Han Mahl-Sook was born in Seoul in 1931, the youngest of four children of a scholarly family. She graduated from Seoul National University with a degree in Linguistics in 1955. She taught literature and Korean language at Seoul National University for fourteen years. In more recent years she has written many newspaper columns and essays spotlighting social and political problems.
She began her literary career in 1957 with the publication of a short story, Shinhwa ui tanae (Shattered Myths) in the journal Hyondae Munhak (Modern Literature). In 1964 she was awarded the Outstanding New Writer Award by the same journal and in 1969 she received the Best Literature Award presented by the Hankook Ilbo newspaper.
She has published six short-story collections, three novels, and a collection of essays. Her works have been translated into English, French, Czech, Chinese, Portuguese, German, Polish, and Japanese. "Shattered Myths" and Yosu (Travel-weary Blues) have both been filmed.
The short story that follows, Sarang e Chich'il ttae (Tired of Love), with its exploration of the dangers and difficulties of lasting relationships, displays many of the characteristics of her most acclaimed work. Her main interest lies in the wounded psychology and disturbed ethical standards of the individuals portrayed in her tales. The trauma of the Korean War underlies these topics, which in many stories lead to a questioning or a failure of love and human relationships in general. In many ways the attitude to life displayed in her work may be called existential.
Tired of Love
HAN MAHL SOOK
"Well, for God's sake, there must be a Western devil stuck to the Lee family. Really stuck to it . . . Damn! How can things be messed up like this?" said Auntie as if talking to herself as she plopped her stout body down on the sofa with a thud. Even though she was over eighty, her complexion was clear with few wrinkles and her eyes innocent like a child's.
"So now who's having an affair with an American?" Yo※-ok asked herself. Without responding to her aunt, she put a green jade necklace on over a black one-piece dress. "The love's gone but I still have this thing."she told herself as was her habit every time she wore the necklace, an engagement gift from her second husband.
"A Wes-Western devil is stuck to it. Oh my. What a disgrace!" Auntie struck her chest and wrinkled up her brow. It seemed like she would burst into tears any moment. Her expression became even worse as Yo※-ok did not say anything.
Though she knew how her aunt felt, Yo※-ok feigned ignorance and just put on her coat and prepared to take the car Cho※ng-ok said she would send at half past the hour. Although they were sisters, Cho※ng-ok and Yo※-ok didn't visit each other often. However, Cho※ng-ok had telephoned an hour before and said in a melancholy voice, "Sis, please come over. I have something to discuss." She said that she wanted to go to Yo※-ok's house but couldn't for she was having to lie down because her blood pressure was up. Yo※-ok thought that since Auntie had come unexpectedly and had said over and over that the family was ruined, what she was saying must have something to do with Cho※ng-ok's phone call.
"Your mother certainly died at a good time. She doesn't have to face all of this. If you're doing to live a long life, you have to expect to be disgraced . . . Oh, damn!"
To Yo※-ok, her deeply sighing aunt was both bothersome and cute. Putting lemon in her aunt's teacup, she said, "Now stop that and drink your tea."
Auntie sipped her tea a couple of times and frowned. "You don't know? Then you haven't even heard the rumors? Your bloodline is being destroyed . . . You may have a different surname, but it's the same blood since she's your younger sister's daughter. That's for sure!"
"What do you mean my bloodline? Auntie, has the family ever thought of me as a person?"
Auntie seemed to wince a little at Yo※-ok's words. "And what does that mean?"
"Why, don't you know what I'm talking about?" Recalling how distantly her mother had treated her after her second marriage, Yo※-ok suddenly felt like something was boiling in her chest. "At this age, I shouldn't let such things bother me," she told herself and cut some banannas into easy-to-eat pieces and pushed a plate of them in front of her aunt.
"What you're done if nothing."
They were getting closer to what Auntie had been wanting to say since before. She was irritated because Yo※-ok's curiosity wasn't aroused. She ate three pieces of bananna one after another and drank down her whole cup of tea.
"Well, do you know that Myo※ng-yo※n has supposedly fallen in love with a German bastard?" Having finally said what was on her mind, Auntie tried to discern how Yo※-ok felt about it.
