The dark, sunken eyes above the bulging cheekbones checked out the surgery department. Realizing that there were no patients, he entered the room, his head dropped and firmly grasping his cane and dragging the bandaged leg behind him.
The doctor, sitting on a swivel chair, glanced at the patient, but quickly looked away as if he had seen something terrible and pretended to focus on the book with a hint of dislike coloring his long, black eyelashes. Yeong-sil영실 paled as she looked at the patient but caught herself from calling him ‘Yeong-sik영식’ after realizing that he wasn’t her brother.
‘I must have gone insane. What if I had yelled out his name?’ She thought as she again scrutinized the patient. Did her brother really sacrifice his life for a miserable human being like this man? She quickly took a steamed towel to the patient and touched the bandage.
‘Did my brother really get executed? Maybe it was just a lie.’ Her mind was buzzing as she compressed the diseased area to squeeze out the yellow pus.
She crumbled to the ground. Yeong-sik had told her what to do in case he was imprisoned, but to whom should she listen now that he was dead? What am I going to tell Mother? She struggled.
She had come here yesterday too but turned back without seeing her mother. Once she had laid eyes on her, she would burst out crying and couldn’t have hidden anything from her no matter how hard she tried. But she couldn’t put off telling her mother forever.
‘I must be braver, calmer.’ She vowed to herself before standing up.
그는 부지중에 털썩 주저앉았다.
비록 오빠가 감옥에 있다 할지라도 모든 일을 이리 가르쳐 주었는데
이제부터는 누구의 지시를 받나! 어머님께는 뭐라고 하나,
어젯밤에도 이리 와서 어머니는 차마 만나지 못하고 간 것이다.
어머니만 뵈오면 울음이 탁 나가서
아무리 숨길래야 숨길 수 없음을 깨달은 것이다.
그렇다고 언제까지나 어머님을 만나지 않을 수는 도저히 없는 일이고
내가 좀 대담해야지, 좀 더 침착해야지 하고 가만히 일어났다.
# Interview with literary critic Jeon So-yeong
Kang Kyeong-ae wrote many stories based on her experience of living in Yongjeong용정 in the Kando간도 region along the Tumen River for about ten years since the early 1930s. This is why Kang is cited among the writers whose Kando experiences during Japanese occupation shaped their literary foundations. At the time of Kang’s stay there, Kando was the center of anti-Japanese resistance movement. She had seen with her own eyes the struggles and ensuing tragedies. She was able to vividly describe such experiences in her grim stories. The nurse’s older brother in this story appears to have been executed for fighting against the Japanese occupational forces in Kando. It is only implied in the story, given the social circumstances of the time, but it can be assumed that her brother was deeply involved in social activism, judging from the passages that described her brother’s compassion for the poor and his struggles to escape from the hellish reality.
The doctor’s greased hair, swept back from his face, shook unattractively and his muddy eyes were laced with arrogance. His once lofty character had vanished without a trace, leaving only indecency to flow from top to bottom. Yeong-sil was infuriated by how stupid she had been, giving up her virginity to a louse like him. The man she had trusted changed and her brother whose release from prison she had prayed for day and night left her forever. Above all, she was worried that her mother, perhaps after hearing of this news from somewhere, might have fainted on her way to see her.
Yeong-sil almost heard her mother crying out for her brother.
의사의 포마드를 발라 넘긴 머리카락은 보기 싫게 흔들거리고
거무틱틱한 눈에 거만함이 숭글숭글 얽히었다.
전날에 고상해 보이던 그의 인격은 어디로 갔는지 흔적을 찾을 수 없고
머리에서 발끝까지 야비함이 주르르 흘러내린다.
저런 사나이에게 귀한 처녀를 빼앗기었나, 자신의 이리석음이 기막히게 분하여진다.
믿던 사나이도 변하였고, 행여나 나오면, 나오게 되면, 하고 주야로 기다리던 오빠마저
무엇보다도 어머니가 오늘쯤은 어디서 이 소식을 듣고
나에게 쫓아오다가 길에서라도 졸도를 하지 않았는지 하는 불안이 커갔다.
영식아, 영식아! 오빠를 부르는 어머니의 음성이 금방 들리는 듯하다.
Kang Kyeong-ae (Born in Songhwa, Hwanghae-do Prov., 1906.04.20.~1943.04.26.)
Debuted with Novel “Mother And Daughter” in 1931