Aphelion Issue 245, Volume 23
November 2019
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A Broken Showroom Window and They

by Andrei Gaceff

Before your satellite fell on us, we didn’t really have many ideas, we must admit.


She’s an actress. Yesterday she played in an elevator, but the cabin is so easy to falsify, including the tiny screen on which a floor number slips and makes room for the next. Yes, still easy to fake including a mirror. The elevator is something so simple; with a door, with two doors -- it matters too little.

Nylon socks, however… Oh dear, here’s something really complicated. What a pain! Next come angora sweaters.

She’s not wearing any of these, she can’t always afford them.

Actress Jung So-min is recomposing herself right in front of the apartment. She’s a bit late -- family problems (her big family).

She scratches her nose, she finds that this gesture suits her well, even if there is no filming yet.

A few steps behind her, the wind is blowing horribly, as it usually does, but she only has one door to open for the TV series to continue. She types the code, the lock pretends this mattered, and here’s Jung So-min on the little hallway of the marital home.

She’s nervous about the cat, she worries if the cat is ready to greet her. It’s nowhere to be seen yet.

She takes off her cowboy boots and changes into slippers. Hmm, she’s just about to brush off the sand gathered in small piles on the floor; she is an excellent actress, she knows she must ignore it.

For the light to drop perfectly, a boy with a reflecting panel should have waited for her; instead, blue sand on the floor. The boy is missing, and that is why she’s concerned about the cat, too.

Oh, Woori is ready! It comes from the living room at her feet. Everything is all right, the eyes, the tail, the fur, although sand is present, of course.

So-min caresses the cat and cleans it very discreetly, just a bit, she’s not spoiling the scene. She moves her lips as the scenario dictates -- she even has lines with the cat -- and Woori slides through her hands a few times; it demands to have one ear scratched, then the other.

From the hallway, Jung So-min goes to the cat’s sandbox. She checks it out, runs her palms through the sand -- the temptation to rest there is big; it’s also her favourite spot in the house, not just Woori’s.

End of scene, she’s being communicated.


Before we recovered your satellite, we were only thinking about one thing: whether to continue to line pyramid after pyramid; maybe the time had come for the pyramids in the first row to be taller, pointier.

Testing other shapes, columns… no, that was only a vague plan, for the distant future. But when that complicated object you had sent got close and started to shine on our sky, when it began throwing sparks, we decided to raise the front pyramids at once.


For the next scene, she needs to be in her room. She remains standing near the mattress, she doesn’t change into her comfortable house clothes. She waits a bit longer. And a bit more.

To our ears it would seem like someone is emptying a sack at the apartment’s entrance. Something’s hissing on the hallway. It’s actor Lee Min-ki, her husband in the series. He changes immediately into his slippers, then he bows respectfully at the door of his wife’s room. He’s giving her salutations. Then he gazes upon the half-opened wardrobe; alerted, Jung So-min looks there as well. In the upper part, her few clothes hang, but the lower quarter of the wardrobe contains sand. Politely, complaisant, Jung So-min closes the door of that wardrobe with her foot.

Lee Min-ki raises his eyes towards her. He can’t compose new face expressions so easily; he’s lucky, for his role doesn’t require this. Still, they’re cool, he and his role. He communicates to her:

... They asked me again at work if I think you’re nice.

... And did you give them an answer this time?

... Today, yes. My answer would have pleased you.

That’s the whole conversation, because Woori stalks him. Lee Min-ki mentally consults his list of priorities. He picks up the cat in his arms and keeps it handy for caresses.

Jung So-min puts her hands on her hips. To express her envy, even jealousy, she opens her mouth wide when her husband is fondling Woori.

End of scene! comes an announcement.

She knows that wasn’t a wrap for today. She’d better stay in position, but she for one feels overheated. An assistant comes waving a cardboard to cool her down, and actor Lee Min-ki brings water. So-min signs them to stop; she’s capable to continue acting. But is the other actress ready?

They’re all standing and waiting.

