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“House of Imos” by Lee Kyung-ran


ⓒ Getty Images Bank

When they decided to hire a help, Yu-jin jokingly asked Jin-hyeong. 

“Everyone calls them imo. Why imo? Why not gomo?” 

Jin-hyeong looked at her with disbelief, which cut short Yu-jin’s laughter.

“Have you ever seen a friendly gomo?” 

That memory suddenly soured her mood. 

Yu-jin didn’t have an imo at first, but gained five over the past two years. One imo lasted three months and another six months. One time she had an imo who stayed for only ten days. The most recent one, Bok-rye, was into only her fifth month. 

“Other people’s imos have stayed for years. What is the matter with mine?” 

아버지는 유진이 불편하지 않도록 최선을 다했다.

아버지가 깨워서 일어나 보면 식탁에 아침이 차려져 있었고

말끔하게 다려진 교복이 옷걸이에 걸려 있었다.

첫 생리를 시작하기도 전에 생리대를 사이즈별로 사다 욕실 장에 채워두기까지 했다.

유진은 엄마 외에는 자신의 인생에 부족함이 없다고 확신했다.

결혼 준비를 하기 전까지는.

Yu-jin’s father did his best to make her life comfortable after her mother died. When he woke her up, she found breakfast set on the table and her school uniform neatly pressed and hung on a hanger. Even before she started her first period, he had filled the medicine cabinet with sanitary napkins of assorted sizes. Yu-jin was certain that her life didn’t lack anything, except for her mother. That is, not until she started getting ready for her wedding.

하얀 코렐 식기 대신 단아한 자기 그릇을,

커다란 머그컵 대신 유럽산 티 세트를,

맑은 소리가 나는 와인 잔과 화려한 샐러드 볼을 사면서

유진은 생존과 생활의 차이를 실감했다.

While she bought delicate porcelain plates instead of white Corelle bowls, a set of European teacups instead of big, sturdy mugs, half a dozen wine glasses and a crystal salad bowl, she realized the difference between surviving and living. 

통째로 세탁하는 차렵이불로 사계절을 나던 아버지와의 시간은

누리는 삶이 아니라 버티는 삶이었음도.                  

Also, the time she had spent with her father, who used a machine-washable blanket all year long, was not a life you enjoy but a life you endure. 

“안방 이불장에서 내 이불 꺼내 쓰지 마세요, 라고 말했어야 했나?

 순영에게 새 이부자리를 한 채 마련해주어야 했나~”

“Should I have told her not to take my blanket out of the bedroom closet? Or should I have given her a new set of bedding?”

# Interview with literary critic Jeon So-yeong 

First, Sun-yeong is acting like it’s her house. But Yu-jin has another good reason for her annoyance at her. It’s because she doesn’t have any memory of her mother, so she has a hard time relating to an older woman. On the other hand, Sun-yeong acts like a mother who came to visit her daughter’s house, using her blanket and eating out of her dishes. We don’t know what Sun-yeong’s story is, if she had been abandoned by her children or had no place to go. Maybe Sun-yeong considers Yu-jin someone as close as her family. There is subtle hostility between the two women, but their sad personal histories may help them reconcile. 

진형은 조용히 방문을 열고 민수를 침대에 뉘였고,

유진은 신을 벗고 발끝으로 살금살금 걸어 들어갔다.

Jin-hyeong quietly opened Min-su’s room to put him on the bed while Yu-jin tiptoed to the kitchen. 

식탁 위에 유진이 혼수로 해온 서브마린 파리스 클래식 잔이 세 개 놓여 있었다.

집들이 이 후로 꺼내 쓴 적이 없는 물건이었다.

유진은 그것들을 조심스럽게 들고 개수대로 가져다 놓았다.

잔 하나는 이가 빠져 있었다.

On the table were three gold-rimmed coffee cups that Yu-jin had brought as her wedding gift. She had never used them since the housewarming party. Yu-jin picked them up carefully and placed them in the sink. One of the cups was chipped in the rim. 

민수의 방문 앞에 선 진형과 싱크대 앞에 선 유진이 

동시에 양모 이불 발치로 다가갔다.

잠깐 마주친 두 사람의 눈길은 동시에 이불 쪽으로 옮아갔다.

잠든 이모들은 어쩌면 저토록 평화로울 수 있을까 싶은 표정이었다.

Jin-hyeong just outside of Min-su’s room and Yu-jin in front of the sink walked at the same time toward the wool blanket. The two looked at the lumps under the blanket. They thought how peaceful the two imos looked. 

진형이 에어컨을, 유진이 티브이를 껐다.

두 사람은 가만한 몸짓으로 안방으로 들어간 다음

소리 나지 않게 문을 닫았다.

Jin-hyeong turned off the air conditioner and Yu-jin the TV. The two quietly went into their bedroom and closed the door without a sound.

Lee Kyung-ran (Born in Daegu)

Debuted with “Today’s Rooftop” in 2018

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