“Self Value” by Hyewon Cho

1. I was sleeping in red satin sheets that smelled of you when, out of the blue, you called and said: I met a guy and I’m going to sleep with him tomorrow.

2. I hung up the phone. And said nothing to you for the next two years.

3. We’d been together non-stop for many years and I should have said: I hope you think it’s worth it.

4. The following night, I unplugged the answering machine.

5. But the phone rang and rang until I yanked it out of the wall.

6. Maybe you wanted to tell me you weren’t fucking the guy.

7. Maybe you wanted to tell me there was no guy and you’d said it just to hurt me.

8. Perhaps you got an idea from Prince: …she just picked up the phone/dropped it on the floor/ahh-ahh was all I heard.

9. From your hometown, you emailed me a long, twisty note with no sorry and no explanation.

10. If you want me to come home, I’ll come.

11. It dawned on me that a “quick trip” to your hometown had turned into a move to your hometown.

12. I didn’t click reply. I didn’t think I needed to explain that we were no longer entwined.

13. A year ticked by and I moved too, taking our books, sheets, camera collection, telescope.

14. You showed up at my new apartment unannounced.

15. Actually, you and my friend showed up at my apartment.

16. You had her ring my bell and ask me to come down.

17. I didn’t even know you were in Chicago, but I declined the invitation to come out and play.

18. I was getting ready to go on a date.

19. Perhaps you hid across the street and watched me get into a car and drive away with some guy who did exist and who I did sleep with, badly and briefly.

20. When I came home, your voice was on my answering machine.

21. I was there today too. Call me at this number. I want to see you.

22. I changed my phone number.

23. Another year clomped by, and you emailed to tell me the aforementioned friend was leaving Chicago. You thought I’d want to say goodbye.

24. When I went to say just that, she was on the phone with you.

25. I pretended I didn’t know I was set up.

26. When she shoved the phone in my face, I shook my head: No, no, no.

27. Then I said Hello? as if I didn’t know it was you and you…you were soft and gentle like you were when I met you, and you disarmed me with every question, every word.

28. Behind me, my friend was packing and maniacally emptying her second-story apartment.

29. I whispered to you: She has to be out tonight and she’s throwing things out the window.

30. You laughed: Like what?

31. Barstools, clothes, toilet cleaner…I hope she doesn’t kill someone.

32. When you said: I think of you always, I thought of how every time you took your love away, it nearly killed me.

33. You asked if you could call me later, as if we hadn’t already gone through all that before: you-love-me, you-love-me-not, you-love-me-eternally, you-love-me-not.

34. You added: No matter what, I’ve always loved you. I’ve always known I could never love anyone but you.

35. I told you: Love is a verb.

36. But I found myself on the phone with you day after day, intrigued by the stories you told, what you were reading—Cioran, Shōnagon—and, mostly, by you.

37. You explained Mulholland Dr. in four words: It’s easy; she’s sadistic.

38. You sent me Lhasa’s second album, The Living Road, hoping we could forge a different path.

39. It was easy to activate my hope. I wanted to know you again as much as I wanted you to know me.

40. You emailed: Do you remember how perfectly, how ecstatically we fit together?

41. I didn’t say that you scared me, that I was just waiting for you to bail again.

42. You asked: Can I come see you? I need to tell you some things in person.

43. One week after my friend tossed her belongings from the window, you flew back to the city where we’d lived, breathing into each other, for years.

44. You returned to Chicago, where we’d shared a bank account, a toaster, a beat-up white car, and red satin sheets.

45. It was strange that you were “visiting” me. And the minute you arrived and reached for my belt, it felt completely natural.

46. But for the first time, I told you: No. I wanted to talk.

47. I wanted to ask: ¿Qué chingados estás haciendo en mi depa? En mi vida? Is this just a fuck-fest? What do you expect?

48. You aren’t the type of woman used to being told no and you looked as if I’d stabbed you.

49. Sorry...you mumbled—ironically, for wanting to have sex with me, not for supposedly going off to have sex with some guy when we were one.

50. You said: In the years we’ve been apart, I haven’t been with anyone. Not even a kiss.

51. Everyone I told this to scoffed and said you were lying. But when I met you, you hadn’t been with anyone for years, and you were unusual enough for it to once again be true.

52. I don’t know if I wanted it to be true. But I didn’t say the same thing. Nor did I say: After I hung up on you two years ago, I cried myself raw.

53. And I kept crying, even while dating someone else.

54. While dating someone else, I didn’t hide the fact that I still needed to cry.

55. From you I didn’t hide the fact that I dated someone else.

56. Our mutual friend had mistakenly told you she was French.

57. When I admitted she was German, you replied: I prefer to think of you with someone calling out: Oui, mam’selle, oui!

58. Then you explained how every day we’d been apart, you felt something was terribly wrong and how, if you couldn’t live with me, you preferred to live in solitude.

