- onNovember 10, 2014
- Vol.15 Spring 2012
- byHan Kang
- Greek Lessons
The woman brings her hands together in front of her chest. She wrinkles her forehead and looks up at the blackboard.
“Now, read it aloud.”
A man, with a smile playing on his lips, says to the woman. He is wearing a thick pair of silver-rimmed glasses.
The woman’s lips quiver. She licks her bottom lip with the tip of her tongue. Her hands fidget nervously but quietly in front of her. She parts her mouth momentarily, then closes it. She holds her breath, then inhales deeply. As if to say that he will wait patiently for her, the man takes a step away from her and towards the blackboard.
The woman’s eyelids shudder. Like layers of insect wings rubbing furiously against one another. She shuts her eyes tightly, expecting to be transported to a new place when she opens them again.
With fingers deeply imprinted with chalk, the man repositions his glasses.
“Go ahead. Read.”
The woman wears a black turtleneck sweater with black pants. Her coat draped across the chair is also black, as is the knitted scarf that rests in her large black canvas bag. Looking as if she had just walked out of a funeral, her gaunt face hovers above her black outfit. Her skin is coarse. She looks like a human clay sculpture that had been stretched out to look more emaciated.
The woman is neither young nor beautiful. There is a twinkle in her eyes, but because her eyelids never cease to twitch, their glimmer is barely noticeable. Her shoulders and her back are hunched over, as if she is escaping from the world into the darkness of her clothing, and her nails are cut painfully short. On her left wrist is a velvet maroon hair elastic – the only thing on the woman’s body with any color.
“Now everyone, together.”
The man can no longer wait for the woman to respond. He throws equally long, deliberate glances at the young college student sitting in the same row as the woman, the middle-aged man hiding halfway behind the column, and the heavy-set youth sitting askew by the window.
“Emos, emeteros. My, our.”
Three students read along quietly.
“Sos, humeteros. Your, your.”
The man standing at the podium looks to be in his mid to late thirties. His build is on the smaller side, but the line of his eyebrows and the depression between his nose and upper lip are prominent. A thin smile playing on his lips masks his thoughts. His dark brown corduroy jacket has a small patch of lighter brown leather at the elbows, and his wrists peek out of sleeves that are just a bit too short. He has a thin white scar curving from the edge of his left eye to the corner of his mouth. The woman looks up at it silently. When she had first noticed his scar, she imagined it as a trail of tears marked on an ancient map.