My parents were missionaries working in China twenty years ago. They strayed over the border into North Korea while proselytizing along the Yalu, and were held there by the Communist authorities. Or perhaps they were abducted by North Korean agents; the border crosses the Yalu, back and forth, around Linjiang, their base of operations and the spot where they disappeared. My parents were detained, incommunicado, for two months. My mother was six-months pregnant at the time. During their captivity, technicians took tissue samples from my unborn brother. Nine months later, with my parents back in China and none the wiser, I was born.
The facts of my creation were meant to be kept from me, but during my twenty years in the special compound near Kanggye, I developed a relationship with a caregiver named Jun Ji Hyun, and then with the loving Lee Young Ae, and finally, as a strapping teenager, with the beautiful Kim Hee Sun. From these three women, I learned how I came to exist and the identity of my mom and dad. Being a handsome young man, I learned other things from them as well.
At the age of twenty I was dispatched to America, to burrow into the country’s corrupt society and wait for the signal to “burn down the evil anthill in a hellish sea of fire.” I understood in advance that there were no North Korean agents in America, and probably never would be. Nevertheless, my masters had boundless faith in the future of their glorious regime. Thus operated the minds of North Korea’s masters.
I wasn’t trained in anthill- or country-burning, or in much else, during my stay in the compound, although I was taught English and Mandarin. I presumed then that when the big moment arrived in America, someone somehow would come to me and explain what to do and where and how to do it.
With some tears on my part and the part of, circumspectly, Kim Hee Sun, I was escorted from the compound. Guards transported me to the coast. From there, a gunboat took me out into the Sea of Japan, where we intercepted a Chinese freighter with several hundred “immigrants” in its hold. We crossed the Pacific and went ashore in the dead of night south of San Pedro, California. According to the crew, we were not entering an anthill, but a country where everyone defecated into water you could drink (which was represented as a luxurious act, although I found the water splashing up onto my bottom a mild shock).
We were taken north in vans, to disappear into Compton and Watts before the sun came up.
Settling down in the U.S., I worked on my English. My new neighborhood consisted mostly of U. S. citizens with very dark skins. Fortunately for me, most of the grocers in the area were Korean. They warned me of the multitude of dangers surrounding me, but compared to Kanggye, the town seemed quite advanced, civilized, and friendly. Everyone was armed, but that just seemed like good common sense in today’s world. None of the occasional executions that occurred on my block were carried out by the police or the Army, a good thing. Most importantly, everyone had more than enough to eat, and ate it.
Once I was settled in and had a job at Kwon Sang Woo’s grocery, and a room with a bed and a window with glass in it, I researched my family’s situation. My parents were still in China, but my brother, if such he was, studied as a student at a university just to the north. His name was David. The grocer’s niece helped me with this. Bae Yong Joon, a lovely creature. Her Korean was as bad as my English, but she knew about computers. We became attracted to each other.
I didn’t want to startle this brother David too badly, so I called him first. He thought that I was some fellow student, pranking him, as they call it. Perhaps my accent did not sound brotherly. The best that I could do to prepare him was to give him a warning.
“Listen, Brother,” I said to him over the phone. “One day soon, you will be walking on your campus and you will see a person coming toward you. He will look just like you, I believe. Remember my words when this happens, for that person will be me. Then you will know that you are not being pranked, except, perhaps, by God. Then we will talk.”
He laughed, a strange and bitter laugh, and hung up.
I saved my money. Bought a bus ticket. I traveled to my brother’s university. I visited the administration building and discovered his schedule there. My good looks and pleasant disposition, and perhaps my accent, helped in this, I believe. I found a bench on the quad and sat down to wait for my brother to emerge from the building in front of me. I was half an hour early.
Students passed, to and fro. A young woman glanced at me, looked again, stopped. Approached my bench.
“David?” she said.
Something in her voice kept me still. She was beautiful.
“Oh my God. David? What have you done?”
She sat down beside me. Reached out to touch my face. I pulled back.
“It’s unbelievable. So real. So perfect. At last you’ve replaced your nose.”
She found me quite handsome, as women do.
“You probably think that I’ve been avoiding you,” she said, “but it was like looking into a big wall socket, you know.”
We walked to her dormitory, to her room, and had relations. She wanted my nose, in particular. I have experienced love in many varieties, but this woman’s noseplay was extraordinary.
I spoke little, which seemed fine with her. She laughed at my accent, as if I were joking.
When we had finished, I took the bus home. I could not subject my brother to the sight of my excellent nose. I will go back when he gets a new one of his own.