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an chang joon

(view original version of this piece.)

circa june 2001

my therapist cites perspiration as a potential side effect of the medication; i believe him. a week later, i realize that he chose the wrong word. i do not perspire; i sweat. there is something to that waterlogged single syllable that all the perspiration in the world cannot hold a candle to. under seoul's watery sun: my skin as a failed sublimation event. for as long as i can remember, i sweat easily. in grade school, i walk to school with a towel tucked beneath my shirt. in the bathroom stall, i take the sodden towel and shove it into my bag. i marvel at my disgust, at how easily it all becomes undesirable the moment it leaves my body. i want skin that does not sweat. impermeability to my exterior. there is something lovely about the idea of an exoskeleton, i want outside bones, a body that gathers whatever softness it has left and conceals it under hard chitin layers. imperviousness. i obsess over the man who wakes up a monstrous vermin. i wonder what he looked like right before he awoke, the slow transformation of it. i wonder less about pale limbs or membranous wings and more about what lies between, their gradient. i envy him, his uneasy dreams & his utter lack of skin & the bed that fits his body. bodies. old & new. change, not as metamorphosis but translation. i can no longer translate the things i have embedded into my skin, i collect tattoos but no longer attach meanings. skin as a failed medium, a canvas that resist being painted. resents it. everyone is born with is a finite number of questions that they can answer and i've answered my share of what does that mean, i have answered and then some. i envy paper, envy its easy acceptance & its utter permeability. four years ago, when my
parents demanded that i explain why i packed all that ink inside me, and that i do so in korean, i could not say. i did not know what an is/ought fallacy translated to in korean. i did not know how to tell them that the ink was hiding scars. i said sorry. my eyes were dry but that was just how i cried.

curry for dinner with me at the kitchen table. legs that do not reach the floor. a pot of water, at the cusp of turning to steam, into something else. the fridge is old, the plastic yellowed and spiderwebbed with tiny cracks. i stop playing with my toys to watch my mother peel and cut carrots. there is pleasure to the sound of the knife, its measured evenness. she misses the mark. the eager knife sinking into her skin. There is an ease to that too. i suck in a breath, expecting her to make a sound. maybe she’ll even cry, i think. so sure of her tears, in fact, that my eyes water first, but the sound leaves her lips. my mother stands like that, holding her bleeding finger. two of us in the kitchen, my breath held gentle in my mouth, a captive bug that i want to keep but am afraid i’ll crush. the chopping resumes. my mother hums softly. from somewhere behind me, the old radiator groans. still no tears from her, only mine.

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