The money changer smiled at us.
“Which one of you would like to exchange money?”
While Rona and I were hesitating, Juko stepped forward.
“Which memory are you going to sell? First transactions are usually memories from birth to first two or three years.”
“Okay. I will sell it. I don’t remember anything from back then anyway.”
Juko was led into a curtained room and we waited for him in the outside room. About five minutes later, Juko came back and plopped down on the sofa next to us.
“All I remember is lying on a recliner and having oil applied on my forehead.”
The money changer took out two fish and fried them before handing him a pouch containing the scales.
환전상이 미소를 지으며 우리를 돌아보았다.
“어느 분이 거래를 하시겠습니까?”
로나와 내가 머뭇거리는 사이 주코가 앞으로 나섰다.
“대개 첫 거래에서는 출생부터 두세 살까지의 기업을 팝니다만...”
“좋습니다. 어차피 생각도 나지 않는데, 팔겠습니다”
주코는 커튼이 쳐진 내실로 안내됐고 우리는 밖에서 기다렸다.
주코는 우리가 앉은 소파로 걸어와 털썩 주저 앉았다.
“긴 의자에 누워서 이마에 오일을 바른것밖에 생각이 나지 않아”
환전상은 수조에서 손바닥만한 물고기 두 마리를 꺼내
기름에 튀기더니 비늘이 든 주머니를 건네 주었다.
Interview by SNU Korean Literature Professor Bang Min-ho
Memories can be a heavy burden, but ironically, humans cannot exist without them. Men are bound to wither without memories, because memories are intrinsic to human beings. This story makes us wonder why we live on even with painful memories and why we try desperately to rid of them. This story explores the very nature of human beings by having people trade their memories at the border market.
I pounded my chest out of frustration. Rona stepped back, frightened. Then, as if she remembered something, she handed me a photograph. It was the photo of me and Rona together. On the back was a note that said, “Give this to the man who comes for me.”
‘By the time you read this note, I wouldn’t recognize you. I sold all my memories to buy this store.’
I realized what had happened as soon as I read the first sentence.
‘Come see me at the next full moon.’
She left me with this request as she spent the last of her memories. Rona was no longer Rona. The woman who lived like an elegant single lady was gone.
나는 답답한 마음에 가슴을 쳤다.
로나는 겁먹은 표정이 되어 뒤로 물러나더니
짚이는게 있는지 사진 한 장을 꺼내왔다.
로나와 내가 다합에서 찍은 사진이었다.
뒤에는 ‘나를 데리러 온 남자에게 줄 것’이라는 메모가 적혀있었다.
‘이 종이를 읽을 때쯤 나는 너를 알아보지 못할거야.
기억을 모두 팔아 이 가게를 샀거든’
첫줄을 읽자마자 무슨 일이 벌어졌는지 알 수 있었다.
‘다음 만월에 날 만나러 와줘’
그녀는 모든 기억을 전소시킨 순간에 이런 부탁을 남겼다.
로나는 더 이상 로나가 아니었다.
우아한 독신 귀족같은 여자는 이제 사라졌다.
Kim Seong-joong (Born in 1975, Seoul)
: Debuted with short story “Please Return My Chair” in 2008
Won the 9th JoongAng New Writer’s Award in 2008, etc.