The rain tapped against the window intermittently for days, hypothetical ellipses leading nowhere, until noon today, suddenly intensifying into staccato exclamation points. Monsoon season arrived during the bus ride back from the clinic at Hannam ogeri.
Not impossible to get an abortion in Korea, despite what the first doctor said, immediately offering to perform an ultrasound in his neat, contraction-free English. “We cannot do that. Would you like to see the baby?”
This clinic is forty minutes away on the 110A, on the same block as all the embassies: not behind, tucked away on a backstreet, but right on the corner, like a welcome mat. The clientele is exclusively foreign, save one Korean woman, clinging to the arm of a boy no more than 19, so blond he’s nearly translucent, the faint lines of his veins showing through his crew cut. Her nails dug gouges into his forearm, but the rest of her body angled away from him. If not for the armrest, she’d topple to the floor. At least she caught him, brought him here, even if the welts on his arm say he’s still trying to get away. Every other woman in the waiting room sits alone.
The clinic accepts cash payments only. The borrowed credit card of a pragmatic, unflappable coworker who comes from money and enjoys the association with something sordid isn’t going to cut it. Five days before the next available appointment to scrape together sixteen hundred dollars. The receptionist still demands two hundred for the appointment today, for taking up time that could’ve gone to another patient.
Did they say cash-only on the phone, their meaning lost between the language barrier and the code words?
Women, foreigners especially, in this part of Korea must be prone to problematic miscarriages, judging by the quantity of grimaces in the waiting room, the dozen pairs of eyes focused just to the left of the television. These women, all waiting to see a doctor who will record they underwent non-prosecutable evacuations.
He transferred to Japan a month ago, Seoul to Osaka, left Korea in a haze of Jagerbombs and shitty beer and cigarettes and fibbing about the condom. Everyone was thrown out of the bar at 4am, proceeded to the norae bang, where he spat the entire Eminem oeuvre, sharp joy evident with every over-enunciated bitch and faggot. It was well into Sunday morning before collapsing together on the apartment floor, because it was only going to be the once, and the sheets are clean, washing them again too much of a hassle. Worse, somehow, that he lied in the daylight, lied when he was mostly sober. Worse to have lain there and let the lie happen.
It’s impossible to leave a place entirely: a sock behind the dryer, a book lent and never returned, old text messages from now-defunct numbers. In all the ways that matter, though, he will be gone entirely by Thursday next.
Tristan Durst is a graduate of the MFA program at Butler University, where she served as the fiction editor for Booth. She will, no lie, step on your baby’s face if there’s even an 11% chance it gets her off an airplane half a minute faster.
Dusty, moldy, musty
Yellowed, brown stained
Wrinkled, tattered pages
Faded ink, missing leaves
Forgotten on the shelf
Darkened, liver spots
Wrinkled, translucent skin
Gray, thinning hair
Achy back, swollen joints
Forgotten in the home
Have all their pages been written?
Priceless, rare editions
Stores of wisdom
Will all their pages be read?
Suzanne Cottrell, an Ohio buckeye by birth, lives with her husband and three rescue dogs in rural Piedmont North Carolina. An outdoor enthusiast and retired teacher, she enjoys hiking, biking, gardening, and Pilates. She loves nature and its sensory stimuli and particularly enjoys writing and experimenting with poetry and flash fiction. Her poetry has appeared in The Avocet, The Weekly Avocet, The Remembered Arts Journal, Plum Tree Tavern, The Skinny Poetry Journal, Three Line Poetry, Haiku Journal, Tanka Journal, Poetry Quarterly, Dragon Poet Review, and Naturewriting.
I saw Felipe yesterday. It was the first time I’d seen him since his brother’s wedding, and he looked just the way he’s always looked when he was sleeping.
He’s slept the same way since we were born. Mouth open, the thoughtful look on his face accompanied by a scab or scrape for good measure.
Those scabs when we were little were often my fault. Even now, at 22 we both still have reminders of our childhood wars: his on his forehead, me on my hand. We poked, hit, bit, pushed, kicked, and absolutely refused to be separated.
We were a team at that age. We were for better of for worse.
The “worse” was public. It was in everyone’s faces and at the expense of our Uncle’s and Aunt’s, and parent’s energies as they would try to chase us around the house pulling us off of each other or whatever cabinet, or shelf, or tree we had decided to scale.
The “for better” part was ours. It was quiet and mostly private. They were the times he’d try to nurture and fix my wounds regardless of the fact he mostly caused them. The way he absent-mindedly played with my hair at 8-years old while we were squished together on the couch with his sister watching the scary movies we’d found tucked away in a closet. The way he always made me laugh. Sharing his journal writing with me and the stories behind it as we grew a little older. And, the occasional heart-to-hearts we’d have at 2am when our late teens brought greater distance between the amount we’d see each other.
Being exactly three weeks apart we spent our lives arguing about who should get the final say while renting videos, buying snack food, deciding what to do, where to go. But we also shared stories from grade to grade about adventures, teachers and what we were learning, and sometimes we even revealed secrets on how to get in good with the opposite sex.
All the millions of memories forgotten in the back of my mind, and all the ones still colorfully vivid came to me as I watched him. My Felipe. Just lying there.
I waited for him to wake up. I kissed his cheek and he didn’t swat me away. I twisted his hair in my fingers and whispered, ‘I see you finally decided to brush it’.
But still he didn’t move. And when I took his hand, I really knew for the first time that he never would again.
It felt so cold. I wanted to wrap him up in a blanket. His fingers were waxy and smooth like they’d been scrubbed clean—a long way from the rough and strong hands that had shaken me awake almost every Christmas morning since we were born.
There he was. Little Felipe. Little teaching me to play Nintendo, holding my head under the covers after he’d farted, swaying with me for hours in the basement hammock, Felipe. My partner in mischief and the only person who’s ever shared the loves of my life: scheming, and dreaming. There he was.
Still managing to bring life, tears and love into the room, even in death.
Amaya Duran is a Latina American writer based in Seattle, WA. For her day job she works as a humanitarian in disaster zones. Her off time is spent with her family, and 1 year old Maltipoo.