- onOctober 18, 2016
- Vol.33 Autumn 2016
- byKim Junghyuk
At that time, I was living out of my car. I went around with all my belongings packed in the backseat and the cargo space of the van that the company gave me for work. “All my belongings” consisted of two boxes of clothes and three boxes of sundry items. After loading the fifty vinyl records in the car, I felt like I had suddenly become wealthier. The backseat became more crowded and one of the boxes had to be placed in the passenger seat. It felt somewhat idiotic to carry around records that I couldn’t even listen to, but there was no other way. Fifty records represented the minimum space needed to hold the memory of my brother.
While eating at a diner, I saw a TV commercial about a turntable that could be installed in the trunk of your car. I could not believe it. The sales pitch, “You can create a vintage life in your car,” didn’t seem trustworthy, and the voice of the host, claiming that I could enjoy my records without a single skip, sounded somewhat fraudulent. Nevertheless, I went straight to an authorized shop the very next day. After an hour of test driving, I found out that the advertisement was not a big lie. Even while driving over bumpy gravel roads, the records did not skip.
“How about if I introduce it as a product that opened a new era of shock absorption? It’s all true, not an exaggeration. The moment any shock is applied, the system in the trunk absorbs all of the shock completely. I don’t know how this will sound to you, but it’s like the system embraces the shock with its entire being. You know, something like a shock, depending on your attitude at the receiving end, can become nothing at all. A tiny shock can accompany a huge explosion, but an enormous shock can also become feather-light. We have not invented a new product, but instead have developed an attitude for accepting the shock,” the salesman, whose eyeglasses looked bigger than they were because his eyes were too close together, said while thumping on the trunk. It was as if he wanted to say, “To this system, a shock like this is no different from the air touching it.” It was an unusual way for a salesman to speak. While his face didn’t give much confidence, I kind of liked him for his unusual way of speaking. I liked his explanation that the shock was embraced by the whole body. I also liked the name of the product “Shock Hugger.” I installed the Shock Hugger in the cargo space of the van and, along with it, I also installed speakers and a record rack big enough for fifty records. I ended up spending a third of my monthly wage, but the fact that I would be able to work while listening to the records my brother left behind was a pleasure with no equal.
The Shock Hugger changed my everyday life. My mood improved a little after I started working while listening to music from the turntable in the back of the van. My mood, which had fallen below level two, sometimes went up to even level five. I liked that I was listening to my brother’s favorite music. The biggest change was that I had to take a break every thirty minutes no matter what. In order to keep on listening to music, I had to go to the back and flip the record. It was annoying at first, but after some getting used to, there were advantages to this. When the music stopped, I stopped the car. I did a stretching exercise for five minutes, and then went to the back to either flip the record or to choose a new one. Then, I drove again. From time to time, I parked the car and looked around at the surrounding scenery. It was something I hadn’t even dreamed of before installing the Shock Hugger.
After listening to the records over and over again, I felt like I began to understand my brother’s music preference, albeit vaguely. The fact that he bought the same records twice—whether he was aware of it or not—probably meant that he liked the records so much or that he wanted them greatly; thus, perhaps it was like I had picked fifty of my brother’s favorite records. All the records were from the 1960s. The 1960s was a time that preceded my birth, but the more I listened to the records, the more familiar the music seemed to me. I felt like while time was marching forward, my mind and body had continued taking backward steps and, in the end, had retreated to a time when I hadn’t even been born. Despite all this, I was comfortable.
The Shock Hugger changed my life as well. Had it not been for my brother, I would not have had the records. Had it not been for the records, I would not have needed the Shock Hugger, and had it not been for the Shock Hugger, I would not have met Hong Hyejeong. Had it not been for Hong Hyejeong, I would not have met her. Every single thing that had happened to me was connected. I don’t know if this is the case for other people as well, but life for me was a single straight line. One event was the result of the preceding event and the cause of the subsequent event. Just like a domino topples the next domino, all events were connected. I don’t know what the very first domino was. The beginning, perhaps, is not something so important. The important thing is that I’m standing here now, and the fact that this event will be the cause of another event. Right now, I am standing among hundreds of zombies. I’m standing here where the air is filled with clamor and the stench of blood. I’m just curious about my life’s next domino.
Translated by Hwang Kyu Hyung