By Joon Kim
The lack of dialogue in this fictional essayis meant to relieve the emphasis, and to prevent the break, of the speaker’s line of thoughts. He developed early a minor speaking disorder, and “lost” his outer voice after his friends went against him with an unconventional nickname until middle school.
His disorder lessened and disintegrated, yet gave birth to another set of anomalies. He becam nervous and feared to speak with others, while speaking of unfettered malaise in front of his family, “hurting” the hierarchy. He no longer had the aptitude to approach his so-called “friends,” and felt closer belonging to himself. He essentially ‘zeroed’ himself as time flew by, without his knowledge.
Like that seventeen-year-old shogi boy.－ Author’s Foreword.
In a span of ten years of growth, followed by a halt in between, with dissonance, I had, perhaps unknowingly, learned to forget all that. But the truth is, this is all a false contention built upon an unfulfillable desire to desperately grasp onto my past. Because I believe that the past was, indeed, few of the quietest, safest, and lightest moments in my life yet to be.
Now, let me tell you about whoever I was.
See you later, alligator. After a while, crocodile. These were several, no, two of the earliest English phrases I had learned as a child, before I knew to speak the language. It came to me, and I embraced it. But I still don’t know from where I learned it.
Let the story — one story I am about to — encourage to tell for itself.
When I recently graduated from being a “tot,” I had found myself taken control by an older brother.
I didn’t ask for his name, nor did he tell me his. We had just met each other in an obscure sector in the playground, occupied by lower school students. He told me about an imaginary universe with passionate speech, a lot of which I couldn’t follow immediately.
A war was taking place, he said.
He walked by the autumn brick wall of red, yellow, and orange, plated with old layers of gloss that stole its beauty. I followed him, entranced by the world he had described. We sped across the model amphitheater, yet unpopular to most, and readily dropped our feet below each flat slab of stairs. We slid our hands on the cold, stone walls.
I was simply happy.
But I continue to remember him, not only because he had worn a pair of glasses like me — which is much later, a few years after this incident — he was, I still consider, my first ever friend. He was kind and reassuring.
I didn’t know what a friend meant back then.
A few days later, he was gone. He had left me without a word. I was alone. Then I realized that I was to be like this for a very long time.
And I did.
I am quiet. But I used to be quite talkative. I am knowledgeable. But I still know nothing about the world I live near about. I think a lot. But once I delve into a specific topic, I sink into a deep coma, and dare not to think about myself. I am informative. But none of it has ever helped me in my life.
At the school lobby, a modernist sculpture used to sit at the northwest wing, a few steps away from doorways facing across the entrance. Its name was “The Thinker.” I always tried to climb on its shoulders, but my parents would stop me from doing so. I ‘loved’ it so much that I modeled my life after it.
I became a thinker — a person who lives and dies by thinking. And I was too concentrated as a thinker that I soon forgot who I was.
I had the ability to think, but lost the talent to speak. I didn’t say ‘yes’ to everything, but responded with a ‘no’ as to let my words go adrift in my mind. I needed information to liven my sanity. I didn’t read every book at every corner of the library, but still, my eyes were too preoccupied. I told what I had learned of to my parents. They said I was smart. I wasn’t. I was merely a child who had to plug his ears with factual distraction.
Facts soon became a form of obsession.
Then came the digital age. Some played with competitive cards, others Nintendo DS. They always held something in their hands. I, too, implored my parents to buy one. But soon after playing with it for a few months, it became a bore. I needed something that could long satisfy me. Books came next. A few years later, I found the existence of music. Music is inseparable, at least for now. Music is close to what I call ‘beloved.’
But no matter who you are, Memento mori. In the batwing of an eye, Tempus fugit. I broke apart. I questioned myself. Here I am, living in the shadows of solitude.
Information isn’t knowledge, I learned during a late shower. I had naturally attracted myself to the fortress of information, but didn’t always leap over the wall of knowledge. Indeed, learning was an agreeable sport. But the problem was how to use it to benefit myself.
Perhaps, I thought, humankind can delve me with much deeper knowledge.