A noise can be heard from the husband’s room; aha, so the mother-in-law will appear from there. It takes her a long time until she’s really prepared to come out, until she opens that room’s door. She is preceded by a series of sounds -- muffled torments, as from a forbidden birth.

One can presume Lee Min-ki’s character is a bit scared to realize his mother was already home, in his house, in his room.

She eventually makes herself seen and it is fine. Jung So-min knows this performer, but it’s not who she would’ve wished to appear in that role. The other veteran actress who could’ve portrayed her mother-in-law was much more fastidious; however, So-min preferred her for her talent. That veteran had been her mother in another series, which they weren’t able to complete. Even so, she remained Jung So-min’s favourite.

So here’s this mother-in-law. It’s the first time she’s visiting them after they got married; this time, she won’t ask Jung So-min if she paid the owner of the house the month’s rent. Mother is just looking at them, and her smile is an accomplished one. She suggests them to go to the living room and sit together, all three of them, on the couch. Of course, she sits in the middle, and she strengthens the familial bond by holding their hands for a few moments. Then she leans and grabs an apple from a bowl on the table. Aha, so an apple is ready; Jung So-min hadn’t noticed it in the first scene, when she passed by.

Mother-in-law asks how their family life is going; what they’re doing together, what they’re doing for one another. For example, who will peel that apple? She hands it to her daughter-in-law, along with a knife. Jung So-min missed the moment when the mother-in-law took the knife from the knife support (she might have brought a look-alike knife with her); what are the old lady’s expectations? And is the apple really prepared to be peeled?

It’s the only fruit in the apartment, so there can’t be any confusion.

Carefully, though, So-min starts cutting it in spirals, as close to the surface as possible. Yes, the peel is listening to her, it follows the idea, the concept.

Lee Min-ki’s role demands him to intervene and take over the operation. Because the truth is that, in the series, Jung So-min has a date, and their marriage is fake, just a contract.

The fake wife leaves the couch.

And… it’s end of scene, they’re being told.

It was the last for today.

Jung So-min is barely hanging on, but she’s preparing a sequel of sorts: on the hallway, she writes a note to her series’ colleague and sticks it on the door of his room. She had devised more than one message, but chose. She makes three steps away to get out of the apartment; she then looks back to check if somehow her Post-it has already fallen. She knows she’s asking a lot from that note, but she hopes it will be read and have an effect.

Outside the studio, she’s very little protected against the storm, and only for a short distance. Anyway, she’s terribly tired. And she hasn’t even shot the scenes with Esom yet, her high school friend. Because actress Esom is not ready, for the time being.

She makes a few more steps, then lets herself faint into the sand. She feels she’s falling apart. She rests there for a while, lost, then the family comes to get her; to pick her up and take care of her, to make her well, one of the best.

Actor Lee Min-ki is the last to leave the set. He passes by a garbage bin that still hasn’t taken a break, and inside there are crumpled pieces of paper. One of them has “You know the way to my parents’ house, go there and make kimchi” written on it. (Will they ever shoot the pickles scene?)

He can ignore that message.

He wouldn’t give too much importance to the next paper note from the bin, either; it’s more abstruse, with ‘Doris room’ and a number. But he admits he vaguely recalls that number in connection with a room, from an archived story. (Was Doris in the story, or outside it?)

Finally, on the door, he sees the true message, surely meant for him. He sits, with the note in his hand, because he has to read it and reread it: “Some words die before entering my heart. But to conquer my heart with words, they first need to reach my ears.”

Lee Min-ki understands. He will probably never speak as clearly and as beautifully as actress Jung So-min. He leaves the note on his knees and practices the pronunciation of some fragments from the next episodes.

))) Ji Hossi!… How was Mongolia? Where did you really go?

He doesn’t actually have someone to ask for an opinion; nothing in the room is an expert in talking. He continues to try, to strive, to breathe out vibrating air, in order to express himself:

))) Ji Hoya, you are so mean. In my dream you tell me you love me, but when I’ll wake up I won’t find you next to me.

