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[Web Exclusive] Short Story Reading by Kim Bong-gon "Summer, Speed"

  • onAugust 6, 2019
  • Vol.44 Summer 2019
  • byKim Bong-gon

 

A pale yellow light seeped into the sea of blue. The light calmed me, and I changed position to float on my back. I heard the muffled chop-chop of waters as Young-woo swam around. For a brief moment, the sky took on a pinkish orange hue. The sun was coming up from below the bridge on the left, and the dense mat of cattails in the distance was shaking hard in the wind. The blue light was being pushed further to the right. With Young-woo swimming behind me, I went up to the bank.

I had 37 missed calls—all from Director Park. It was half past six.

Director, where are you? Director, hello? Director. Hey, where are you? Are you nuts? Will you fuckin’ get a grip? Answer the phone. Hey, whoever you’re sleeping with, he’s not going to make your film happen. Director, please pick up. Don’t tell me you want to play yourself in the film. Director Bong, did something happen? Please call.

Shaking myself dry, I looked back at Young-woo. Like a white buoy, he was floating in place. I couldn’t read his expression from where I was, but I imagined him to be smiling. You’re still trash after all these years. And I’m just horny as hell. Let’s never meet again, I mumbled to myself. I got dressed and found the exit. Nearby, there was a tunnel leading to the outside. The last I looked, Young-woo was deep underwater.

Near the floodgate, I was swept up in the sting of rejection. It was like deja vu—me turning him down yet left feeling dirty. When Young-woo admitted he didn’t like me, I felt like I was shunned by everyone I knew, even though he was just one person. Why couldn’t I differentiate the two. I was torturing myself with my thoughts and turning into a monster. Couples who look alike can be quite an ugly sight, he once said. Why did I think of it as his way of getting rid of me, when he was in fact in self-denial.

Why in the world did I fall for someone like you.

Not anymore, I decided. I won’t let you play me. I vowed to myself that I will have changed the moment I exit this tunnel, flooded with white light. I rang Director Park. But this time, she was the one who didn’t pick up. I continued walking—barefoot, forgetting I hadn’t packed my shoes—toward the end of the tunnel. Yeah, taking Director Park’s advice has always turned out well. I have no time to waste. Director Park, I’m sorry. Please wait for a while. You know how I get sometimes. This is the last time, I promise. But hey, you know, we could also make this into a film. You probably don’t think so, but I think it could. I must make sense of this rendezvous. I didn’t want to let him steal my sense of irony or sadness. I couldn’t be the one giving again. This feels like my role, or is it just me? Am I crazy for thinking so?

I didn’t answer when she called back. Turning off my cell phone, I flung it to the ground. The sun was up, and it couldn’t have been brighter. The silhouettes had all restored their colors. The foam created by Young-woo’s strokes sparkled in the sun. I took out the clothes I had worn at work for Young-woo to get changed into. At least they’re dry, I’m glad they don’t smell, I thought.

Seeing that I had returned, Young-woo slowly made his way to the bank. The hum of cicadas was growing intense, and Young-woo stopped for breath midway. After gazing at him for some time, I buried my face in my knees. When I lifted my head, he was closer than before. Young-woo was quietly swaying to the flow of the river, or perhaps, to the speed of summer.

 

translated by Park Kyoung-lee

 

 

Kim Bong-gon has authored the short story collection, Summer, Speed. He attended the Korea National University of Arts, graduating from the film academy and then the graduate program in creative writing. His career began in 2016 after he won the Dong-A Ilbo New Writer’s Contest for “Auto.” He was a finalist for the Lee Hyo-seok Literary Award and Munhakdongne Young Writer' s Award.