The sound of the kettle boiling boricha on the stove, the voices of elementary school students playing at the playground until dusk, the warmth of the living room floor in late autumn. By the southern tip of Yongin, where the city meets Mount Gwanggyo and Pungdeokcheon stream, there is a fifteen-story apartment building where a younger version of myself lived. The complex spanned one block of the road, each building inside lined up in a straight row.
In the winter, snow would pile a few inches deep, enough to cover an entire step on the stairs leading up. When it rained, the water would flow through the gap in between the pavement and the car park asphalt, creating a small stream where dry danpung leaves would drift off. After a few minutes’ walk, I would reach the subway station, where I would always find high school students returning home from school late afternoon, just when the sun started to fade over the tall buildings.
I remember the time when I walked with my nanny from kindergarten back home. I was sitting on the step outside the school building when I heard light footsteps approaching from behind. I turned my head around to see imonim walking towards me. I grabbed my bag and skipped towards her. I grabbed her hand and started towards the apartment building. The late autumn air had lost all its humidity to the cold. I was wearing a long-sleeved cardigan and a scarf around my neck, a dark scarf. The ground carried piles of yellow ginkgo leaves that had fallen from its tree a few days ago. Chrysanthemums had started showing their bright colors and cosmos had also been popping onto their shrubs. There were benches every few steps on the pavement, and I would take a look under it to see if any mushroom had grown in the darkness of it.
I liked to ask, “When will mom be back?”
“She’ll be back soon. Let’s go home and get changed before she arrives,” I would hear imonim reply.
When I entered my house, the one on the thirteenth floor on building 107, the entire unit was dark, the sunlight didn’t shine directly into our windows. Instead, it got refracted on the thick glass, making it look all crooked. It was also very empty, no sign of life or anything. I sat down on the sofa, grabbed the television remote control, and immediately turned it on – my favorite show was starting soon. With a sudden bright burst of light from the screen, the living room turned bright. I lay on my back on the couch and without myself knowing, I fell asleep.
We had to leave the house a few months later for the Philippines, and I saw every piece of furniture, every pile of clothes, and my favorite CDs of children’s songs get shipped out of the house. We said farewell to imonim, who stayed in Korea even after we left.
We drove past Yongin a few years ago, past the block where I played all day long, past mom’s company where she worked day to night. Winter was already here, small cotton ball-like specks of white falling onto the car windows. I couldn’t get my eyes off the buildings.
“Can you drive a bit slower?” I asked my dad, who was complaining about the weather again. The sun was fading over the buildings in the distance, and I saw high school students on the sidewalk, carrying their backpacks and running to their apartments.
June Hyung Kim is a fourteen-year-old student from South Korea. He is currently studying in Manila, Philippines, and enjoys writing about his experiences from traveling. His work has been previously published in various places.