Fiction | June 19, 2020

When we first moved into the Golden River Mountain Apartments, we felt we’d been misled. They were indeed apartments, but that was as far as they lived up to their name. Their concrete facades—the ubiquitous beige of everything constructed in 1980s Seoul, discolored by decades of air pollution—could not have been called golden, even under the flattering glow of the late-afternoon sun. Nor did even the highest units afford a view of a mountain or river or anything but vast expanses of drab apartment blocks almost identical to our own, dotted by the occasional vacant lot slated for redevelopment. Technically speaking, we were just a kilometer from the Han River, but to reach it you’d need to navigate a maze of dimly lit underpasses filled with pigeon shit and puddles of mysterious origin. Not that we resented our new home for its deficiencies. We had no illusions about our situation and understood that if the place had been any nicer, we wouldn’t have been able to afford it.

The reason we were on such a tight budget was that Eunji had decided to quit her job at the university and devote herself full time to painting. Privately, I was less than enthusiastic about her decision. It was wonderful for her to be following her heart, and she was obviously talented, but I had no confidence that she had what it would take to ensure success in the fickle and irrational world of art. Even if things worked out for her eventually, our situation in the meantime would be precarious. My job at the logistics company paid barely enough to furnish our current lifestyle, and then there was the matter of the child we were trying to conceive.

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