"A German?" Yo※-ok exclaimed to herself. She was so surprised, she merely said, "Really?" She recalled having gone to a graduation party for Cho※ng-ok's oldest daughter early last spring. It seemed like only yesterday that she was going to see her with baby clothers upon hearing of her birth and already she had graduated from college and was in love . . . Thinking about how fast time goes, she unconsciously nodded her head.
"How is it that you don't know such a widely known rumor? It has the whole capital stirred up."
"Come on, Auntie. The whole capital? What's so great about a love affair?"
Auntie didn't even pretend to listen to Yo※-ok. "Ku※n-u married a Western bitch, and now Myo※ng-yo※n is going to marry a Western bastard. If I live any longer, I couldn't see anything worse . . ."
Whenever they were getting to the heart of a matter, Auntie would not listen to what anyone had to say. Even when Yo※-ok fell in love the first time, Auntie was so indignant that she couldn't control her anger and ended up slapping yo※-ok on the cheek after saying that she waw such a disgrace she deserved to be kicked out of the Lee clan and that her willful behavior had destroyed the marriage chances of her brothers and sisters and had damaged the lives of many people. That was thirty years ago. Despite their oldest sister's love affair, the brothers and sisters for whom Auntie was so worried married well and were still happily married, while Yo※-ok, who had to put up with a lot of fuss and even had her face slapped, was divorced within two years of her marriage. At the time of the divorce, Auntie, who had been so against the marriage, became outraged and insisted that it would never do for her to divorce. She screamed that divorce was an unprecedented disaster, that once a woman marries, she should die in her husband's family and become its ghost. Yo※-ok married again after a very passionate love affair, which was very sordid as the man was married at the time and ended up divorcing his wife in order to marry her. However, Yo※-ok divorced him within a year of their marriage. At that time, Auntie went uninvited to Yo※-ok's house and wailed and wailed at the top of her voice about how shameful it was for a woman to be married twice and divorced twice and how could she face the world. Though Yo※-ok was the one who had demanded the divorce, no amount of explaining could convince Auntie that she was. She even scolded Yo※-ok's parents. "Why would anyone send a girl to a college?" she exclaimed. "Didn't I warn you when you were putting her on the ferry for Tokyo?" But she didn't know that Yo※-ok threatened to kill herself if they didn't send her abroad to study. In her second year of college, Yo※-ok fell in love and quit school to get married.
Yo※-ok looked at her watch. Thirty minutes had passed. Because she had an appointment with Professor Cho※ng Chi-jun at six o'clock, she had planned to spend from three-thirty to five-thirty with Cho※ng-ok, but if the car came late, she would have that less time to spend with her.
"It was only last year Ku※n-u married that American bitch--"
"How about dropping the word 'bitch,'" Yo※-ok interrupted. "Helen is Ku※n-u's lawful wife."
"Ahm, yes you're right. She is my nephew's wife. but are you aware of what Ku※n-u is to our family which has been around for twelve generations?"
"Since you know everything so well, what's the problem?" Yo※-ok was beginning to lose her temper.
"It's worse because I do know. I'll say everything I have to say today. I'll do it to get everything off my chest before I die. They bragged so much about Ku※n-u going to America to get a doctorate and about how much money he was making. But what good is all that money when he just makes it to feed that American bitch? Even if he made a million tons of gold, what good would it be? Who would ever put a boy on a plane for America so that he could feed some American bitch? Don't say this old woman is senile. But say something!"
The tendons in Auntie's neck bulged as if she were ready to fight. Yo※-ok was shocked seeing her aunt is a new light. Considering international marriage from an economics point of view was something she had never even thought about.
"So then love must be a good thing. Otherwise, how could a poor Korean feed a rich foreigner?"
"Is that all you can say? You can't call someone family if you can't communicate. And what kind of daughter-in-law is like a stranger from the beginning?"
Ku※n-u came home last summer for the first time in seven years and brought Helen. Auntie would pat her on the back and whenever they were in a room together, she would pull her by the hand and make her sit beside her, all the time saying, no matter whether Helen understood or not, "You must be tired " or "It must be hard for you," and treating her kindly and affectionately. So everybody thought that actually meeting Helen had changed her way of thinking. But on the way back from seeing Ku※n-u and Helen off, she grumbled over and over, "What a waste of a fine boy! Is that any way for the eldest grandson of twelve generations to act?" Perhaps because no one said a word, she became angry and shouted at Yo※-ok and Myo※ng-yo※n, "Why don't you say something? You think I've become senile so you're not going to treat me like a person! Dumbfounded by her sudden change in attitude, Yo※-ok sighed and thought that it was good Auntie hadn't acted that way in front of Helen. Since she was always treating guess better than was necessary, it seemed Auntie had treated Helen Since she was dlways treating guests better than was necessary, it seemed Auntie had treated Helen as a guest.
