Ashes and Red
- onNovember 10, 2014
- Vol.12 Summer 2011
- byPyun Hye Young
- Ashes and Red
My ex-wife is dead. My ex-wife is dead. My ex-wife is dead. My ex-wife is dead. My ex-wife is dead. My ex-wife is dead. My ex-wife is dead.
He kept muttering the words to himself, but no matter how many times he repeated them, the truth would not sink in. Yujin was just playing a mean joke on him. Yujin knew that he had slept with his ex-wife after she divorced him and married Yujin, and now he had obviously spent the last few days coming up with ways to hurt him.
He slid open the door to the balcony. The smell of trash and disinfectant seeped into the room ; at the same time, a stunned sorrow spread out from the center of his body. It was not the sorrow of realizing his ex-wife was dead. The emotion he felt was similar to what he had experienced as a child, when he stood before the dark funeral portrait of his deceased mother. They had not let him see his mother’s body. No one in his family wanted him, just a boy at the time, to see what she looked like when she died, her body mangled from the traffic accident. Though he was just a boy, he knew what death was, but he did not yet understand what it meant that his “mother” had died.
The reason he had felt sad was his father. His father, dressed in a black suit cut from fabric too heavy for the season, dripped with sweat in the funeral home. He kept glancing at his father in that suit. The suit had been purchased for their wedding, nine years ago. A furniture wholesaler, his father wore jeans and a windbreaker to work everyday. Other than when he attended other people’s weddings, he almost never had reason to wear a suit. The jacket sleeves were too tight on his father, who had grown portly after marriage. The black fabric was wrinkled from bowing to the floor each time another mourner stepped up to the funeral portrait, then from sitting like a stone with his back slumped. The sleeves, which tightened like sausages each time he leaned forward to bow to someone who had come to pay their condolences, looked like they were going to burst. By the afternoon of the second day, the seam in the armpit finally gave way and the white shirt popped out. It looked like a white tongue. Everyone was too sad to care or to laugh. The sorrow of mourning enabled them to overlook the ridiculous. He kept glancing at the white fabric. It looked like his mother was sticking her tongue out at him to keep him from crying.
Later that night, after he had fallen asleep in the reception hall where several guests were still quietly tilting back glasses of alcohol, he was awakened by the sound of stifled sobs. His father was alone, crying, in front of the funeral portrait. He burst into tears. He cried because of the quiet funeral hall, the smell of spicy brisket soup that had thickened and condensed from boiling too long, the dark faces of the tired people, and the sight of his father bawling his eyes out. He cried from the sorrow of a son looking at his humble father dressed in a torn suit, teary face contorted and clownish, bald head beaded with sweat, and not out of mourning for a deceased mother.