Untying Myself


Jeong-Ae gave me this little paper mache doll.  I’m supposed to amass a trash bag full of little naked orphans as one portion of our puppet play in Andong next month. This little lovable, flawed, raw, evocative, evolving creature made of ashes and blood – molded in Jeong-Ae’s hands in a few minutes could never have been born from my mind; my regulated, shackled, censored mind.

Each of the featured adoptees in the play were supposed to express our stories to be dramatized in the play.  But because I can’t connect to my demons or hopes or any images except hard-line realities, there is very little for me to express.  Where once I couldn’t communicate with words and had to make my family impatiently wait for me to draw a picture for almost everything I wanted to express, now I can’t speak without words.  Jane interpreted the word maum for me, which is this distinctly Korean concept that heart and mind are one.  I didn’t write down the word (damnit) for “untie,” so I forgot it, but Jeong-Ae told me I need to untie my maum.  I don’t think anyone noticed the tears welling up in my eyes as they told me this, because they didn’t know I’ve spent the last few years my whole adult life, trying to untie my maum, without success…

To be a writer who can no longer write, or a singer who has lost their voice, or as in my case, an artist who can no longer draw, is the saddest thing in the world…

For some reason, the word “sing” comes up in conversation, and I tell Mr. S. that birds sing.  He tells me that in Korea bird don’t sing, they cry.  Birds cry.  Animals cry.  People cry.  All living things in Korea share han.  They all cry.

Jeong-Ae reaches out and clasps me and Jane’s hands.  She tells us that because she has suffered, she can spread happiness. We must all promise, yaksok, to spread happiness.

Mr. S. and I hold hands.  One bird is crying, one is singing.  He doesn’t want to make me cry.  So sing, I tell him.  Sing. 

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