The driver telephoned. He said he would be about thirty minutes late because he had an urgent task to do. Yo※-ok wished that she could practice the piano during that time but, deciding it would be rude to leave Auntie sitting alone, she took off her coat, put it on the armrest, sat down in a comfortable position and drank some tea. She was able to live by herself rather comfortably because she had opened a jewelry store with what little money she had and it was thriving. She had taken up piano because she wanted to lose herself in something but even after three years she still played poorly.
Showing no concern for Yo※-ok's feelings, Auntie said, "What's happening to the Lee family is certainly not normal!"
"Myo※ng-yo※n isn't a Lee. She's a Kim."
"But her mother is a Lee."
"Now that's enough. If they like each other, that's all that matters."
"Ahm, If they like each other, that's all that matters. still, we're just really fortunate he's not a Japanese bastard."
Because things never went smoothly once Auntie said the word "Japanese," Yo※-ok quickly said, "Since Cho※ng-ok is sending the car, let's go together. Shouldn't we find out exactly what's going on with Myo※ng-yo※n?" But Auntie didn't even hear her.
"Do you know why America dropped the atom bomb? It was to make the Japanese bastards suffer because they slaughtered our people. That's the way revenge works. They should have really destroyed those bastards but America is always too soft." Auntie looked Yo※-ok right in the eyes and spoke with great deliberation as if she was giving advice.
Auntie hated the Communists most, then Japan and then the Syngman Rhee faction. Her grandson Wanted to marry a girl who was 90 percent perfect in terms of education, looks and personality but around the time of the April 19, 1960 Student Revolution, she rejected her completely without the slightest hesitation for no other reason than her father was a high-ranking official in Syngman Rhee's government. She said that people might forgive Rhee but heaven never would because even though it is the law of nature and of heaven and earth for flowers to last only ten days, he had ignored the will of heaven by trying to get elected a fourth time, and, moreover, even though the people's will is heaven's will, he had the students gunned down simply because they were against him. Being a firm believer in that, nothing could make her waver the least bit from her belief.
Though it had come up in their conversation, Yo※-ok didn't dare try to explain about the atomic bomb. Once when they were on the subject of the Japanese and the atomic bomb and she talked about how powerfully destructive the bomb was, Auntie cried out, "So are you pro-Japanese?" and, shaking her fist ar Yo※-ok, jumped up and screamed over and over and over at everyone, "Are you pro-Japanese? Are you? Are you pro-Japanese? " However, perhaps because she was caught up in the business of Myo※ng-yo※n's love affair, she didn't criticize the Japanese but said instead, "What't that? You'll find out if it's true or not about Myo※ng-Yo※n?" Do you think Kye-dong would spread a groundless rumor?"
Kye-dong was Yo※-ok's sister-in-law and Ku※n-u's mother. Who was usually called by the name of the wealthy area where she lived. As she could guess what was going on, Yo※-ok suddenly laughed.
When they heard that Ku※n-u was going to marry Helen, not only Auntie but all the rest of the family too said that it was because Ku※n-u had been addicted to Western things from childhood since his mother was a worshiper of Western things, always having to have Western books, Western music, even Western cookies and candies, and they all scorned Ku※n-u and his mother. And so, because she felt lice she had committed a sin against them, Kye-dong could not face her in-laws and thus began to visit them infrequently. When Ku※n-u and his wife came home, if he called to see what time would be good for them to visit for formal introductions, instead of expressing happiness at hearing from him or thanking him for calling, the first thing anyone said was, "Oh my, I need to know English." Although true, the words hurt. Even Yo※-ok, who was majoring in English literature when she quit school after two years and still read English books, was nervous and frustrated because she could't speak English fast enough when she tried to talk to Helen. Helen tried very hard to use her not very fluent Korean but it only made everyone more aware that she was a foreigner.
