A Journey From Neocolony to Colony
by Don Mee Choi

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She went to Hong Kong in 1972.  She was ten and knew only Korean then.  She imagined that there were two of her.  She imagined me.  I grew up in South Korea while she grew up in Hong Kong.  I stay where I am.      

 

My message to you:

I was left behind.  Home is in layers.   

 

Your message to me:

Green tea is the norm and nothing is added.  In the Colony’s economy it is essential that every opportunity should be taken to make oneself known.  If you are from an unknown neocolony, you are nothing and will duly remain so until the date of your departure.  Take a sip and stay close to family members.  Your luggage will soon absorb the fog.  The ferry you are on is in for a surprise—Tea and the English.  It is now evident that the Colony can hope to support its greatly swollen population on a reasonable standard of living.  Your language is optional.  It is ideal for your new domestic arena: a three-bedroom flat and a balcony big enough to hold you and your sadness.  We all appreciate the view of the harbor.  Do not search for trees or blossoms.  The sparrows will stop chirping after dusk.  Do not let your coat weigh you down.  There is no winter here.  Of course, you may be low.  That is the Law.  Setting up house in the Colony usually involves relative safety and uncertainty.  Have another sip. Green tea is the norm and nothing is added.  Do not let the absence of curfew go to your head.  We realize the distance is overwhelming.  That is an essential aspect of the Colony.  If you are from an unknown neocolony, it is not necessary to identify
yourself.  We are not interested.  We appreciate rapid growth. 

 

My message to you:

Home is in layers.  I live as if you had never left.  I live in the house you were born in and speak your optional language.  Here it is winter.  I wear your scarf with ribbons and red mittens.  I think of you as a child.  Your have a view of the harbor and I have a view of the river.  The distance is overwhelming.  There has been a change in the Law.  The 1961 Law is reinforced by the 1972 Law.  What follows the Law?  We are low.  Your mother sent the suitcase of used clothes. 
I wear your sleeveless dresses and smell your fog.  My sparrows have no place to go.  I don’t know if my clouds reach you or not.  I think of you as a child. 
I wait for your return.

 

Your message to me:

I know homesickness.  It is imaginable and involves collectivity to some degree.  It begins with a family in the distance.  Safety is nothing.  Departure is nothing.  Colony is something but neocolony is nothing.  Winter is nothing, yet the Law is something.  Ultimately, you are low.  Ideology exists in layers.  The Colonial is spatial.  A descriptive theory, if you will.  Dinner, the main meal of the day, originally taken at noon, had gradually been getting later, until in the 18th century it would fall between 3 or 4 in the afternoon.  In the early evening came the tea hour, the polite visiting time.  Your family may feel awkward at a table.  You are now separated by chairs.  You now sleep high above the floor under the removable sheets.  You dream in layers: the mountain, the sea, the river, the bridge, and the ferry overlap, fold, then depart.  Your optional language is likely to deform.  Your mother may develop a disorder—the price of the inner world.  Take your shoes off when you enter the house, but it is not appropriate to do so in front of the Law.  Home is nothing and so are you. Clouds fade over time.  You must endure the distance.  The fog is your home. 

 

My message to you:

You are gone.  Please come.  I have your comb.  I know homesickness.  It unfolds like Mother’s umbrella.  I dress your paper dolls, the penciled closet.  I pace the bridge, your hair pin in my hair.  The river is muddy.  I unfold my arms and take off my shoes.  I am none.  Please come.  I have your comb.  Be low.  Be no.  Say no to dinner and fog.

 

Your message to me:

Forgetting is lovely and Father’s well is bottomless.  Freud says: the way in which national tradition and the individual’s childhood memories are formed might turn out to be entirely analogous.  Indeed, a higher authority can shift the aim of the resistance to memory.  Madness may be a form of resistance.  Forgetting is lovely and Father’s well is bottomless.  In order to remember an incident painful to national feeling, a lower psychic agency must resist the higher authority.  However, it is against the Law.  Tea and false memories.  Which is lovelier?  Colony or neocolony?  The shift in the aim is minor.  Forget something then remember something else.  The loveliest of all is the unconscious—it is lively. 
In defense of nation’s paramnesia, tea must be served at all times.  Migration, my nation!  The family in the distance must be oceans apart.  Closeness may lead to nationalism.  Follow orderly obsessions.  Wash and clean when in doubt.  Scrub the edges of your memory.  Childhood loneliness can shift its aim.  Nation’s loneliness is false category.  Be fraud.  Be Law. 

 

My message to you:

Are you sad?  I am not mad.  You sat on Father’s lap.  1972 was the year of your departure.  I remember your flowered shirt and shorts, a hair pin in your hair.  Law was becoming and you were leaving.  My clouds followed you.  Are you lovely?  I am lively.  My sparrows fly at night across the ocean and remember your flowers.  I am not fallow.  I follow.                     

 

Sigmund Freud’s quote is from Forgetting Things (Penguin, 2005)