I looked around my room.
Bloody drips and footprints were smeared all over the silvery marble floor. They started by the door, crossed the room and stopped at the foot of the bed. Assuming that the person leaving the prints hadn’t walked backward, whatever had happened had occurred outside my bedroom door. My bed was drenched in blood — the sheets, blankets and pillow. I looked down at myself. Clots of the stuff hung all over my black sweater, sweatpants and socks. So the tang of blood that had made me lurch awake a few minutes ago wasn’t a sign of an impending seizure; it was the real thing.
Were those my footsteps? What had happened outside my room? Why was I covered in blood? Did I have a seizure? If so, it must have been bad. Did I bite my tongue? Could you bite your tongue so that the blood covered your whole body? Given the amount, it would make more sense that someone had spitefully thrown a bucket of pig’s blood over me, or stabbed me. Neither seemed likely.
Where had Mother been while all this was happening? She must have been sleeping. Mother kept strict routines for most things in life, from eating to going to the bathroom to exercising. Her sleeping habits were another such thing. Each night, she went to bed at nine after taking one of the sleeping pills Auntie, a psychiatrist, had prescribed. I had to be home before then. The only time she didn’t follow her nightly routine was when I was late.
This rule didn’t apply to my adopted brother, Hae-jin. Mother justified this discriminatory practice by saying that she didn’t need to worry about him having a seizure on the streets late at night, like I might. It was unfair, but I had to accept it; I didn’t want to collapse in front of people, fall onto the tracks while waiting for a train, or flail around in the street and get run over by a bus. Nevertheless, it was my curfew that led me, from time to time, to run in the middle of the night, sneaking out via the steel door on the roof like a person starved of darkness.
I had done it just last night. I’d arrived home at 8:55 p.m., having had to leave in the middle of drinks with professors to make it back in time. I’d had three or four glasses of soju mixed with beer, even though I normally didn’t drink, and had walked home from the bus stop in the rain, hoping it would cool my flushed face. The heat subsided but I was still buzzed enough to feel happy. Maybe I was a little more than buzzed — I forgot that the front door to the apartment didn’t work unless you punched in a code followed by an asterisk, so I waged a hopeless battle with the door for twenty minutes. All the apartments in this building had keyless locks. After a while, I just stood there with my hands in my pockets, glaring at the malfunctioning lock. My phone pinged several times. I knew they were texts from Mother. I didn’t have to read them to know what they said:
Have you left?
Where are you?
Are you close?
It’s raining. I’ll pick you up at the bus stop.
Five seconds after the last message, the door flew open. Mother, who dressed elegantly even to go to the supermarket, appeared with her car keys in her hand, looking stylish in a baseball cap, white sweater, brown cardigan, skinny jeans and white sneakers.