Kye-dong sister probably didn't simply tell this stubborn woman that Myo※ng-yo※n was having a love affair with a German. Since a Western daughter-in-law had come into the family because of her, and now Cho※ng-ok's daughter was bringing a Western son-in-law into it, she probably said something like, "She must like Germany," enjoying a little revenge for the bad feelings she had endured for a long time.
Cho※ng-ok's car finally came. Yo※-ok thought about what she should do with Auntie and then said, "Let's go together." Because she would have to call a taxi if Auntie were to go by car, it seemed best to take her in Cho※ng-ok's car.
Auntie said, "Why should I go when I wasn't invited?"
"Then stay here, have dinner and then go,"Yo※-ok said from the stone step-up.
"I'll go too. There's no reason I shouldn't "Auntie said, hurriedly putting on her long traditional style coat. Everything was up to her whim. Despite her capriciousness, she got along well with all the family including Yo※-ok.
The wind was cold but the sunlight was just like spring. Yo※-ok turned the car heater up. The car went over the Changch'ung-dong Pass and the alley leading to Cho※ng-ok's house came into view. "It's embarrassing!" Auntie exclaimed all of a sudden. "It's so embarrassing how can we hold up our head?"
Not knowing whether Cho※ng-ok was keeping it a secret or not, Yo※-ok poked Auntie on the back of her hand lest the driver understand what she meant. Because she was always talking about something being embarrassing, Auntie often brought herself unnecessary trouble.
The daughter of a wealthy aristocratic family, she was clever and beautiful when young. She had a doting husband and enjoyed a trouble-free life. She of course knew no financial problems but she also knew no love problems. Yo※-ok felt that even though she was just over fifty, she had lived as much as her aunt who was over eighty years old. She felt that even though she didn't have any wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, her heart was deeply grooved. Quickly understanding the poke on her hand to be a sign to be careful of the driver, Auntie bit her lip and stared straight ahead.
The car stopped. Yo※-ok gave the driver a two hundred won tip and got out of the car. She reached out a hand to help Auntie get out but she said, "I really don't want to set eyes on that girl, " and jerked around.
Yo※-ok bit down on the finger and said to the driver, "I'm sorry. Please take her to Ch'o※ngun-dong."
Nodding over and over, the driver sped away. He was probably thinking it was best to take the elderly woman on before she could change her mind.
Cho※ng-ok welcomed Yo※-ok and showed her to the parlor. Yo※-ok didn't know when the room had been changed, but the curtains, carpets, everything were in shades of green, making her feel like spring. Everything had been in shades of cool blue when she visited last summer.
Cho※ng-ok had said that she had to lie down because her blood pressure was up but she didn't look like she needed to lie down. She looked a little thinner than before but Yo※-ok thought that was good because she had heard that it was better for a person with high blood pressure to be thin than stout. Cho※ng-ok's color wasn't good but her skin looked well taken care of and, dressed in a long greenish dress, she looked like a woman in her prime. However, the high blood pressure, the weakened eyesight requiring glasses, and the one or two white hairs were all undeniable signs of menopause.
'"Sis, I asked you to come because I have a favor to ask, " Cho※ng-ok said apologetically as she sat down on the sofa.
Yo※-ok didn't need to hear to guess what the favor was. Several years ago when Ku※n-u sent a final letter saying that he was going to marry Helen even if it meant cutting all ties with his parents, Kye-dong visited her, something she rarely did, and implored her to talk to Ku※n-u for she thought he might listen to advice from her. As they had always kept their distance from her, Yo※-ok knew they really didn't value her advice and that their real motive was to use her failed marriages as an example. Still, even though she knew she was a failure when it came to love, her feelings were hurt because they were trying to use her. Nevertheless, she eventually did as requested and sent a letter to Ku※n-u saying that love is nothing when it is over, that not loving is better than having loved and failed. She wrote what she was told to write but it was not something she hadn't felt. She often regretted that she had only known the kind of love that meant nothing when it was over.
"Well, Sis, Myo※ng-yo※n--"Cho※ng-ok began and bowed her head. Her cheeks became flushed.
As if she didn't know anything, Yo※-ok said, "What about Myo※ng-yo※n?"
"Well, it's like this. There's this German engineer and--"
"Did the man jilt her?" Yo※-ok said, playing ignorant.
"No, it would be better if he had."
Yo※-ok couldn't say anything as she thought that it was ridiculous to say that being jilted was preferable to being loved by a foreigner.