Oh, he wasn’t alone. The director watched him and hints he’s making progress.

While staying with Lee Min-ki to push him to talk, the director remembers the first story that caught their attention (they had not reached the box with Doris Lessing then). In that novel, a man was tricked by the villagers from a settlement between the dunes, cruel hosts, to descend to a house in a hole. There, the visitor discovered what was meant for him: to collect sand all his life, to stop the sand from advancing and covering the village. Of course, the producers decided to never turn into a movie that particular Kobo Abe book, a book that saddened and desolated them all.


But the first satellite that arrived was not the only one; curiously, in the same decade, one more came to us. It’s not comparable to yours, not by a long shot. Another part of our population dedicated itself to studying it.


It’s a new day. Of the following week.

They have regrouped. They need to shoot the scene of the kiss at the bus station, which shouldn’t be tremendously difficult; Jung So-min is already controlling beautifully the moisture of her lips, and Lee Min-ki only has to look amazed and let himself be kissed; the bus is the problem.

They got it easy yesterday, when Jung So-min had to hit balloons at the park. The arrows were very fit, and, anyway, the director implicated travelling sand in the action as well, sand that was just getting ready to leave, to take off. Thus assisted, So-min burst all the booth’s balloons and won the plush prize. Even she herself applauded those talented arrows.

However, they want and need the bus to be a much bigger object, with detailed interior, with light bulbs -- and it must glow from many different points. The director insists on it presenting itself better, shining and lighting with the headlights. And that’s not all. It needs to come from a kilometre away, with credible speed, take the first lane, and place itself right at the station.

First, the bus trains for the scene alone, empty. It moves its wheels, opens its folding doors.

Then it admits a single passenger, for testing -- it bears and supports his getting on the bus, his standing or sitting inside. It takes the bus two days to look good and behave as well. On the third day, it can accommodate all the passengers plus the driver.

For a debutant, for a novice bus, it wasn’t that bad. It will be cast in other movies as well, actress So-min tells it. She remembers a very suitable Chong Hyon-jong poem and transmits:

... Cheer up, bus. You’re going to be famous.

The answer: the bus blinks its headlights. It leaves her at a small distance from the station, where the actress is going to disappear, because her job is done. After the car closes its doors with a hiss, Jung So-min hears something that can only be a recording. Someone calls her by her character’s name, first politely, then like a close friend:

))) Ji Hossi! Ji Hoya!

The wind never makes such good jokes. The actress doesn’t know whether to trust her hearing anymore; she looks behind, where actor Lee Min-ki is leaning on the station’s sign pole. His body seems to be asking “Where to?”. Sly. But she can’t miss the fact that Min-ki is keeping a paper up in sight. On which “Doris Room 19” is written. The note from her! Lee Min-ki is unbelievable. He has unfolded that scrapped note and made an agreement with it to stay like this for five days.

Actress Jung So-min is happy. Lee Min-ki understood her messages. All of them.


We broke the deadlock when we deciphered the Ink Garden. Alexandria Ryu offered us the key; her poem -- Language’s Travel. Why haven’t you placed this piece first, at the beginning?

“My territory is in between those of Silence and Sound.”

Speaking -- what an accomplishment! But in order to speak well, you need good hearing, too.

And any attempt of pronunciation was made against our dear wind. Which wouldn’t shut up either; and not only did it cover frequencies, but it also stole the air from our mouths. That’s how it was. Typical for it.


Veteran actress Mi-sook still exists, of course they haven’t given up on her. And she will never retire. The last series, “Can We Get Married?”, was interrupted because of her, but she won’t quit. She has a reputation to stand for. Let’s not forget the best sand gave her life.

Here she is, practicing for a scene from the next series they’ll try. She needs to fish and catch an ocean perch or a greenling.

Of course, she doesn’t trust the fish, not even the fishing rod. She’ll be the rod, too, including the line, and from one point during the action, she will be the ocean perch as well, because she’s a perfectionist.