59. Every conversation turned serious. And ended with: Do you still love me?

60. I didn’t want to give in so easily, but I knew it was inevitable that I’d admit many things with my body.

61. And, even as you ate me, I feared you’d take a bite out of my pleasure center—so no one else would ever find it.

62. You smelled better than anything I’d ever experienced, so I ignored my fear and everything I’d been doing, just so I could take in your naked smell.

63. Our sex life picked up where it left off. And though I couldn’t trust you, I couldn’t get enough of you.

64. You said: I’m not going to say no one will ever love you as profoundly as I do, but no one will ever eat you like I do. It sounded like a challenge.

65. But then you left and solitude engulfed me. You sent flowers, cards, plants, and plans for our future.

66. It infuriated you that I stayed late at work or didn’t email you back in time.

67. If you couldn’t reach me because I stopped at the grocery store after work, you wanted to know exactly what I bought.

68. Amazing what a week of sex and hope had done.

69. You sent a scented love letter inside a first edition of The Lover by Duras. I know you’re busy, but I need to know I’m your only lover.

70. I couldn’t deny it—I was open to an open relationship with anyone but you.

71. So, I sent a letter saying: You are the only one and I need to see you, touch you, taste you every day.

72. You traveled without me and I got postcards asking if we should move to England. You quoted Gibran: When love beckons to you, follow her…

73. We attached pictures of ourselves to emails and your beauty overwhelmed me.

74. As time shuffled on, I was less clear about what we were doing. I invoked Gibran: The sword hidden among her pinions is wounding me from afar.

75. Still discussing where we could live together, we decided to meet up somewhere between the cities where we were living apart.

76. You chose one place and I another. It was you I wanted to see, so I conceded.

77. I arranged our plane tickets and didn’t tell anyone what we were planning. I didn’t tell you I could express all parts of myself with you, even if I couldn’t love all parts of you.

78. One day I walked down Barry Ave., right where you’d once smacked me, in the middle of the street, in the middle of summer.

79. Someone called the cops, but as I stood there, I remembered they didn’t take two girls fighting on Barry Ave. very seriously.

80. I also remembered how you rubbed me down with ice cubes and how, no matter the season, we’d often do nothing but talk and make love all day.

81. On the phone that night I didn’t tell you about walking down Barry Ave. You mentioned you didn’t like penetration with men and I didn’t ask: Why are you telling me this?

82. Before we hung up you added: I want to kiss you from your widow’s peak to your monte de Venus, and it set me on fire.

83. Then you sent an email saying you didn’t want to meet up halfway between our respective homes after all.

84. You didn’t explain why.

85. I figured you wanted to be in charge, pay, arrange everything your way, make me chase you.

86. Maybe you wanted me to pay for surviving without you.

87. Perhaps Prince played it perfectly: Maybe you’re just like my mother/she’s never satisfied…

88. Neither was I. I wanted you to tell me what happened. I wanted to understand.

89. But down deep I knew; if I ever got answers, they’d more likely come from someone or something other than you.

90. That’s how Ted Bundy comes into play.

91. My friend, a writer of YA books, recently told me about her fascination with Bundy and Ann Rule’s relationship.

92. She said Bundy dropped out of college, worked minimum wage jobs, was emotionally immature, and lacked ambition. So his girlfriend dumped him.

93. He went back to school, got his act together, and though years had gone by, he got his girl back.

94. They planned a future, planned to get married, and when he was sure he’d hooked her, he gave her the cold shoulder.

95. He wanted to decide if and when the relationship was done—and he figured out a way to do it.

96. But then he went and murdered who knows how many women.

97. I’m not saying just because you dropped out of college and lacked ambition, you’re a murderer.

98. I’m not saying you planned everything from 11-84.

99. I just know that when my friend, the YA writer, told me about Bundy’s girlfriend, I finally understood why this list had to end at 100.

100. Because one day you unexpectedly gave me the cold shoulder—and then nothing else happened between us.

Marcy Rae Henry es una latina chingona de Los Borderlands. She’s lived in Andalucía, tucked away in the Himalayas and now isolates and slips on the ice while walking her rescue dog by the Chicago River. Her writing has been longlisted, shortlisted, honorably mentioned, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and appears or is forthcoming in The Columbia Review, Epiphany, Hobart, The Southern Review, and BathHouse Journal, among others. She has received a Chicago Community Arts Assistance Grant and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship. DoubleCross Press has promised to publish a chapbook of her poems.

Hyewon Cho is a sophomore attending Korean International School in Seoul, South Korea. When she is not making artwork, her hobbies include walking her two-year-old collie and experimenting with old film cameras.