"Sis, I'm sorry but please tell her to forget him. Her father has been scolding her like crazy but I can see it doesn't do any good--I'd be truly grateful if you'd say something to her."
"Ae, why do you think she'd listen to me when she won't listen to her own parents?"
"It just seems like she would."
knowing what Cho※ng-ok meant, Yo※-ok laughed to herself. "I said all I possibly could to Ku※n-u but it didn't do any good. Don't scold her so much. Why don't you change your mind instead?"
Cho※ng-ok's eyes opened wide in surprise. "Sis, you mean you're still--"
"Yes, I'm still interested in love. If only there was someone. I'd have a love affair now. I really mean it," Yo※-ok said and lit a cigarette and held it in her mouth. The face of Professor Cho※ng Chi-jun floated through her mind and vanished. It was a wide, clean, composed, determined face.
"Sis, do you fan a burning house?"Cho※ng-ok handed Yo※-ok a glass of orange juice and said, "What do you find enjoyable about smoking? It's supposed to be bad for your health."
"I don't know. I just smoke."
"You're always like that, Sis."
"Does she think that is why I keep; falling in love?" Yo※-ok said to herself and smiled because she didn't have to ask to herself and smiled because she didn't have to ask to know what Cho※ng-ok meant.
"I'm serious. Just think of it as saving my life and please speak to Myo※ng-yo※n."
"All right I'll l do whatever you say. Just tell me what in the world I'm supposed to say"
"Sis, you talk real well," Cho※ng-ok said as she didn't dare tell her to say: "Look at me What is love? If you split up it's nothing, it's over, he'll never look for you again."
"Whenever I scold Myo※ng-yo※n, she just complains that her friends date lots of men and get money and gifts and do all kinds of filthy things while all she does is love Stern and Stern only and that she didn't take another woman's husband or--"Cho※ng-ok stopped, remembering Yo※-ok's second husband was a married man.
"That's right. It's not like she took another's husband, or did it for money. Her way of thinking is healthier than yours." Yo※-ok quickly said, cleverly preventing her sister any further embarrassment.
"That's the use of living if, after you raise them, your kids turn out like this? Sis, you don't have kids so you don't know how I feel."
"But that isn't just with children. It's the same with anything that falls short of your expectations."
"Sis, do you think I'm in the right frame of mind to think about such generalities. My only concern is what to do with Myo※ng-yo※n--He's a German but I don't know what kind. He's just a bastard who quit school to come be an engineer at a construction company here. He couldn't even finish university so you can imagine how bad things must be with him. I'm so ashamed. I'm only telling you because you're my sister. I'm afraid for anyone else to know." Cho※ng-ok sighed.
"No one cares about a person's ancestry in this day and age. The big thing is to graduate from college, right? So he must be very talented, otherwise how could he get a job working overseas when he didn't finish university. . . "
Cho※ng-ok shook her head back and forth. "You just don't know, Sis."
"How can I, when I haven't even seen him? Have you seen him?"
"Yes, two times."
" . . "
"He's all right looking. But what good is that? " Cho※ng-ok squeezed her temples with her fingertips as though her head hurt.
"How deep are they?"
"Well, when I told him to give up because my daughter had to go to the United States to study, he said he would not only follow her to the United States but off the earth to marry her. That kind of audacious talk made Myo※ng-yo※n fall even more head over heels in love with him. I might be punished for saying this, but I wish he would just drop dead. I truly do."
"Ho-cham! "sighed deeply and lit a cigarette.
"She's even gotten her visa but because of that bastard her future has turned completely upside down. I'm so chagrined I could die. "Cho※ng-ok's face flushed and her voice shook.
Yo※-ok said what she had wanted to before. "Looking at you, I think you would feel the same if Stern wasn't German. I think you would feel the same with any young man if he didn't have money, a good education or a good family background, even a Korean. Right?"
Cho※ng-ok jerked her hands from her forehead and stared at Yo※-ok. "Well, maybe you're right,"she said in a shaky voice, throwing up her arms as if to surrender. "But to make matters worse, he is a foreigner. It's just one bad thing in top another. No matter what I do, I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive her. So, Sis please give her some advice."
"Talking is easy."
Cho※ng-ok pushed the call-button and said to tell Myo※ng-yo※n to come in. A young maid came in and said, "Sissy is taking a bath," and went out.
