She never arrived when he expected. To put this another way, she always appeared in his apartment just at the moment he thought she would. Every time she arrived he saw in his mind’s eye a clear image—a triangle with a grayish white fog along its edges. Now she had arrived once more. Sitting lightly on the table, she was jabbering something to him. When she sat down, the table did not move the least bit, though her glance was as blazing hot as it had been on other occasions, enough to make him feel a pressure he was very familiar with. She took his cup to get herself a drink of water. After she finished, she tilted the mug toward the sunlight and examined it for a long time. Then she waved it in the air as if she were ladling something. “Gudong-gudong-gudong,” she gurgled, and his Adam’s apple bobbed twice accordingly. Usually every gesture of hers would lead directly to some physical response from him.
Perhaps because she had walked very fast when she came, he could smell the faint sweat on her body. This displeased him a little bit. Oddly, she had seemed never to perspire when she was young, and he had gotten used to her without perspiration. As soon as he sat down, he sank deep into memory. Yet this memory was constantly interrupted by the sound she was making. That sound came from her riffling through sheets of paper. She had picked up a stack of white paper from his drawer and was shuffling the leaves over and over as if she had found a way to entertain herself. Her pointed nails were pressing into those sheets, her shoulders were trembling, and her nostrils emitted a faint whistling full of satisfaction. So he stopped his reminiscing and stared at her playing her game as if he were somewhat fascinated.
The fact is he had never considered her age seriously. Somehow he felt he had known her for a relatively long time. Therefore, she could not be very young. But from the very beginning, he could not figure out her age. When he asked her, she replied that she didn’t know, and she added that it was because there was no way she could know. As for him, at the time he was in his prime. Generally speaking, it had never occurred to him that another person’s age could become a problem. However, the relationship between them grew in phases. Under careful analysis, it was very similar to the growth process of a plant from the time of its sprout breaking through the earth until the time of its withering away. But he could barely distinguish which period in their relationship corresponded to which stages of the plant’s growth. He always felt that the whole matter was very vague and wouldn’t be clarified until the last minute.
At present, her calmly turning over the pages gave him a feeling of perfect peace. In the distant past, she used to be impatient. Sometimes she could even be rude. He still remembered that she had thrown his favorite blue-flowered porcelain mug out the window. She had also thrown away some other things. That day, when outside the window the sky was filled with galloping clouds, the two of them had lain on the bed side by side for a long, long time. Their bodies had turned bloody red. Suddenly she had crawled over him and thrown out that porcelain mug. They both heard the cup shatter. After she had gone, he went downstairs looking for the broken mug. He saw that the thick grass in the garden had become blackish green and as tall as a human figure.
She had also criticized his residence. According to her description, he was jammed amongst crowded skyscrapers and everywhere surrounded by irritating noise. He was not very clear about his own environment. He was born in this apartment and had been living here ever since. There was a period when she sealed all the windows and doors with thick craft paper, turning the room into a dungeon filled with body odor. After doing this she disappeared for a fairly long time. When she arrived again, it appeared that she did not even notice that he had torn away all the craft paper. It was then that he knew she had a problem with forgetfulness.
The moment he thought of this, her hands stopped flipping the paper. With her shining glance she stared at his forehead. Stretching out her hand, she picked up the empty mug and made another gesture of ladling water.
“You are reminiscing about something.” She said these words clearly. Then she jumped down from the table and walked toward the corner of the room. She stood there silently. He heard the clock at the station chime three P.M. Outside the window the air was a bright white.
“You have come and gone, gone and then come, numerous times. Now I don’t even care whether you are coming or going. Sometimes I don’t even know whether you are going or coming.” This he said while facing the window. He didn’t want her to hear too clearly. When he turned around she had disappeared, leaving her faint sweaty odor in the air.
That was the longest night. He paced up and down in the dimly lit morgue of the hospital, uncovering every corpse for identification, once, twice, three times, four times....At four o’clock in the morning he returned to his apartment, cold sweat covering his body, feeling dizzy. She was already waiting in the shadow at the turn of the staircase.
She threw herself into his bosom, trembling. As soon as they entered the room, she closed all the curtains and refused to turn on the light. Her hair gave off the heavy odor of the morgue as well as the odor of the frosty wind of early morning. She made him smell those corpses again.
“There were altogether fifty-three,” he whispered into her ear.
After she warmed up, she groaned faintly. Then she said confidently: “It’s all in vain. You! Why didn’t you recognize me? You searched again and again without ever finding me. I know in your mind there is another person, yet it’s all in vain!”
That morning both of them were so ardent. In the dim light he noticed that her eyebrows had turned a deep red and her pointed nails were glittering.
“I have looked and looked, looked and looked, oh!” he groaned falling into that bottomless cave, his whole body entangled by tentacles. His thumb had started bleeding. “Now my whole body is covered with that odor. I never expected to be like this. Maybe it has been this way from the very beginning. Is it true that my sense of smell is developing day by day?”
“Let’s analyze it together,” she said, flipping on the light. He dared not look at her in the dazzling light, so closing his eyes he turned around to face the wall.
“So you haven’t recognized me even once?” Stroking his back tenderly she continued, “Do you feel that’s difficult? It’s not really! You know that there’s a tiny mole under my left ear. Why did you forget to check their ears? Altogether there were only fifty-three people, yet you wasted a whole night. Ever since we parted last time I just knew you would go to a place like that. It can be said that you have been looking for that person ever since you were born. But you didn’t know it when you were young. That’s all. Next time make sure you don’t forget to check those ears.”
He woke up when the big clock at the station was striking nine. He could hear the rustling sound she was making in the room. Forcing his eyes open, he saw that she was pasting up the craft paper again. One of her long legs was planted on the table, the other on the windowsill. Her shoulders rose and fell. She was completely focused and meticulous. Without turning her head, she knew he had awakened. With one forceful jump, she sprang to the bed, then rolled over his body to the floor. She crawled to the door quietly, opened it, and disappeared into the darkness.