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  • Reunited
  • Anne-Laure Zevi (bio)
    Translated from the French by Liesl Schillinger

Since his arrival, Damien had formed the habit of having breakfast in the restaurant across from his hotel. The menu was displayed in the window next to the entry door through very lifelike plastic models set in a vertical row on a wall behind the glass. Damien's favorite dish was an oversized bowl of imitation traditional black lacquer, red on the inside, that was filled with a congealed broth from which rose a weave of white, wavy noodles, clutched by a pair of chopsticks in midair, ready to be devoured. One week earlier he had watched with distaste as the passengers on the Paris-Seoul flight consumed the no-frills version of this dish, which took the form of a Styrofoam container that held a small brick of dehydrated noodles and two packets of seasoning, which the air hostesses filled with hot water as they passed. After a few minutes, the air of the cabin had been saturated with the powerful stench of garlic and onion, and he had pulled up the collar of his shirt to cover his nose. The greediness with which the passengers ate, the way they brought the bowls to their mouths, and the noises they made as they slurped had turned his stomach. The wavy noodles flecked with spices and drenched in broth were appetizing to look at, but he had not been able to bring himself to taste them. So he had not hesitated, the day of his arrival, when he had noticed the bowl in the window.

Each morning before leaving his room Damien consulted his guidebook and a map of the city, and chose a neighborhood, a monument, a museum, to head to after his breakfast. He walked quickly, avoiding [End Page 58] places (boutiques, taxis, restaurants without illustrated menus) and situations that would have forced him to interact with anyone; or rather, that would have exposed his inability to interact, making his alienness obvious. The sites he visited, the neighborhoods he walked, the streets he chose, interested him only marginally, but he considered this activity a duty because he was in an unknown city. In this way, he walked several dozen miles a day, unto the point of exhaustion, until the tension that gripped him had loosened a little. At night before returning to the hotel, he bought takeout, and snacks which he ate later in his room while watching a television series he had started watching in Paris. The story had seemed overly sentimental to him at first: the acting melodramatic, the family dynamic preposterous; the submissiveness of the women to the men, and of the young to their elders, archaic; the posturing of the girls irritating; and the torrents of tears shed exasperating. But gradually he had let himself be drawn into this story of star-crossed love between vivacious Ae-ri and reserved Se-jin, made impossible by a tangle of lies and words unspoken, and by taboos that their parents had fallen victim to before them. He was fascinated by the male protagonist, Se-jin, who was a high school student like him, a talented musician, introverted and melancholy. Se-jin's father was unknown. This adolescent idyll is interrupted when Se-jin is run over by a car while he is trying to find Ae-ri. As he comes out of a coma, his mother takes advantage of the fact that he has been stricken with amnesia to give him a new identity composed of new memories, and to take him to live in the United States, an unknown country. He is officially declared dead in his own country. Years later, Se-jin turns up in Korea for work, and by coincidence meets the girl he was going to meet when he had his accident, but he doesn't recognize her. Ae-ri is on the verge of marrying the person for whom her parents had destined her since birth, but she has not stopped loving Se-jin, and she recognizes him instantly. Through dedication and patience, she succeeds in reawakening emotions in him, traces of memories that lead him to [End Page...


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pp. 58-68
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