"Well, if Myo※ng-yo※n goes to the Unite States, won't Stern go there?" asked Yo※-ok.
"He can't go. He has to stay here two more years according to his contract."
"What if he goes when he finishes his contract?"
Cho※ng-ok let out a long sigh. "By then she should be a better judge of character and more critical, and, who knows, maybe she will have found someone else. But in anycase, we have to put out the fire that is burning now."
It seemed like Cho※nh-ok was pianning to wait till things cooled down. That could be one solution. But she said that Myo※ng-yo※n was trying to avoid going to the United States, that to meet Stern everyday, she was refusing to go study in the United States, something she had longed very much to do.
"We tried to send her quickly but she put it off from day to day to meet that bastard and--"
There was a knock at the door and Myo※ng-yo※n came in. "So it's you, Auntie!" she said cheerily and sat down beside Cho※ng-ok. Her black hair looked even blacker and gleaming as it wasn't completely dry. "What's going on, Mother?" She cocked her head to one side and stared at Cho※ng-ok.
Yo※-ok looked at Myo※ng-yo※n's intelligent looking eyes, well-shaped, pretty nose, and pouting lips and thought she was cute enough to eat. Thinking it was only natural for even a German to like her, she said, "I came because I have something to say."
With a flicker in her eyes, Myo※ng-yo※n glanced suspiciously at Yo※-ok.
"About your love affair--" Yo※-ok started talking but then bit down on her cigarette.
"Are you also against it, Auntie? "Myo※ng-yo※n asked outright.
"Why should I be against it? I just want you to look at me and know that love is nothing special." Once she started talking, Yo※-ok felt that she should do all she could to prevent Myo※ng-yo※n from some future misfortune. "Myo※ng-yo※n, give it a lot of thought. I too got married because I loved a man so much I could die. Two times even."
Myo※ng-yo※n suddenly covered her face with her hands and fell over on the arm of the chair crying.
"Why are you crying?" shrieked Cho※ng-ok as if something were bursting inside her. Myo※ng-yo※n jumped up and ran out of the room. Cho※ng-ok got up, closed the door and plopped down on the sofa.
"Don't just scream at her! Don't you think she must be thinking about what is the best thing to do? She's thinking she'll just give up, but that only makes her want him more, and telling her that love is nothing special only makes her sadder. You don't know anything."
"Sis, do you think that a person who hasn't had a love affair doesn't know anything? Not having a love affair doesn't mean a person doesn't know how to love. Some just do it discreetly instead of being scandalous. It's all a question of whether one does it emotionally or rationally. By being rational, one can reach a higher plateau in life." Cho※ng-ok flew into a rage. It seemed her scorn for Yo※-ok, who ended up shabbily every time she had an affair, had returned. Yo※-ok also had a change of heart. She thought that she had something worth saying.
"What do you mean by higher plateau? When I was young, having a love affair was sinful. Now you think it's all right but not if the person isn't famous or rich. If Stern was the son of the German president, you wouldn't scold her, would you?"
"I know what you mean, but, Sis, having a foreign spouse isn't your normal handicap. Even people of the same nationality have their differences after living together for a while. And, moreover, who knows what might happen to relations between countries? A friend today could be an enemy tomorrow. Loving is good but there's also the matter of national pride and racism. It's bad enough being a small, weak people but we're also an underdeveloped country. What if they ostracize her, calling her a hopeless barbarian? It's certainly not a simple problem that begins and ends with a man and a woman." Cho※ng-ok's words contained a bone of truth.
"Well, if she can't stand it, she can quit."Yo※-ok spoke recklessly, knowing that she was incapable of dissuading either Cho※ng-ok or Myo※ng-yo※n.
"Oh, Sis, in this short life, if you quit every time you feel like it, you'll never accomplish anything. I've never met anyone who didn't change his mind after asserting that love is the most important thing in the world. Everyone falls in love sometime. But life is so much more beautiful when you cherish those feelings in your heart for a long time instead of having a tumultous love affair which ends with a denial of love and then falling passionately in love with someone else."
"Why does it seem like you're preaching about me? Yo※-ok asked as Cho※ng-ok's logical words reminded her of her own stupidity.
