Read Desire in Any Language Online

Authors: Anastasia Vitsky

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Romantic, #Romance, #Contemporary

Desire in Any Language (7 page)

BOOK: Desire in Any Language
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“Can I tell you something?” I ask.  She nods.

“It kind of freaked me out when you…you know…the rod of love…” I blush.  She frowns.

“Are you saying it’s a problem?”

I shake my head.  It takes all my courage to continue.  “Well, where I grew up we didn’t have that.  Not at school, not in my family really, not anywhere. And…I know this will sound crazy, but I was glad you did it.”

“Oh, Mira…” She reaches toward me, but my hands are firmly clasped in my lap. 

“It felt like you really cared about me, and it mattered what I did, and…”

I struggle to find words, but I trail off into a silence.  She waits, and when I no longer speak she finishes for me.

“Are you saying that you wish I would do it more?”

I am not brave enough to look at her, but I am brave enough to nod my head.  To whisper, “But not if you are too busy or you don’t want to or…”

“I am busy.  We are all busy.  But if this will help you…”

I break in.  “It’s not inappropriate?  I mean, I don’t just mean for if I do something wrong.  I mean…” I shrug eloquently.

She speaks very carefully, measuring her words.  “Why would it be inappropriate?”

“I don’t know, that it’s childish?  That I should be able to do things on my own?”

She smiles at me.  “I think it’s far more childish to skip your class and leave crying and not do your homework, don’t you?”

I smile in spite of myself.  “You really wouldn’t mind?”

She shakes her head.  “I wouldn’t mind.  On a few conditions.”

I look up.  “Anything.”

“I don’t know if school is always going to be convenient for both of us.  It may be that I’ll need to ask you to come to my house sometimes.  However…” she lifts a hand to stop my interruption, “only if you feel safe and comfortable doing so.  You
must
tell me otherwise right now.”

I shake my head.  To be honest, I’ve been a little curious about her husband.  The wedding was so hectic that I didn’t get to meet him, at least not more than a very brief greeting.

“Second,” she continues, “I want regular check-ins.  Whether you’ve done your work or think I will be pleased.”

I wince.  It’s a reasonable requirement, but it’s been my worst failing.  “How regular?”

“Let’s start with an email or text every school day.  Just tell me if you’ve completed your work or not.”

I nod, poking at my noodles to avoid looking at her.  I’m not entirely sure how she will have the time for that much contact, but if she is offering then I would be stupid not to accept.  I’ve made enough stupid decisions to last the rest of my life.

“Third,” she says, and I suck my breath in wondering just how many conditions she will name, “if you think you are in need of some…
love
…then you are to tell me.”  She waits until I lift my eyes to meet her very serious ones.  “I expect you to keep your promises, Mira.”

I lick my lips and nod.  “Yes, Sonsengnim.”

“And finally, in school you will still need to call me Sonsengnim but when we are not in school…” I look at her, puzzled.  “I’d like for you to call me Oni.”

I continue to stare at her.  When she became my tutor, she allowed me to call her Eunji Sonsengnim.  Slightly less formal than using her last name plus Sonsengnim, but still formal.  But Oni?  That is for little sisters, younger friends…not for students.  Certainly not for problem students who are in danger of failing a second time.

“Eunji Oni,” she says.  “I think you need an oni as much as you need a sonsengnim, don’t you agree?”

Normally I would be ashamed to start crying in a restaurant.  Normally I would be slightly horrified to be instructed to address a teacher as if she is a friend or big sister.  Normally…

But my normal hasn’t worked very well for me lately, so perhaps it’s time to start being abnormal.

“Mira-ya,” she says.  “Are you going to listen to your oni from now on?”

I nod as hard as I can, weeping.  “Yes, Oni,” I answer.  “I’ll listen.”

As she pays our bill, she embraces me and then tucks a loose strand of hair behind my right ear.  “Stop crying,” she scolds lightly.  “Or else Oni will need to
make
you cry.”

“Bully,” I say without thinking, and then I giggle at myself in shock.  Did I just…?  No, I didn’t!

She reaches up and brushes away a tear falling onto my cheek.

“Yes,” she says.  “Oni is going to bully you into passing your course.  So listen to your oni...or else!”

“Yes Oni,” I answer, and I promptly ruin my promise with a giggle. 

