Arlene Kim

Wilma tells me that Austrians don't say "I love this or that" the way Americans do. "Love is not used that way," she says from the passenger seat (say it to yourself in a Schwarzeneggerian way to really hear me, "Luff iss not yoost daht vay...") while correcting her dirndl and patting down the perfect wig of her hair. She says, "I say 'I love my husband, Siggy' (short for Siegfried, driving in his deer-skin trousers) or 'I love my daughter, Linda,' (next to me on our way to the christening) but not 'I love my car' or 'I love that movie' or 'I love the mountains' or 'I love vacation.' You know?"     I do,   but,  I don't.   This is the second time I have heard this. An old teacher told me first: "The way you say 'I love poetry' is so ... valley girl." (Like, gawwwd. Another American great.)  Did I love it? What do I love? During the car ride, we all swerve side to side as Siggy navigates the narrow roads up the mountain. I say over to myself, over and over, love love love love until the word erases itself, loses all shame, badge, memory, reward, fragility, heartbreak, song. Hear just the sound.    I love when that happens.   dirndl dirndl dirndl dirndl wig wig wig wig wig   mountain mountain mountain mountain mountain car car car car deer deer deer deer deer deer swerve swerve swerve  swerve    swerve      love love love love love love love      love      love.        love.     Start again from sound.







Right before I wrote this, I'd been traveling a lot—Asia and Europe and a bit in the Middle East—and had all these languages swirling around me. It reminded me of a summer I was unemployed and decided to go all out at the Seattle International Film Festival and see as many films as I could in a week: I started at 9 a.m. and motorcycled around the city watching movies until midnight, or, if there was also a midnight movie going, until 2 a.m. I sat through so many hours of movies alone; sometimes I convinced myself I had learned Norwegian or Czech. It was strange when someone spoke to me in English—strange and beautiful—and though it was an interruption of a kind, I was grateful for it, I was sort of in love with them for it—just like when I was traveling. It was like a secret I'd forgotten. It seemed at times like it'd been days since I heard my own voice, since I heard a word I recognized. My tongue was slipping up, losing it. So I'd say little words to myself again and again to keep it together. I still do: slip, lose it, word-word-word-word, try to keep it together. You know what I mean?