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“Dabok Oriental Medical Clinic” by Shim Ah-jin


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It wasn’t just the relationship between the hardware store owner and Mr. Choi. Gyu-ri had to hear uncomfortable stories that she’d rather not hear about. 

Like how the old man at the supermarket grills pigeons and feeds them to his dog, or how the laundromat owner up the street urinated on the walls of another laundromat down the street. She had to hear endless stories that could not be verified. 

It was very tiring to unintentionally come to know of other people’s business. 

규리는 격식을 차리지 않고 편하게 대해도

도를 넘어 친밀하지는 않은 원장과 밥 먹는 게 점점 좋아졌다.

원장과 직원, 선배와 후배라는 관계가,

가로대를 사이에 두고 담긴 짬짜면처럼 한 그릇에 무리 없이 담겼다.

어른이 된 후에는 유치했다고 회상한 바 있는 짓궂은 장난질이

원장과 밥을 먹는 식탁에서 되살아나기도 했다.

해물전의 바삭한 부분을 선점하기 위해, 접시 위에서 젓가락 전쟁을 벌이기도 했다,

원장은 유행도 맥락도 없는 허무개그로 곧잘 했다.

Gyu-ri came to like having meals with Dr. Han, who was casual and considerate without being overly friendly. The relationship between a doctor and an employee, between an older classmate and a younger one, was contained together yet separate in one bowl, like school lunch on a sectioned tray. Naughty mischiefs that were considered too childish for a grownup returned to their mealtime. They engaged in a chopstick war over a plate of seafood pancake so that one could have more of the crispy edge. The doctor often made lame jokes that were neither trendy nor timely. 

“사람들이 왜 우리 다복한의원에 오는지 아니?” 

“Do you know why people come to our clinic?” 

“복 많이 받으려고?” 

“To be blessed with good fortune?” 

“틀렸어.  아파서 오지.  안 아프면 한의원에 왜 오겠냐~” 

“Nope. They come because they’re sick. Why would they come to the clinic if they weren’t?” 

# Interview with Korean literature professor Bang Min-ho

Gyu-ri felt uncomfortable seeing the world of grownups that she couldn’t see when she was little. But she came to accept the discomfort and finally understand what adults go through. The story intended to show how the main character matures in her perception of the world and her understanding of the people around her. She learns that neighborhood residents, even her friend, were hurting not only physically but also psychologically. What makes this story so interesting is that the sufferings of these people are represented in one setting.

“서른 넷이라니 믿기지 않아요.

 마흔 넷이 되면 상황이 좀 나아질까요?” 

“I can’t believe I’m already 34. Will things get better when I’m 44?” 

‘꼬락서니’가 좀 나아질까요, 라고 하고 싶었으나  나름 순화시킨 질문이었다.

She actually wanted to ask if her sorry state would get better but toned down the self-deprecation. 

“글쎄, 네가 쉰 넷, 내가 쉰 일곱이 되면 알 수 있으려나?”

“Maybe we’ll find out when you’re 54 and I’m 57.” 

규리는 그런 건, 자신이 예순 넷, 한용수가 예순 일곱이 되어도

알지 못하리라 말하려다 그만두었다.

Gyu-ri wanted to say that she wouldn’t know even when she was 63 and he was 67 but stopped herself from saying it out loud. 

“우리 성당 한 번 가볼래요?” 

“Should we try going to church?” 

“뭐? 왜?” 

“What for?” 

“서른 셋에 다 이룬 예수님이 다소 무료하실지도 모르니까” 

“Because Jesus who achieved his goal at age 34 may be bored.”

원장이 웃으며 고개를 갸웃거렸다.

규리는 까까머리 시절의 한용수가 ‘알함브라 궁전의 추억’ 같은 걸  기타로 치려다

계속 음이 틀리자 고개를 갸웃거렸던 걸 떠올렸다.

멀고도 가까운 추억이었다.

Dr. Han smiled as he cocked his head. Gyu-ri remembered that he used to cock his head like that when the teenage Han Yong-su tried to play “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” with the guitar and kept getting the notes wrong. It was memory from far away yet also near. 

원장과 규리는 맛있게 먹은 족발이

피부든 어디든 분명 좋은 영향을 미치리라는 데 동의하며 식사를 마쳤다.

Dr. Han and Gyu-ri finished their meal while agreeing that the delicious pig trotter they had enjoyed must be good for their skin.

만연해 있지만 진하지 않은, 얇디얇은 맛을 내는 저녁 한 끼였다.

It was a dinner that had a prevalent taste yet not rich in flavor, just very mild. 

Shim Ah-jin (Born in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do Prov., 1972~ )

Debuted with “For the Teatime” in 1999

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