Desire Begun

 

I bound into her…I mean Eunji Oni’s…no wait it’s school, so Eunji Sonsengnim’s shared office.  It’s the first time in weeks that the “W” in “Wednesday” stands for “Whee!” instead of “Woe.”  Before she can even offer the chamomile tea I sling my bag onto her desk.  I rummage through my bag to take out the notebook I use for her lessons and excitedly chatter about the new story for this week.  It’s silly woodcutter who hid a girl’s wings so she couldn’t get back home, and she had to stay and do all of his work like she was his property.

She pours two cups of scalding tea, one for herself and one for me. 

“Mira,” she says, and my stomach sinks at her tone.  I sent her the daily emails.  I did all of my homework.  My weekly quiz score wasn’t that great, but it’s only been a week!  I can’t make up all of the work at once. 

“What’s wrong?” I ask nervously. 

“Lee Sonsengnim messaged me.”

My stomach sinks even further.  I am not sure what I could have done wrong, but those have never been happy words between us.  I set my notebook on her desk and hunch my shoulders forward.

“What did I do?” 

“He’s concerned about your midterm exams coming up.”  She taps her capped pen against her desk.  “If you don’t score high enough, your temporary probation may turn into a permanent one.”

I take out my weekly progress report, signed by Lee Sonsengnim and the other teachers saying that my work and attendance have been acceptable for the past week.  I offer it to her with a silent plea.  She takes it from me and pushes her glasses up her nose to read the brief notes.

“Acceptable,” she reads out loud.  She turns back to me.  “I know you’re trying, Mira, but this isn’t going to be enough.” 

I bristle at her words.  “I’ve done all of my homework and it’s only been a week and…”

She stops me.  “We’re almost halfway through the term already.  You lost your chance for the scholarship this month, you’ve missed most of a day, and your homework hasn’t been turned in.  Mira, you should have been off probation ages ago.  I thought just the threat would be enough.”

If it weren’t for the other teachers chatting nearby, the silence would be deafening. 
It’s not fair
, I want to say. 
I can’t fix everything all at once, and you’re the one who said it would be all right
.  I have a feeling, though, that these are the thoughts of the Mira who got into this mess in the first place.  What would a Mira say who wanted to get out of her mess?

I choose my words carefully.  “I know I have a lot to make up, but I don’t know what more I can do.  I don’t want to be on probation any more, either.”

“Do you know what it means if you are on permanent probation?”

I shake my head.  I don’t think “very bad things” is the answer she wants.

“All of your teachers, especially Lee Sonsengnim and I, will need to fill out extensive paperwork at the end of the term evaluating whether you should be allowed to continue.  The school disciplinary committee will meet and review your file.  Also, if at any time during the permanent probation your work is unsatisfactory, you will be dismissed at Director Choi’s discretion.”

I gulp.  I most definitely did not know that.  She leans forward, tapping her pen against the cover of my notebook for emphasis.

“Mira, if that happens there is nothing I can do.  We need you off temporary probation immediately, and unless your midterm scores are high enough I can’t justify that decision to Lee Sonsengnim or Director Choi.”

I pick at a blister on my palm.  I thought today she would be happy that I had a good report and happy that I did so much work on my translation.  I thought everything would be wonderful after our lunch and new understanding.  Didn’t she say I could call her Oni?  She’s being even sterner than Lee Sonsengnim, and that’s saying something. 

I work very hard to keep my voice respectful.  “The listening is really hard.  It’s always too fast, and the recordings are fuzzy.”

“Mira…”

“And the history.  There’s just so much!  I try to read extra stuff online in English to fill in what I can’t understand, but then I don’t know how to translate it back and the questions are always really hard.  You know I’m good at the reading, and even if my translation isn’t great it’s getting better.”

She puts a hand over my fingers digging into the palm of my hand.

“Mira, I’m trying to help.”

It doesn’t feel like it at the moment, even though I know she is right.  Exams are only two weeks away. 

“How are we going to do this?”  She asks the question I can’t answer, at least until I realize that she has again said “we” instead of “you”. 

“We?” I ask her.  She nods. 

“Can we look at my translation first?  Please?  I spent all night on it yesterday.” 

She starts to say something, but I interrupt.

