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A New Safeguard

Hot sands burn my bare feet as I peer at pale silhouettes of bathers in the shallow waters far from shore. I walk into the water toward them until the four women, all in white, back away. 'Anyeo hasseo,' I say. They stop, then giggle and drop their gaze. When one responds, 'Anyeo hasseo' I move closer. Each girl is wearing a white, long-sleeve muslin shirt and long, white muslin pants that cling to her wet petite body. Tiny hands are clad in white cotton gloves. Most surreal is that each holds a white umbrella over her head to protect beautiful high cheekbones that whisper a Mongol ancestry.

For the two years I lived in Soul I benefited financially from this determination by Korean women to safeguard their beauty. Each Monday morning I would walk up to the third floor of a building on Myeong-Dong for a one-hour Ginseng facial. This cost the ridiculously low sum of fourteen dollars and included Rose Hibiscus tea in the cosy lobby afterward. Today the same treatment in Australia where I am living costs me one-hundred dollars. I would happily pay this, but current Covid lockdown rules in Melbourne restrict travel to five kilometres from home. 


Lloyd for a boy. Grace for a girl. We both hoped for a girl. When there was no baby after years of trying I took it as a sign. Career was more important. So, I left Australia for the promise of success in America. Did I do the right thing?



The word lost comes from the Old Norse word los, meaning the disbanding of an army. This is how I feel sometimes settling into this new country. I am alone. Familiar friends and family are now somewhere else.


Serial Irresolution

I am hiding in my room at Silliman College when an envelope arrives with the familiar handwriting. It is two days before I can open it. When he called me in Denver last month I told him I would drop back into the abyss if I saw him again. Then we were so perfect together last week the pain I have felt from his absence belonged to somebody else. “I am so proud of my beautiful and independent schoolgirl studying economics. I love you and you are so far away”, he wrote. We shall never be quite done with each other.




The screeching of the rental gears reverberates through the hotel’s empty car park. Where’s that damn reverse? Shit! Now it’s starting to snow and my flight leaves for London in two hours. I slump forward on the steering wheel. When four enormous men appear out of nowhere I reach for the door lock. Too late. When the one with a shaved head and neck tattoos bangs on my side window I cower. He opens the door. I am mute with terror. “Wir helfen lhnen geme. Wir helfen lhnen geme.” They lift the car like a Tonka toy, turn it to face the road to the airport, and wave me goodbye. I don't know German, but recognize kindness. 


I like his Teutonic profile. After scouring London for a late-might drink on a Sunday night we settle for his Connaught hotel room. No food and too much drinking. When he says his birthday is the 19th of June, I don't tell him that is the date I married my husband. 


Insanity hovers on the edge of my confusion and aggravation. I peer into a mirror and wonder when my external identity became a mask.

I am fat but because I move to a new country every couple of years nobody knows that I was once a ballerina.

Hong Kong

I am at home in Littleton when the phone rings. “Derek is dead. Killed himself. Bloody car accident in Hong Kong.” I hear his father suck in his breath. I imagine him at home in Chester trying not to cry. “Would you believe it was in the bloody Morgan we made him for his birthday. I’m flying out there now. Just thought you should know.” I stand open-mouthed trying to make sense of it all. “Oh, Geoffrey. I’m so very, very sorry. Is there anything I can do? “I can’t swallow. “When? When did it happen,” I whisper. “Yesterday,” he replies. “Tuesday over there.” When I put the phone down, I wrap my arms around myself trying to understand then the grief descends.



I stop and listen to the landscape, the whisper of the trees, the wind rippling through the leaves. The ground is smooth and soft under my feet. Everything is softly silhouetted. Danish Summer is benign; unlike Australia where prickles pierce underfoot and scrubby branches scratch as I pass by.


Images ricochet around the room as multiple reflections march randomly and shout at me to declare myself. How do I voice what these changes do far beneath me, moving deep under the surface, like the plates of the earth? Will there be a crash of tectonic plates and my life will become a failure?

Ladies Who Lunch in Doha

"We lunch there every week; Join us." Allison invited.

"Our usual tea" Caroline smiled to the waitress.

At five o'clock the sweet-natured staff continued to refill our teapots.

"Here's to our leisurely life in Qatar," toasted Judith.

Fortunately, we came by taxi because the teapots were filled with gin.

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