There was nothing presently worthwhile in her old correspondence, no unconscious novel composed over several years of college emails. Dried corsage flowers from a forgotten dance, the enthusiasm and despair there was without context, youthful mementoes fallen apart, inconsequential activities and long-lost contacts, and the needless stress of academic classes whose information had been irrelevant decades since. I am not like that person anymore, she realized. Any tale salvaged from those outdated files must needs be framed of new timber, and the cutting might not be worth either deaths of trees or loss of time.
It shoulders my apartment doorbell well after dark, staggers through the vestibule, and drops sobbing on my sofa, bewailing the callousness and perfidy of ex-lovers and current coworkers.
I was just about to go to bed. Fresh from the shower, in clean jammies, unguents smoothed over my hands and face to keep wrinkles from entrenching overnight. And suddenly I am thrust into a maelstrom of emotion, passion, and complaint.
I proffer a selection of herbal teas and wait for the kettle’s pained scream to drown out the moans and mutterings from the couch. Hot porcelain at my elbow, I hope my prostrate guest says something coherent. Sometimes I hear wild tales, sometimes a short pastoral, at other moments only curses and colors.
There are months it doesn’t visit, and weeks when it comes calling every day, when I meet it on the street even in broad daylight, or it interrupts a class, to everyone’s chagrin, times when we stay up past midnight discussing every subject under the moon.
I don’t know how long we can stay friends. Are we, even? Such irregular co-dependency is complicated.
“Seogwipo Weekday, 3 PM”
Aromas from kitchens and covert cigarettes waft among parked cars and idle dogs. A pair of stained men clutch green glass bottles under a leafless tree. A dame in odd florals diligently stretches, while sparrows peck a playground’s plastic soccer pitch. Then, at the echoes of a single tone, a flood of schoolchildren pours around the corner.
Christina E. Petrides teaches English on Jeju Island, South Korea. Her verse collection is On Unfirm Terrain (Kelsay Books, 2022). Her children’s books are Blueberry Man (2020; Korean translation, 2021), The Refrigerator Ghost (Korean translation, 2022), and Tea Cakes, Quilts, and Sonshine (2022). She is the primary translator of Maria Shelyakhovskaya’s nonfiction book, Being Grounded in Love: A History of One Russian Family, 1872-1981 (Slavica, forthcoming). Her website is: www.christinaepetrides.com