"Dear," I write. I struggle to keep the pen in my hands. I haven’t written in so long, see. Like write write. It’s just not the norm anymore these days. I don’t even recognize my own handwriting and my fingers tremble too much. The pushing of keys, of buttons is what I’m used to.
I would say my handwriting is like a really bad font.
"Dearest," I continue. I can’t decide how to address you in this letter. I can’t understand the necessity of it as I’ve always felt more comfortable talking to you face to face despite the general awkwardness of our relationship with each other. Committing words to paper just seems a bit too serious, too ridiculous. It means I won’t be able to take anything back should the need arises (as it always does in my case) and that is a very scary prospect.
I’ll just go with honesty.
"Hey." Hey is casual and approachable, but the period adds apathy. Most write it with exclamation points, but I’m not excited to write this letter. I want it to be calm and cold.
Just write the goddamn letter. Fine. Here we go.
I know it’s been ages since we last corresponded and…”
It’s beginning to sound so stupid.
"I know it’s been ages since we last talked. Things got pretty awkward and I am mostly to blame for that. Everything I said that day still holds true." Did I just make things awkward all over again? ”I’m not writing to take anything back because I still think the same of you. I’m writing to tell you the other things I left out because I was too nervous to say them to your face.”
"I met you at my loneliest and you at yours. Remember how I took a photo of you the minute we were introduced? I took it in color, but I saved it in black and white. It was perfect. Your eyes had a strange impact on me. They were always tired and watery and once, I even asked you if you were about to cry. Do you remember that? I always thought they reflected my own sadness right back at me and it made me feel, for once, that I was not alone in this.
We were both going through break-ups, but of entirely different kinds. Mine was stupid, shallow, irrelevant to the grander scheme of things. Yours was eternal, made for the books, the kind that no one can ever compete with. And yet there we were, in the same city, with the same dark shadows under our eyes, and discomfort in our own skin. I was inebriated with the idea of you and me. The idea that I created in my own head to the tune of instrumental Icelandic music that progressed faster than reality.
You’re amazing because of the way you held my camera so knowingly despite your preference for the other brand. You’re one of the few people I can honestly call talented without feeling the slightest bit of resentment. I believe it and though I envy it, I am more fascinated by it. You made me feel like a dilettante (which I really am), but you also challenged me. I wanted so bad to prove to you I was worth your time somehow.
You’re amazing because you try. Remember at Juicy Burger when I bought you lunch, you smiled in gratitude and cracked jokes about the couple in the table beside us. You tried to look happy, but your eyes refused to cooperate. You tried to talk about the break-up, but you couldn’t find the words to say. You tried and tried.
'Billetera, pasaporte, llaves de la casa, llaves de la auto.'
You said it over and over again at random moments. Sometimes you’d break the silence by this weird ritual of yours, patting each of your pockets to check if the contents were still there. Sometimes you’d whisper it to yourself while you crossed the street. Sometimes you’d mumble it while you drove us to the grocery store.
You obsessively guarded your possessions and I loved that. I thought it said a lot about you. I still do.
Why am I writing all these little things to you now? They were details you never thought much about and came so naturally to you.
You were your own person the whole time is what I wanted to say more than anything else. You were real and uncompromising in spite of your grief and your dissatisfaction. You missed her terribly and I felt so bad for you. And for myself. I couldn’t figure out how to help you. I couldn’t figure you out at all.
I’m writing this a year and a half after I met you. These memories hang on to me and everything’s still so fresh in my head. Maybe I’m trying to unload them by writing to you. Maybe I’m trying to understand.
Maybe I just want you to know that this is how I remember you. You’re amazing and until now, I stand by it wholeheartedly. I hope one day, you’ll believe it too.”
Signed, sealed, thrown in the trash.
By Young-Ha Kim
Translated from Korean by Chi-Young Kim
She was twenty-one, with fair, beautiful skin. Even when bare, her face glowed, always radiant and dewy. This was precisely why the dermatologist’s office hired her as the receptionist. Her job was simple. All she had to do was write down the patients’ names, tell them in a friendly voice, “please take a seat until we call your name,” find their charts, and hand them over to the nurses. Her glowing, translucent skin created high expectations, encouraging the patients to pour their trust in the office, which bustled with a sudden increase in patients.
But one day, her face started to break out. The problem began with the appearance of a small pimple, growing worse and worse until it spread across her entire face. Nobody could figure out why. At first, the young doctor, who had only managed to start business with the help of bank loans, treated her lightheartedly, but later zeroed in on her with desperation. And the more he focused on her, the more her condition worsened. Red spots covered her face, making her look like a splotchy pizza from far away. The despondent doctor pulled out his hair and the nurses hated her. One spring day, she left behind a note — “I apologize to everyone. I’m sorry” — and committed suicide. The office hired a new receptionist. Her skin was so luminous that everyone’s eyes squeezed shut.