Posts tagged “Old Garden Serial”

  • The Old Garden: What Time Means for a Lifer (Part 28/28)

    The Old Garden: What Time Means for a Lifer (Part 28/28)

    November 3, 2009

    My dearest Yoon Hee, The trial is over. I am sure you already heard what the outcome was. They sentenced me to life. It didn’t feel real. When I returned from the court, the chief guard called me. He is a devout Christian, and I am told that he did this not just to me but to murderers who received death sentences. He held my hand and prayed. I don’t remember exactly what he said. After returning to my cell, I read scribbles left on the wall by previous prisoners and began to ponder. There was one phrase, ‘existence is happiness.’ It seemed time was standing still. Read Part Twenty-Eight

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  • The Old Garden: One Shot of Sake and One Cigarette (Part 27/28)

    The Old Garden: One Shot of Sake and One Cigarette (Part 27/28)

    October 29, 2009

    After dinner I walked down to Todam, the Traditional Tea Salon, run by the youngest son of the Soonchun lady. I became reacquainted with the Bunny Boy, who was now in his thirties. Yoon Hee and I had adored the youngest boy at the main house. We frequently sent him on errands to the village in order to give him pocket money. Yoon Hee nicknamed him the Bunny Boy because his two front teeth protruded and his eyes were so round. It is inevitably disappointing to see someone you knew as a child all grown up. A child has a future full of possibilities, yet there is no shadow of greed. All too soon, however, the childish ingenuity and innocence are gone without a trace. As the face matures, layers of tired guile are added. The Bunny Boy was not shy at all. Instead, he seemed to be guarded or sneering at me, this old man who had returned. Read Part Twenty-Seven

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  • The Old Garden: The Fuel Hole (Part 26/28)

    The Old Garden: The Fuel Hole (Part 26/28)

    October 28, 2009

    I closed Yoon Hee’s sketchbook and finished cleaning the room. I kept thinking I should warm up the room more, so I went out and walked toward the fuel hole. First, I stacked a handful of thin branches and ignited them with a lighter. Like a wriggling little animal, the flame spread to the top. I picked a few thicker branches and broke them. They were stacked over the flame, crossing each other to support a couple of logs on top. They were so dry that they caught easily without emitting too much smoke. I put a couple more logs in. The fuel hole was soon filled with warm yellow light, and the warmth spread to my lower body. I stared blankly at the flame. It looked like the tongue of a live creature, licking the fuel hole and spreading toward the kitchen. Read Part Twenty-Six

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  • The Old Garden: What Was Written in Yoon Hee’s Sketchbook (Part 25/28)

    The Old Garden: What Was Written in Yoon Hee’s Sketchbook (Part 25/28)

    October 27, 2009

    There they put you in a regular cage consisting of two layers of wire mesh; or rather, a small cage stands freely inside a larger one, and the prisoner only sees the visitor through this double trelliswork. It was just at the end of a six-day hunger strike, and I was so weak that the Commanding Officer of the fortress had almost to carry me into the visitors’ room. I had to hold on with both hands to the wires of the cage, and this must certainly have strengthened my resemblance to a wild beast in the zoo. The cage was standing in a rather dark corner of the room, and my brother pressed his face against the wires. “Where are you?” he kept on asking, continually wiping away the tears that clouded his glasses. —Rosa Luxemburg Read Part Twenty-Five

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  • The Old Garden: A Book Filled With Graffiti (Part 24/28)

    The Old Garden: A Book Filled With Graffiti (Part 24/28)

    October 22, 2009

    I took off my shoes outside the studio, pushed the glass sliding door to the side, and entered. The chill of the floor traveled up my feet, and the subtle scent of pine resin lingered in the air. Wait, I remember. What was that smell? It starts with a T . . . turpentine. Yoon Hee used to pour it onto her palette whenever she tempered her colors from the tube, holding two or three brushes in one hand. She always smelled like turpentine, the scent clinging to her clothes and apron with its numerous colors. I picked up her palette. There still remained traces of her brush where it had smoothed out paint after she squeezed it onto the palette. I could see the traces of bristles. The hand holding the palette was trembling weakly, and I felt her touch. Her fingerprints were left on the squeezed paint tubes, their openings hardened with dried paint. I looked through the neatly stacked canvases in the corner, as if leafing through a book. At the bottom I found a small canvas and placed it on the empty easel. Two heads painted close to each other. The face on the left is mine. Read Part Twenty-Four

