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In which a Korean adoptee goes to Seoul for the first time to meet the woman who gave birth to her

 

This was supposed to have been a country of one thousand mirrors. In a dusty mannequin factory after hours I searched for my resemblance and grew uglier with each doll I looked upon. A Korean man learned I was adopted. He stared long at my face till I felt my flesh dissolve into ghost. This nation’s daylight did not want to find my bastard shape. Out of respect for the living, I waited till nightfall to walk the streets. Then darkness could hearse me through the brassy drunk crowds and spicy steam of ddeokbokki.

Yes, I saw your face. In my favorite fiction about us, I would see you and some bell within me would toll—the way an elephant will walk over the bones of its own kind, know it instantly, and fall down and mourn. Instead, I looked away. What struck me was not like lightning or love, and so I wept. Two months ago, you had no memory of my birth. So have you come from out the thicket of madness, burrs stuck to your black skirt?  How many times must you have buried me, pressing my infant form with dirt. Only to see me rise again, nineteen years no longer yours. I whisper your name in an alien tongue, and this time I have blood. You are the house I never knew I was haunting. Strange, to be a stranger’s ghost. Perhaps that is the only thing we share, in the end. That nightmare where we glimpse the other’s face, and wake up screaming.

 

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Rachel Rostad is a writer and public speaker. The recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize, her work has been featured on Upworthy, Jezebel, and Mic.com. She performs at conferences and readings around the country, including events at the Loft Literary Center, Harvard University, and UC San Diego. She lives in Minneapolis, MN.

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