Hye Tae didn’t have a first memory of Chol Tae, one she could remember at least. They had always been together, always would be. Their memories often blended with each other, from the very beginning. There was the nursery school, Hye Tae’s first memories, walking there with hyong Hyeol Seop leading them. Even then she held Chol Tae’s hand in hers. When their hyong sat between them Hye Tae did not know. There was the story Umma told of the bond between twins, the bond they knew would never shatter, because of that it never occurred to her she would have a last memory of her twin brother. Until then, sitting on a cold seat among other defectors in the Hanawon center in Seoul, she thought they would find each other again. The hope shattered. Hye Tae was the only one there her age that was by herself. The faces in the room blurred together.

It took me longer than most of the students in the same class but I memorized the alphabet hand shapes, the American one. And the numbers, they were easier than the alphabet. I mix the signs up with the Korean ones, less often the signs from back home that I shared with Chol Tae, twenty years after I left my home. When other defectors reminisce about the only place we ever knew at one time, our fatherland, they say it will never leave us. I nod my head in agreement to avoid disrespect for the elders but I know I’ve left it just as it left me because, as far as I am concerned, the village farmer’s daughter called Jang Hye Tae no longer exists. Never one without the other.


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