She didn’t have problems with the straw hat, with the dress and the little straps, with the shoes; she’s known as the actress with the most truthful wardrobe. A director on duty confirms she looks lovely; she already knew that, but now she has to descend to the water, treading on rocks. She makes no wrong steps; the fact that she’s staggering a bit is also an act. In the series, she’ll come across a doctor whom she knew from Seoul; they’ll meet on the island shore, and he will offer her the fishing rod to try this type of fun, too.

She doesn’t have time for the doctor now, she’s focusing on the rod. The fishing line is really, really troublesome, something so thin to follow a bait which is walked by frisky waves. The veteran Mi-sook does not forget that the small hat and her dress must pretend to obey the breeze.

A few rounder stones flip under her heels, but she knows them, they agreed for things to happen that way.

Finally, she composes the perch close to the hook. How focused she needs to be in the role of the fishing line, too!

The face of veteran Mi-sook becomes a battlefield, and that brings to mind another Korean poem to the present director. This time, the director is disagreeing with the poet -- you immediately fall in love with Mi-sook, but you won’t forget her too quickly.

Oh, indeed, she’s also among the very few actors capable of spitting.

A director must think about everything; and, if he comes to think about it, he doesn’t know any actor able to urinate, not even among the big film stars.


One of your experts said that a movie should be like a diaper. So good that you don’t feel the need to go to the bathroom. Of course, that man didn’t have our problem in mind -- going to the toilet in the movie.


Actress Jung So-min recomposes near a small bench, actually near a sand pile that trains to be a bench. Jung So-min doesn’t have a shooting, she only left her family for a bit. She sits on the bench -- she knows this won’t bother it with the tests, on the contrary, it will make it all more authentic.

She wears her hair tied, a pretty fancy blouse -- yet blue -- and… pyjama pants covered with a drawing of smiling snails. What a mistake. The pink snails on her pants are quickly powdered with completely untrained blue sand; the wind is blowing, of course.

Jung So-min’s thoughts run to the next series, “The Day After We Broke Up”, but she does not have confirmation that she’ll get the role. She doesn’t even know if that series is possible for the time being. Of course, this amateur bench does its work well, but “One More Time / The Day After We Broke Up” is really difficult.

And So-min should totally rest, not wander in her pyjamas. She leans on the bench’s backrest and stares into the distance, at departures. From the pyramids’ boulevard, a lot of sand gains momentum and raises in the sky. It goes to visit the creators of all these soap operas.


“I forgot how to fly
as I learned to walk on Earth.
Have I been walking for too long?
Will I be able to fly again?”

-We recite to actress So-min the verses of Ryu, from the sand’s archive.


She envies the travelling sand. Which, unlike her, knows other subatomic particles tricks; it trained for decades, with the sand within the sand.

She needed those years to become an actress. One day, maybe she will find time for the training to become a traveller.

The small bench no longer holds up, it’s falling apart, and Jung So-min lands on her butt. She laughs, she cries, she imagines it hurts, and immediately regrets she has not been filmed.


In that space bordered by old pyramids and new columns -- which we now call a boulevard -- we organize events. Pretty often. Because there we control the wind better.


Actress Kim Sa-rang comes to the K-Drama awards. She poses. Her evening gown could kill any real audience, so the flashes never cease to pay her compliments. A cameraman drops the filming apparatus, which immediately turns to dust, to sand. Together with the camera, one of his fingers broke as well and fell. The cameraman gathers sand off the ground as fast as he can, and when he straightens his back, he’s already carrying a pristine video camera on his shoulder; too late now, Kim Sa-rang has already made a grimace.


The satellite that fell after yours didn’t show us anything beautiful, it didn’t come with the art or someone’s memories, organized in little silicon boxes. But by studying it, we have learnt to wander far from home, as much as desired. To go anywhere for a visit. But where? Oh, your satellite is persistently showing us an address. We are gladly coming. After all, it’s blue where you live, too.

..... . . . . . . .

Oh. We weren’t expecting not to find you home. There’s really no one, only props. Do you mind if we take your place in the showroom windows and on the scene?


2019 Andrei Gaceff


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