- The Mouth Waters
Tr. Jamie Chang 2007
“Sillim” conjures up a green forest. A forest full of trees, a young forest. The trees in the forest are green, like the light green of Seoul Metro Line Two. Most leaves are of a darker hue, but light green seems more right for Sillim trees. When I say “Sillim,” I can almost hear leaves from a distant forest rustling and whispering, supullim, supullim. Green seeps into my tongue when I say, “Sillim,” the same way a red banner somewhere in the corner of my heart flaps wildly when I say “Gupabal” out loud. Such associations have nothing whatsoever to do with the real Gupabal or the real Sillim.
I cross the Han River hugging a pillow. I have to transfer twice to get to Seoul National University Station. I sit in the middle of the bench, heels up. The pillow is in a large plastic bag that crumples irritably and noisily at the slightest movement. The sound is so frail that I hold it closer. A forest of buildings stands across the river. The translucent skin of the buildings reflects sunlight with their entire bodies. Through the billows of clouds, I see the expression on the face of Seoul at one in the afternoon. The spark of Seoul at one. There are too many windows in the world—people grow dark in all that light.
Where are you?
The phone vibrates. It’s my sister. Her question blinks with the small numbers that indicate when the message arrived.