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  • The Mailman, Olivia Hussey, and Robert Redford
  • Kim Kyung-uk (bio)
    Translated by Bruce (bio) and Ju-Chan Fulton (bio)

The Mailman

Her shop is 15 steps east of the convenience store where I buy my Coke. The soda's cold fizz will be shooting through my capillaries by the time the window of her shop comes into view like a mast against the ocean horizon. And when I take the fifteenth step my cigarette will have burned down to the filter and there she'll be.

Going into the convenience store I feel her presence building inside me. I can feel her existence beyond those 15 steps. That's why I think of the convenience store as her gateway.

The convenience store is where I make do with a doughnut and a Coke for a late lunch. There's always a lot of mail on Monday, but on this particular Monday there's more than usual. And it's autumn. Which means you can count on lovers writing love letters and people getting married, so it's inevitable that my load gets heavier. Today I've already delivered seven wedding invites.

The leaves are beginning to fall. Bathed in the sun's rays they look like the translucent wings of a dragonfly. I finish the Coke, light a cigarette, and hoist myself up. My bag is definitely lighter. And now I'm on my way to her.

Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen steps, and there's her face, it never fails.

Star Video.

The place where she works. [End Page 15]

Most of the time she's sitting at the counter, tapping away at the computer or gazing at the television. I can't say she's especially attentive to her customers. Last spring when I first saw her she was looking out the window, arms folded, her eyes saying she was yearning to take off somewhere. But she's been there ever since, huddled over the worn counter of Star Video, daydreaming perhaps of becoming a star herself.

I observe her in profile. As always she seems immersed in her own world. A world no one can enter. But if I'm going to deliver her mail I have to push open the glass door of Star Video and go in.

She tends to get a lot of mail. And it comes from an assortment of senders—I can tell from the variations in penmanship and variety of names. But there's one constant: all the senders write her name on the envelope: Yun Ha-min.

I've always thought it's a name made for letters. I push open the glass door and hear the tinkle of the bell above it.

She slowly turns my way.

A Sophia Loren movie is on. I can't tell for sure, but maybe it's Sunflower? I'm far enough from the television that it's all I can do to identify the actress, even though her face is filling the screen. Then again maybe it's not Sophia Loren. Maybe it's Audrey Hepburn or Nastassja Kinski.

"Is that for me?"

Her voice awakens me from my speculations. I give her the letter I've been holding in my right hand. Not much change in her expression. Suddenly I feel like writing her a letter. A letter that starts Dear Olivia Hussey Lookalike. Actually, she doesn't bear much of a resemblance to Olivia Hussey. It's just that I feel I have to address her that way. Don't ask me why.

With the faintest of smiles she takes the letter. It's definitely a smile. The corners of her mouth have turned gently upward. No way could that not be a smile. Clearly she's giving me a smile.

The instant I see that beautiful smile the stiffness in my legs from hustling up and down the alleys is gone. Watching that smile, I know I absolutely have to write her a letter. [End Page 16]

And the next moment, emboldened by that smile, I'm asking her, "Is that Sophia Loren?"

She's looking at me silently. Sensing her eyeing my face, I feel I'm about to...