"Ah, Sis, I'm not talking about you. It's just that you're provoking me when Myo※ng-yo※n already has my nerves on end."Cho※ng-ok laughed and looked reproachfully at Yo※-ok. "I'm sorry I've done nothing but fuss. It's been such a long time since you've been here but, well, I haven't been myself recently." In a flash, Cho※ng-ok's face took on an apologetic look and she became quiet. Yo※-ok thought that she could understand Cho※ng-ok and was overwhelmed by a desire to help her as best she could. Cho※ng-ok certainly had a knack for manipulating Yo※-ok. "Stay for dinner," said Cho※ng-ok. "I've prepared your favorite--fried shrimp."
Yo※-ok almost said that she had a dinner appointment with Professor Cho※ng but instead said, "No, I don't have time. I have to go check on the store and I have to practice since I have a lesson tomorrow."
"Oh, I see." Cho※ng-ok said and didn't try to detain her.
They went out of the parlor.
"How well do you play the piano?" asked Cho※ng-ok.
"Sis, there's something good in your character." Cho※ng-ok said as she turned Yo※-ok's shoes so that she could step into them easily.
"Something good?" Yo※-ok repeated to herself. She couldn't decide if this meant her beginning to study belatedly, her frankness in admitting her poor ability, or her way of never getting angry at hurtful words. "Well, thanks," she said and got into Cho※ng-ok's waiting car.
When Yo※-ok was in love, she suffered, and when she wasn't in love, she felt empty. Such had been her life. But now, after talking with Cho※ng-ok, she felt like there was something more valuable in life than having a love affair.
On returning home after Professor Cho※ng made a rather indirect confession of love, Yo※-ok slumped on the sofa and cried for a long time before changing her clothes. She couldn't stop crying because of her happiness and yearning. Professor Cho※ng, her four-year junior, had been widowed for three years and had two sons in college. They could marry, but, being so passionately in love, Yo※-ok had never thought of getting married. These days they telephoned each other and met every day. They would meet in a coffee shop and talk, or have dinner, see a movie and then sit and talk; they only parted when it was almost curfew.
About ten days later, Yo※-ok received a telephone call from Cho※ng-ok.
"Sis," Cho※ng-ok said but choked up so much she couldn't continue.
Yo※-ok's heart plunged as she was scared that something bad had happened to Myo※ng-yo※n. "What's wrong? What's wrong?" she asked.
Cho※ng-ok finally managed to stop crying and said, Myo※ng-yo※n said she'll go to the United States."
"What?" Anger quickly followed the relief Yo※-ok felt and she shouted, "Then why are you crying?"
"Because I feel sorry for having scolded her so much for seeing that no-good person and--"
"You don't have anything to feel sorry for."
"But she'd never been scolded in her life. She's always been a good child--"
"All right. All right. So when is she leaving?"
"The day after tomorrow. A three-thirty plane. Thanks, Sis. She said that she made up her mind because of what you said. I'll never forget what you've done for us."
"Why? What did I tell her to make her decide that way?" As if she had done something very bad, Yo※-ok's heart skipped a beat.
Cho※ng-ok didn't answer but instead said, "I will send over my spare car. Please bring Ch?※ngun-dong Auntie. Thank again." and clicked off.
Although there wasn't any more Cho※ng-ok could have said, Yo※-ok was hurt and disappointed because she clicked off as soon as she said what she wanted to say. Thinking she wasted her youth on useless love affairs because it was her character to dwell on useless things like that, Yo※-ok smiled wryly and slowly replaced the receiver.
She felt guilty that Myo※ng-yo※n had given up on her advice. She consoled herself with the thought that it was worth feeling guilty if Myo※ng-yo※n could become happier by forsaking love but she couldn;t get rid of her guilty feelings completely.
She wanted to take Myo※ng-yo※n shopping to select a going away gift but she didn't have the chance because Myo※ng-yo※n didn't have time. So in her own shop, she gift wrapped in very pretty paper an amethyst pendant and ring. Feeling that they weren't enough, she wrapped a topaz tie pen set. When the clerk asked her what kind of gift was that for a girl, she said, "If she gets a boyfriend, she can give it to him." Then she prayed silently that Myo※ng-yo※n would definitely get a very good boyfriend.
Cho※ng-ok's spare car arrived. Auntie and her granddaughter Kyo※ng-hu※i, a college student, were inside as the Ch'o※ngun-dong car was taking Auntie's oldest son's wife, who was going because he didn't have time, and Auntie's second and third grandsons and her youngest granddaughter. Yo※-ok grimaced at the prospect of hearing all kinds of complaints from Auntie but she didn't have any other choice since she didn't have a car of her own.
