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Route No. 43 comes into direct view from the living room window. That was what I liked the most about this house when I came to see it for the first time. There was a roof shielding the house from the rain and sunlight and just a stone’s throw away from the house was a bus stop with a bench where I could wait in comfort. The road led to Seoul. The intercity buses that passed through the motor route all headed into Seoul from the small cities and counties around Seoul. Each had a different number but they all turned around at Gangbyeon강변 Station of subway line No. 2 in Seoul.
That meant if I got on any bus from there, I could transfer to the looping line No. 2 right away. That fact relieved me of the anxiety caused by my reckless dream of living a rural life.
여기저기서 웃음 소리가 들렸다.
웃음소리는 탁하고 악의적이었다.
승객은 예닐곱 사람밖에 안 됐지만
나는 오락에 굶주린 그들이 장난삼아 나를 갖고 놀려 한다는 걸 깨닫고
슬그머니 무서운 생각이 들었다.
I heard snickers from the passengers, gloomy and malicious. There were only seven or eight passengers, but I suddenly grew scared, realizing that they, craving entertainment, were mocking me for fun.
“할머니, 버스는 열린 문으로 타는 게 아니라 앞문으로 타는 거예요.
앞문이요, 앞문. 알아들었어요?”
“Granny, you should get on the bus not through an open door, but through the front door. The front door, do you get it?”
나 귀먹지 않았다고 대들고 싶은 걸 참았다.
싱글대는 시선이 나에게 집중된 걸 느끼면서
버스 한 가운데서 손잡이를 잡은 채 무력하게 흔들리고 있었다.
I wanted to yell back that I wasn’t deaf, but I didn’t. Sensing the smirking eyes focused on me, I held on to the handle in the middle of the bus and swayed helplessly.
# Interview with literary critic Jeon So-yeong
The protagonist is disappointed at the world that has become heartless and gloomy. Nevertheless, she meets a kind taxi driver and sees that hope still exists. What the taxi driver did for the protagonist wasn’t anything difficult or great. He just put someone’s feelings ahead of his own interests, morals ahead of money. But the protagonist regarded such thoughtfulness as a great blessing. Although human relationships disintegrate and social conflicts worsen in this materialistic world, our lives would still see a happy ending if we don’t lose our respect for others.
“사모님, 거스름돈도 안 받고 내리시면 어떡해요?”
“Ma’am, you forgot your change.”
그제서야 만원짜리와 오천원짜리를 내고 그냥 내린 생각이 났다.
I remembered just then that I got out of the taxi after giving him 15,000 won.
“그럼 이 돈 때문에 일부터 유턴까지 해 왔단 말예요?”
“You mean you made a U-turn just to give me this change?”
“Of course, I did.”
생기긴 소박하다기보다는 촌스럽게 생긴 젊은이였지만
활짝 웃는 잇속이 희고 깨끗했다.
나는 그게 눈부셔
뭐라고 고맙다는 인사와 칭찬의 말을 합쳐서 한다는 소리가 엉뚱하게도
‘우리나라 참 좋은 나라네’ 였다.
He was a young man who looked dorky rather than naive, but his teeth shown through his smile were bright and clean. I wanted to say something that conveyed both gratitude and praise, but I ended up stupidly saying, “Korea is a great country to live in.”
“사모님, 어쩐지 멋쟁이나 싶었는데 외국에서 오래 사시다 오셨나봐요. 그렇죠?”
“Ma’am, I knew you looked different. I guess you must have lived abroad for a long time. Am I right?”
나는 긍정도 부정도 하지 않고 다만 활짝 웃어주었다.
그가 나에게 축복이 되었듯이 나도 그에게 축복이 되길 바라면서.
Neither denying nor agreeing with it, I simply smiled. Just as he became a blessing to me, I hoped that I would become a blessing to him.
Park Wan-suh (Born in Gyeonggi-do Prov., Oct. 20, 1931~Jan. 22, 2011)
Debuted with “The Naked Tree” in 1970