February 28, 2021

KITAAB

Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Translated by Janet Hong

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

“I think that’s how I found the way to the English garden,” Kyeong-hui said to me that day.

“I think I played on the swing.”

“Pardon me?” I asked, not understanding.

“There were so many things … inside and outside the wall … A swing, a cherry tree, and flowers … So I forgot to go home.”

“Pardon me?”

“I think the same will happen to you.”

“Pardon me?”

“I think you went to the English garden and played on the swing too.”

Kyeong-hui was the first person forbidden to me. She lived with us, but no one talked about her. No one called her or mentioned her name. No one even looked at her. If we happened to cross paths, my family acted as if she were invisible, though she rarely emerged from her small room. We weren’t allowed to touch her, to make eye contact with her, or to gaze at her as if she were real. The only thing we were allowed to do was move out of the way so that she could pass, or so that her body wouldn’t brush against ours. Naturally Kyeong-hui never joined us at the table, not for a single meal.

Oddly, my parents expected us to adhere strictly to their rules regarding Kyeong-hui, but gave us no direct orders or warnings. Not once were we told that talking to her, or about her, was forbidden. If we ever pointed towards her corner room on the second floor or thoughtlessly uttered her name, we merely received a sharp “Shh!” which flicked like a whip from their mouths.

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