This is a story about what happened on the day of the poet’s 28th birthday. She and her new friends went to see a concert at a back-alley café and went back to her sister’s apartment to celebrate her birthday. When everyone was drunk, someone proposed a drinking game and the poet suggested that they play “Never Have I Ever.” Participants of the game take turns to declare an act they have never done in their lives and anyone who has done it has to drink. Normally, it starts with funny questions and slowly transforms into frank and even sexual ones. When the poet was about to go first to demonstrate how to play the game, someone said he would start first. “I have never tried to kill myself,” said the man and drank up his glass of soju. Surprisingly, everyone downed their drinks. Obviously, all of them thought of killing themselves at least once in their lives. A game that started as a joke quickly revealed the scars and pain hidden within them.
Korean-American poet Cathy Park Hong recalls the story at the end of her Pulitzer Prize-nominated essay, “Minor Feelings.” She talks about an event happened in Korea to emphasize that life is hard no matter where you are. Asian Americans are exposed and affected by the white racial frame and young Koreans live in despair, agonizing over life’s problems. The hardships of life can be seen everywhere.
This is not only true for young people. Regardless of age, everyone would have thought about death at least once. There may be more people than you might think who barely survived because they had slightly more will to live than will to die. The poet writes to embrace such people and to be embraced by them. It is because she once felt the urge to kill herself. That is why the readers’ heart is moved by her personal story. They look back on their own scars through the scars of others. It is the scars that bind them together.