Aug 5, 2009

The sediment of nations

Maybe it was because her father was a geologist studying the earth's peeling stratum of dirt and rock, or maybe because she moved in the middle of the school year when she was 10, and again when she was 14, and she missed something or misconnected something. Somehow geography and gravity became connected in her mind. In her mind she ordered the countries by their weights.

Germany was the heaviest, of course. It was heavy and graceless. It was a country of sausages and accordions, a country where they hung disco balls in every bar but couldn't and wouldn't dance. Australia was the lightest, a country without enough gravity to hold it down for even a proper talk, a country that couldn't be serious, even if it tried, and where everyone might decide at the same time to just not do the work they were supposed to do and instead all run away and take up hang-gliding and hot ballooning. The US and Canada, China, India and Iran were all light countries trying to be heavier, countries which would only ever be bloated up by that hunger, and France and Spain, England, Israel, South Africa and most of those kinds of countries were all weighed down but trying to be buoyed up, or at least appear lighter than they really were.

She didn't know where she got that idea. It just seemed that everyone had a weight with them, like something they carried in their eyes. It just seemed like they countries weren't really related by land mass and by ocean, but were more like rocks and dirt in a river, with each finding its own level, each eventually settling into a strata of the sediment.

So when he asked her would she go back to Korea, she said of course. She said it not because she loved it there, or even remembered it that well, but because it seemed natural. Like smoke rising or stones falling, to a state of rest. She said it not out of nationalism or a strong sense of identity, but because she thought she would, by the weight she bore inside her, just come rest in that country where she was born. "Of course?" he said, and she didn't know why he was so suddenly sad. "Yes," she said, confused or thinking he was, "I am Korean."