The sky was clear and the weather was hot. All of a sudden it seemed like summer had arrived. It was excellent weather for traveling on a plane.
Yo※-ok stopped the car in front of a florist shop and had a corsage made. At first she wanted to make it with red carnations but, thinking that the deep color might make the face of the girl who had forsaken love look sadder, she had it made of pink ones. She had a ribbon tied to the corsage so she could write a few words on it but she couldn't think of any words to write. She decided she would think about what to write on the way and got in the car.
The car came to the Second Han River Bridge but still she hadn't thought of a phrase to write. Finally she decided to write "Be healthy and successful." It was very trite but it seemed appropriate since health is the most important thing when one is studying abroad and one should certainly be successful after going a long way to study. The car jolted so much she couldn't write so she decided she would write it when she got to the airport.
Auntie, who had been dozing from Sejongno Street, woke up when they got across the bridge. She gazed out the window at the sun dappled Han River. "Oh my,"she suddenly said, wiping her eyes with a handkerchief. "When will I ever see Myo※ng-yo※n again?"
Auntie's words pierced Yo※-ok's heart and she wondered how much longer Auntie would live.
Auntie sighed deeply and said, "I won't be around when--"
"what are you talking about? " Yo※-ok said immediately. "She's not going away forever. She'll be back in about five years."
"Five years?" Auntie wiped the tears streaming down her face.
Yo※-ok felt hot tears welling up in her eyes and gritted her teeth to keep them from spilling out for Auntie to see. It wasn't only because of Auntie. Thinking about how Myo※ng-yo※n must be feeling to be deserting her lover also made her sad and she was afraid that once she began to weep, there would be no way to keep back the tears.
When Yo※-ok and her group arrived at the airport, Myo※ng-yo※n was having her picture taken with her family. Cho※ng-ok appeared to be trying to hide her tear-swollen eyes as she did not remove her dark glasses even for the picture taking. She seemed to be crying now as she kept dabbing her cheeks with a handkerchief.
After taking several pictures with her family, Myo※ng-yo※n posed with her friends in front of the camera. Yo※-ok thought that Myo※ng-yo※n's bright smiles were fake but then she realized to her dismay that they were genuine. Myo※ng-yo※n's shapely legs under the short skirt moved briskly and her body and face seemed to be brimming with freshness and joy. It certainly wasn't how Yo※-ok imagined the face of someone who with great heartache had forsaken her lover to look. Intuition told her that Myo※ng-yo※n had not forsaken Stern but that they had made a promise to meet outside the country. Having been passionately in love as well as loved passionately, Yo※-ok was sure her intuition was correct. You can't feel it if you haven't esperienced it, she thought.
Since Stern was a foreigner he could travel at will so perhaps they arranged to meet in Tokyo in a few days or perhaps he was already waiting there for her. The thought made Yo※-ok feel very lighthearted as if a great burden had been removed from her shoulders. She also felt like advising Myo※ng-yo※n that it wasn't too late to change her mind.
With mixed feelings Yo※-ok wrote on the corsage ribbon, "Be happy! And don't forget your Fatherland!" instead of the phrase she had thought of earlier. When she wrote the word "Fatherlane," a great feeling of patriotism welled up inside her.
Yo※-ok pinned the corsage on Myo※ng-yo※n's chest while she was preparing to go through the turnstile and then, without a word, she hugged her.
Myo※ng-yo※n bid farewell to her family and passed through the turnstile with even lighter steps than before. Watching her going away, abandoning her parents and her studies for the sake of a man who she trusted like the sun, Yo※-ok was suddenly overcome with a feeling of immense emptiness.
"Come home with me, Sis," Cho※ng-ok said through her tears.
Yo※-ok refused the offer and went straight home from the airport. After taking a shower, she telephoned Professor Cho※ng. "I'm afraid I won't be able to see you for the time being. . . What?. . . No. That's not it. I love you. It's just that, well, for several reasons I'm going to the countryside. . . Tonight. . . No. No. You don't have to see me off. There's a number of people going. Good-by."
It was all a lie. She simply wanted to do something more important and meaningful than loving a man. With a great feeling of peace, she reclined on the sofa and waited for sleep to come.