03 November 2009

i do this, the vintage thing, but my real love is writing. i haven't written a thing in years. i think i may try again.

from an old project:

Shadows and Light

There was the wet cement floor, brown from the running water that washed our clothes and dishes, rinsed our rice and filled the basins my mother bathed me in. The center of the house was open and dark, dark because I remember the hallway leading outside feeling flooded with light in the mornings, remember that hallway as the only source of true sunlight in the house. I have no memory of windows. Walking through that hallway was stepping into light and then more light. Walking through that hallway back into the house was stepping into shadows and into our room that was lit by one dim bulb.

I can only tell you there was a ceiling because of the shadows, not because I ever looked up. I cannot describe the house beyond a certain height, beyond the top of the sliding doors that lit up in square patches of rice paper, squares shaped by perpendicular wooden panels. Around the square, cement floor, behind each sliding door, lived a different family. You could see the shape of their bodies at night through the patches, could see the wave of their blankets as they prepared their floors for sleep. Above the doors is what I imagine to be more wall, probably cement, but what I cannot recall, I remember as darkness; dirty corners and dark, dark ceilings.

What I can recall was what was closest to the ground - the soil outside the house that felt thick in my palms, moist and soft to be packed together with water to make pies and mound shapes that looked like chocolate. Our shoes were lined up neatly outside our sliding door, on the wooden floor that wrapped around the center space. The floor of our little room was cool in the summer and when my mother made me cover my body with blankets even in the heat, I snuck a leg out and laid it against the floor or against the wall. I do not remember the decision to move my leg but I clearly remember the sensation - the cool of the floor against my skin.

Of the families that lived in the house, I can only recall a mother and her two daughters that lived behind the sliding door next to us. Their faces are filled in for me through pictures I will later see but I remember them the way I remember the light in the hallway - a clear presence in contrast to the shadows. They were a source of light, the way my mother was but when I imagine our own room behind our sliding door, I only see the four bare walls and dresser, the blankets piled on top of the dresser, the fan in the corner. I remember my mother as a source of light, I remember myself through every new sensation; the cool of the floor against my skin, the richness of the soil between my fingers. What I do not remember about my life in Korea remains in shadows - my father, my brother, the roof that kept out the sun and rain, the dark corners I never lifted my head to look into.


  1. this is brilliant, you are a wonderful writer :)

  2. Very descriptive and beautiful. It's like a painting in the way the subjects are created by the shading instead of the objects themselves. (Does that make sense?) Love it.