Conditions of Use
Standing on the front doorstep of my uncle’s apartment, I surveyed all that there was to be seen. Nothing other than unappealing reminders of the shabbiness of the place I needed to live. On the outside, brick walls concealed the apartments themselves, and then stench of cigarettes and chewed gum was wedged deep in to the rock, holding a permanent residence. On the inside, tacky decorations used to haunt me before my uncle replaced them.
I remember when I had first seen the place, nearly a year ago, and had dropped my suitcase on my uncle’s foot out of horror.
“Welcome,” he had said sarcastically, after swearing and hopping on his uninjured foot.
“This building is one of many, part of a pleasant little chain of apartments, named ‘Dream Escapes.’ I looked around at the yellowed curtains, where I detected something moving.
“Correction,” he added. “I should have said, welcome to what should be called, ‘Your personal nightmare on Earth.’ The good news, though, is that I’ve gotten rid of the rats a couple of weeks ago. My gift to you.”
I hated him, and his house.
Now, I sat at the dinner table, playing with my bracelet as we ate supper. It was the only lowly form of entertainment I had, because our discussions were never even remotely captivating.
“Minhyo. Minhyo.” I looked up. It was all the acknowledgment I gave him.
“Did you find anything today?” I read the more hidden question in his eyes. “Did you learn anything today?”
“No, apart from the odd poster.” I answered. My uncle grumbled like a bear.
“When do you plan to leave for the outer provinces?”
“A week, at the most. Maybe before. Either way, I’m still always running, even when I’m settled somewhere. Sleeping in my bed. Eating healthily. Talking to my friends, about anything but this. I’m never safe.”
He slammed his fork down on the table, and his nostrils flared in fury. He looked like he was a dragon about to breathe fire.
“You are just as safe as any other citizen of this really, very safe city. The only exception is for your group of friends who got themselves in trouble. They are wanted by the police, and I’m not saying that you should back out of it. Only that you can.”
He was so unpredictable. In the course of a few seconds, he had gone from encouraging me to this. He had no readable personality- not really. He didn’t even have a name.
“Uncle,” I continued, calling him by his only name that he had taught me.
Article posted April 17, 2012 at 10:20 AM •
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