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  • The Old Garden: The House in the Back (Part 23/28)

    The Old Garden: The House in the Back (Part 23/28)

    October 21, 2009

    The voice had come from behind me suddenly, and startled, I turned around quickly. There was a familiar face, but a changed one, like gradually chipped and worn household items I had seen. Suspicious, she narrowed her eyes and studied me slowly, from top to bottom. There she was, the wife of the vice principal, the Soonchun lady. I bowed. “How are you, ma’am?” “Who are you? I think I know you but I can’t quite place you.” “I’m . . . I’m the one who was preparing for the big exam.” I was sure she knew everything by now, but Yoon Hee had introduced her companion as her boyfriend who was studying for government exams. The Soonchun lady’s mouth was wide open, she clapped her hands lightly. Finally, a sound came out of her mouth. “My goodness, my goodness! Are you really . . . ? Mr. Oh? Mr. Oh Hyun Woo?” Read Part Twenty-Three

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  • The Old Garden: “Now, I Am Going Back to Kalmae” (Part 22/28)

    The Old Garden: “Now, I Am Going Back to Kalmae” (Part 22/28)

    October 20, 2009

    Eighteen years ago on the night a typhoon arrived, I left for Seoul. Yoon Hee followed me to the bridge, holding onto an umbrella. Her peasant skirt with printed flowers was wet; her pointy rubber shoes kept coming off. The headlights of the last bus appeared out of the darkness. What looked like the eyes of a beast got bigger and bigger, reflected in the pouring rain. I turned around once before climbing up into the bus. Yoon Hee was going to say something but instead raised one arm halfway and meekly waved her hand. As soon as I got in, the bus departed. I tumbled and hurried toward the back window. For an instant I saw a trace of her body holding the umbrella, but it quickly disappeared into darkness. Read Part Twenty-Two

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  • The Old Garden: Kalmae (Part 21/28)

    The Old Garden: Kalmae (Part 21/28)

    October 15, 2009

    The driver checked out his passengers and climbed into his seat. Yoon Hee told him the destination, and I closed my eyes and pretended to sleep. The taxi traveled on an unpaved road, clouds of dust trailing behind, and crossed a hill. Our destination was the next village. It took about twenty minutes. We arrived at a tiny depot that looked like any other depot in any other town and got out. Yoon Hee left the taxi stand and walked down the main street, again just like in any other town. “I think it’ll be better to take a bus from here. We could have continued in the taxi, though. With a direct bus, it takes about forty minutes to my school.” “Where are we going now?” “Just follow me. I’m taking you to paradise.” Read Part Twenty-One

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  • The Old Garden: The Guy Who Disappeared into the Hwarang Cigarette Smoke (Part 20/26)

    The Old Garden: The Guy Who Disappeared into the Hwarang Cigarette Smoke (Part 20/26)

    October 14, 2009

    I went to see Han Yoon Hee, trusting the address Bong Han had gotten through numerous layers of contacts. I was going to quietly disappear if I detected any hesitation from her. She came to the inn around sunset. Yoon Hee was wearing a turtleneck sweater, a down parka, and a pair of casual pants. She did not look like someone going to work. In fact, carrying a little backpack, she looked more like a traveler than me. When Yoon Hee arrived, I had briefly fallen asleep in my room at the very back of the inn warmed by the wood furnace. Still, even in sleep, I felt the gentle movement and opened my eyes. The footsteps stopped on the porch, followed by a muffled cough. The sliding door cracked open silently. I stayed lying down, I just lifted my elbow from my forehead to turn my head and looked through the crack. Read Part Twenty

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  • The Old Garden: Nature Does Not Change (Part 19/26)

    The Old Garden: Nature Does Not Change (Part 19/26)

    October 13, 2009

    Right by the first entrance to the temple where pine trees were abundant, I sat on a rock to cool down. Underneath the rock where it was shaded, snow had frozen into ice, which was in turn slowly melting from the bottom, forming an endless little stream of pure droplets. I could hear a man and a woman talking to each other gently from down the hill. I guessed they were having a picnic. They were young. The man began singing in a high clear tenor. I return to the hill where I used to play, the old poet lied when he said that nature does not change. The grand pine tree that once stood here is now gone, cut down. I cannot forget their mindless singing. Just like an old movie. Read Part Nineteen

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