English2018. 9. 29. 17:59

Between Heat and Cool



Written in English by Yong-Jwa Suh

Edited by Scott Findlay



It's hot!

Summer in Korea is hot and rainy. In late July this year, it is awful. Every day is a tropical night, in which the lowest air temperature does not fall below 25°C. And this year, it's been like that for a month!



You are surprised at yourself. You never ever say those kinds of words, so it's strange. You look around everywhere, and fortunately, there is no one around. Yes, you have been home alone for many days. Nobody touches you. No one will blame you.

You pick up the crochet needle. You do some sort of homework, knitting or crocheting as a volunteer for a knitting club with the Resident Self-government Center. At first, it began with learning how to knit and crochet. 'Learning and service' was the catch phrase. You could not accurately imagine what 'service' entails, but it must be related to giving those knitting supplies to people who need them. You just thought, knitting or crocheting will free you from your boredom.

You always need to do something that takes a long time without much effort. People say, 'time is money', but your time is worthless. You cannot stand the time without work. What people call 'free time' makes you puzzled and embarrassed. It does not take much time to eat, clean and wash. Time does not go by watching television.

This time crocheting foot mats is not easy. Pure cotton thread is thick and hard to pull. You have a sore arm and become impatient. You think about the speed of others. Whatever you do you want to be average at least. But your hands do not follow your will. That's life.


And August begins with the highest temperature ever recorded, 41 degrees Celsius at Hongchon County, located not in the southern part, but in the middle of the peninsula. The highest temperature ever recorded was 40 degrees C on August 1, 1942.


Wow! It's too much!

You look around everywhere, and this time there is no one, too. You stir your head. You do not know who you are talking to. You are frightened. Am I going crazy? It's because of the heat, this awful heat. No one can be normal in this scorching heat. You mumble alone. What was the highest temperature in the world? You check your cell phone, Hanie. She is the only friend who tells you almost everything you care about. - Periscoping is very useful, when you want to search rather than receive messages or even phone calls. - She answers: 'According to the World Meteorological Organization's, the highest temperature ever recorded was 56.7 °C (134.1 °F) on July 10, 1913 in Furnace Creek (Greenland Ranch), California, USA.' Wow, about 20 degrees above the average human body temperature. It's really murderous. It would be murder! Soon we human beings will certainly die, yes, die out, just like the dinosaurs suddenly perished long ago.

You pull the thread with all your power. Oops! The thread is tied in a knot. You have to cut it and connect it again. Embroidery snips! You need it immediately, but it is not there where it's supposed to be. You hurry up and rummage through the balls of yarn. There is also a lot of cloth that you put on quilts these days. Ouch! Your fingertip sweeps over the scissors. It's your right index finger. Anyway, the tip of the scissors is sharp, and it is even an embroidery snips! Scissors are made of iron, so you have to remove blood from the wound to avoid tetanus. Tetanus is said to be a disease in which Rilke was stabbed by a thorn while trying to turn a rose to his lover. No, it's not true. Hanie shows, 'The leukemia which killed Rainer Maria Rilke had been almost reluctantly diagnosed.' So the tale about the myth concerning the onset of his illness was, even among his myths, the most absurd. Though it was true, that Rilke gathered some roses from his garden to honor a visitor, the Egyptian beauty Nimet Eloui. While doing so, he pricked his hand on a thorn. This small wound failed to heal, grew rapidly worse, soon his entire arm was swollen … and that was just a melancholy event more than a year before his death. You become embarrassed to play with the gossip story and run into the bathroom. Misfortune overlaps, and it is kind of Murphy's Law. You slip on the bathroom floor and support your body with your left arm. Shit! It hurts! Your wrist is definitely injured. You do not think it is hurt badly, but just let go of knitting crochet. So the evening comes, the night comes and a normal day will come.

But this time it is not normal. Your left wrist hurts severely and swells up, so that it is hard to wash your face. You have to run to the hospital early in the morning. Your wrist is fractured, says the doctor, and he puts a temporary cast on your left wrist from your hand to near your elbow. After two days, you need a full cast for six weeks or longer. You cannot do knitting homework anymore. You could not envy the speed of other members. The knitting club will work well without you, the slowpoke.


Summer is usually the season of cyclonic storms and monsoonal rains. But this year there was a severe runoff along with a heat wave. In August the late rainfalls are characterized by heavy showers, often exceeding 200 millimeters of rainfall in a day. On August 16, the 19th typhoon of the season, Typhoon Soulik developed and headed north; the news says it will penetrate the Korean Peninsula. In Jeju Island, two people were swept out to sea by the waves near a waterfall while taking pictures in the rainstorm. One has escaped from the sea by himself, but a female is missing. Sad news. The next day Soulik makes landfall over Haenam County near Gwangju where you live. The wind blows and blows again. If you go outside, your umbrella will be blown away. You will not even be able to open the umbrella, wearing a plaster cast on one arm. You do not go out to take pictures with one hand. Surely you will not die today. Counterfeit, the irony of fate. A broken left wrist is your luck.



Since that damn cast on your left arm you are terribly bored. You wander in the living room and go out on the balcony. The weather suddenly gets cold after a long rain. How is the smell of oxygen? You try to hold the porch railing with both hands. You hesitate for a moment. Will the injured wrist hinder or help from leaping? You look back once at the knitting work that has stopped for weeks.



2018.11.30. Between Heat and Cool, 제4회 세계한글작가대회 기념 영문대표작선집

The Collection of Poetry & Prose in English to Celebrate the 4th International Congress of Writers Writing in Korean, The Korean, International PEN, 2018, pp. 501-503.


Posted by 서용좌 서용좌

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