I Bought a Balloon
- onNovember 10, 2014
- Vol.6 Winter 2009
- byJo Kyung Ran
- I Bought a Balloon
The following excerpt is from the title story in Jo Kyung Ran’s fifth short story collection, I Bought a Balloon. The collection was awarded the Dong-in Literary Prize in 2008.
His therapeutic process didn’t look smooth or easy. Working on a daily journal was one of the many chores he had as part of his therapy. If his doctor gave him an assignment to drive around downtown, he had to record when he did it, who he did it with, and what degree of anticipatory anxiety he would feel. And how he would get beyond his anxiety if panic overcame him. For his first assignment, which was to drive around downtown, he drove up to my house without any warning and picked me up, although, having just gotten up, I was wearing thick horn-rimmed glasses because I didn’t have time to put in my contacts and had mismatched socks on my feet. It was one in the afternoon. Soon enough, it looked as if his heart was pounding, his neck was getting stiff, and he was beginning to breathe audibly. It didn’t seem possible that he would be able to stay in his lane. I was twirling my hair with my index finger, playing with a balloon in my pocket. When we passed the congested Dosan intersection, he confessed that he had a feeling that an enormous cement truck would plow into us in any moment.
I knew that his hands on the steering wheel were slick with sweat.
You know, I offered, you have to anticipate your fear and accept it. And you have to leave it alone as you acknowledge it, as you wait for it to pass. And you focus on what you can do right now. Then you have to acknowledge the progress you made by being one with your fear while you moved past it and you need to take this as an opportunity to practice not giving into the fear.