The Boarding School Letters

By Ah-reum Han

March 20, 2017

The Boarding School Letters

But consider for example the six-year-old daughter, face down on her new dorm bed, who cannot possibly imagine what to write to her mother a thousand miles away. What she remembers: departure, leaving their house like thieves, by moonlight, so they wouldn’t miss the first ferry or the first day of school. Dear Mama, she begins. Then her pen carves paper in the shapes of trees and flowers.

Every afternoon, the teachers stack new letters on the office desk to be faxed home after church on Sunday. The sheets lie waiting in quiet bundles, a bouquet of stories and naked pleas, the office air sweetening on black and blue ink. The machine sips pages like holy wine, inch by inch, turning stroke to static before emerging on the other side. Mama, I miss you, writes the girl in the morning, When will you come?

The replies always arrive on a single sheet of fax paper, light as pressed flowers and still warm. Sticky hands will worry the letter to pleats, reading the words even after the months and years hush the black to dusky yellow then glossy white, settling like sea-foam on water. Mother, the periwinkles are blooming, she begins again, And they are not as pink here.

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