow and orange in the sky, breathing out gas in wisps I can see: orange bleeds into blue; except the nimbus in my periphery hints to rain, and storms are always heavier down here. The rain is so thick you can wade in it; if you cannot squint through the drops they drip into your eyes and leak into your nose, and then you snort it, and that hurts. But in Korea there is only snow.

Or at least that’s what my mother always says. Sometimes I can hear her crying from across the walls, her wails beating, beating, beating against the brick, a jackhammer whilst I sleep. Or maybe she’s talking to her distant sisters, who bustle around Grandmother’s phone camera, busy schoolchildren, with Grandpa whispering Shhh Shhh…. So their voices get close to the ground, pulsing low from high.

I am never allowed to see them. I am never allowed to say hello to my relatives in the North; Mother says that it’s too dangerous, “they” can see, something about how “they” can take her back because ….. And then I don’t understand. Her tongue is not mine; and the accent that drapes over her words makes her scumble in speech.

I look back up towards the sky and close my eyes, in case the rain falls, trying to feel the black clouds move anyway, see if I can sense them coming as a force with nature: how they push against the sky and cover the color of spring. And I wait a moment. The silence hovers in the air and I fill it with thoughts, like of my mother pulling her sleeves down over her hands, hooking the threads across the knuckles close to her fingertips, or of how she douses herself in the same perfume every day, “the same perfume I used on my first and last outing with your dad.” And then her laugh, musical, light enough to carry itself between blades of tall grass--but still sad enough for me to forget the music.

My father--“Park”, he calls himself, discarding his first name, which is “Do Hyun”. A once-soldier who loved nothing but war, for that was all he knew. His grandfather taught him to march from five, so that was how he carried himself; through trains, past close friends, me sitting on his back, my small hands clasped around the base of his neck: like a soldier. Back straight, each distance he spanned carefully measured by the same, equal length. But now the man sits in his blue armchair, his worn blue denim jacket strung across the armrests, sleeves brushing his lap. Dried drool from last week’s sleep still smeared across his face, chipping off onto his musty shirt like the love of my mother. His nights are filled with potato chip crumbs and grease-coated fingers. Unlike my mother, whose nights are now filled with empty beds, made emptier by the presence of a cavity formed over years of her Park Dohyun sleeping beside her.

So she fills it with her weeping, and she runs her palms over the extra sheets.

I feel the first drops spill onto my eyelids, forming rivulets as the beads slip in different directions down my cheeks, and then I think of my own mother’s tears, how she made herself sick with grief over a bucket at bedside, scribbling away in the journal she will never let me read, and so suddenly I am the mother and she is my daughter: I bring her soup and crackers but she doesn’t like the tomato kind, she wants the seaweed soup she ate--miyeoguk--in childhood, only finding the comfort she needs in the past.

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