Under Bare Cloth

Ellen Yeon Kim

Not long after we got there, me and B and M realised that all they wanted was our death. James was sleeping next to me. We didn’t panic; it was not even that much of a surprise, but— .  In my mind, there was a young girl: I mean me, the me of thirty or even fifty years ago. No, maybe it was seventy years ago, or a million. I had said at that time that I didn’t think I’d live to reach forty or even my thirties. It wasn’t something of sadness or depression; it was rather an emptiness, a lacking of air in your lungs, a lacking of water in you. I was frightened. It had been just like that. I’d had to try so hard to keep my self alive, even from when I was just a child. It was like squeezing out every last drop of yourself just to live. But I survived—in fact all four of us had managed in the same way—and now they wanted our death. After all those years, all that time of living with the void in my lung, living with the lack of water. They tried to leave us out there while we were sleeping. They left us sleeping under bare cloth so that the cold could kill us before we woke up.

We didn’t speak a word. We were very tired but we didn’t want to die there. It is not that we wanted to live; we had been so tired for so long anyway, or at the very least I had been like that. Yes, we were ready to leave, but not in this way; this couldn’t be the way we ended. Dying of cold in a cottage in the countryside? For Christ’s sake, we’d rather die on the street. Those kids didn’t know what life was, how it needs to be understood at its end. So we stood up, still none of us speaking a single word. Only, James—he was the only one still asleep. He wouldn’t be able to walk at all. He needed to be left there, no way around it. I didn’t want to wake him up, but needed to feel him, his presence. I needed to know I was with him for a moment before I left. So I slowly kneeled at his side, putting my hand on his head. His body twitched; he seemed to wake up. The first thing he did, after he realised he had been sleeping, he—he—he checked his diaper, to see if there had been a leak. Then he saw us, holding the few things we had, and me next to him. And—and—he hauled up his hand to a sway.  Even with a slight smile, he strained and waved his hand to me, to us. I felt like bursting into tears. What kind of farewell were we saying? Was it for this that we had tried so hard not to kill ourselves?

I didn’t manage to cry, not a single drop. I was like a desert. And still no one still spoke, as if we didn’t have a language. We didn’t need one.

Ellen Yeon Kim is an artist based in London/Frankfurt, currently studying at Städelschule, where she has been studying under Peter Fischli and Simon Starling and at Slade School of Art. She works with various mediums including text, performance, film, and performative objects/space; and believes in Thursdays coming after Wednesdays and May after April.