“Then I’ll talk about it, I promise.  But I really want to show you my translation.”

She sighs but nods in agreement.  “Very well,” she says, uncapping her red pen.  “Let’s have it.”

I open my notebook to the last page and show her my translation.  As she reads it, she starts to laugh.

“Mira, you can’t say ‘abduct’ when the original word means ‘lead’!”

“I know, but keep going.  Um, I mean please.”

“And you certainly can’t call the woodcutter ‘the abductor’ through the rest of the story!”

I wait for her to get to the end.  Instead of only translating it into English, I made one of my first attempts to write a story in my new language.  I have written a few very short paragraphs for writing class and the daily journal but only using assigned prompts and grammar structures.  This is my first free-style.

A long time ago when tigers smoked pipes, there lived a Heavenly Maiden who took a bath in a spring.  She took off her wings for her bath.  A bad man hid her wings.  He tricked her and lied to her.  He pretended to love the Heavenly Maiden.  He said he would make her happy.  The Heavenly Maiden believed the bad man.  She went to his house.  The bad man was very happy.  The Heavenly Maiden cried and cried.  Finally she found her wings.  She beat the bad man and ran away.  She flew back to heaven and danced with all of the other Heavenly Maidens.

She laughs so hard that she has to wipe tears from her eyes.  “Mira!  You know that the woodcutter saved the deer’s life and the Heavenly Maiden was a gift to reward his kindness.”

“Not a gift for the Heavenly Maiden!” I argue.  “She didn’t want to stay there.  Plus, he lied to her about not knowing where her wings were.”

“He loved her.  He hid her wings so she would stay and give him children, and then she would want to be with him forever.”

“And he lost her anyway!  All of the lying was for no reason,” I answer stubbornly.

She laughs again, asks if she can photocopy the page, and excuses herself for a moment.  I try to calm down.  By the time she returns, I’m ready to focus on more important things.

“Did you like it?” I ask shyly.  It’s the first time she’s asked to photocopy an assignment.

“Your writing is starting to come along,” she says.  “I think we should enter you in a translation contest next fall.”

“Really?”  She’s never mentioned this before. 

“Yes.  Though I think you might want to start by practicing with the fairy tales.  Just don’t forget the important things like the Heavenly Maiden actually came to love the woodcutter.”

“Abductor,” I argue, but this time I can smile.  “And she got rid of him in the end.”

“That she did,” she agrees.  “Now, about your plan for getting off probation?”

I sigh.  “I’ll save a deer’s life and get him to give me good grades as a reward?”

“Good luck finding the deer.”

I giggle.  Then I grow serious.  She made me promise and I did promise and she said she expects me to keep my promises, but this is a lot harder than I thought it would be. 

“I…” My voice trails off, but my eyes glance toward her stick.  She raises her eyes a bit, but she nods and gets up to close her office door.

“Are you sure?” she asks.  I swallow hard and nod.  “Do you want to tell me when you want me to stop, or do you want me to decide?”

I pick at the blister on my hand again.  “You, please.”  I can’t look at her.

“Do you want just a reminder or do you need it to hurt for real?”

Her voice is so kind, so gentle, so matter-of-fact that I have difficulty forming words for an answer.

“I think you need to make me cry,” I whisper.

She brushes a hand against my cheek.  “Mira-ya,” she says gently.  “You already are.”

Before she asks, I stand up.  I push my bottom out as I bend over, keeping my back taut.  It feels like the stretches I do before an early-morning run, or at least the mornings that I get up in time for a run.  I wish that the protection between my bottom and the rod is my thick denim skirt, but today it is the thinnest material available in a skirt that now seems ridiculously short.  I thought nothing of wearing mid-thigh skirts back home, but here even strangers on the subway look at me and tsk.  I didn’t understand the conservatism until right now.  If the “rod of love” is a way of life, no wonder that girls wear longer skirts.  I pray that my skirt covers more than I think it will, and no matter how sharply she brings down the rod I hold still.  The tears that began before we started have dried, leaving my cheeks stiff and prickly.  I take deep breaths and use the pain to focus.  I am important.  I am cared for.  What I do matters. 

It is one of the most painful I have received yet, but this time afterward it is my arms that reach around her first. 

BOOK: Desire in Any Language
9.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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