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Why do the plovers fly away? - Chapter 30

Updated: Jun 16, 2022

tcho—l sok, tcho—l sok, tchok, schwa—a

Rushing, smashing, crushing,

Hills like great mountains, rocks like houses: What are they? What are they?

Roaring: Do you know, don’t you know, my great might?

Rushing, smashing, crushing,

tcho—l sok, tcho—l sok, tchok, schwa—a

– from "From the Sea to a Boy" by Choe Nam-Seon (Trans. Brother Anthony)


The event centre was decorated in an oceanic theme. Blue and white balloons bobbed throughout the hall, navy and teal streamers fluttered from the walls, and elated graduates posed for pictures behind carnival cutouts of a mermaid and sea king.

“Ugh, so much plastic,” Mel griped.

“Try to relax, my love. I’ll get them to ditch the balloons at next year’s party,” said Anne.

Mel focused on keeping her wet hair from dripping on Anne’s dress, though that was easier said than done since they’d linked their arms together. She briefly explained the fight she’d had with her parents, minus the coming out part. Somehow she managed not to shed a single tear.

“Oh my God, Mel, are you alright? Do you want to talk about it?” asked Anne.

Mel shook her head. “I came here to forget about all that.”

The dim hall was equal parts dance hall and game room; a crowd of teenagers grooved to upbeat pop music on one side while their peers attempted to best one another at Kubb on the other. People called out to Anne and waved as they passed. How had she met so many graduates despite being a first year? Apparently she’d made more friends in a matter of months than Mel had in years.

Halima Bulmer stood up and waved them over to her table, where she and her friends Emani and Elizabeth were gathered around a game of giant Jenga, along with Halima’s older brother, Zayed. Halima was resplendent in a long-sleeved cerulean gown and matching hijab, with cream-colored embroidery encircling her wrists.

“Hey Halima, how’s Gubbins?” Anne called. She was referring, of course, to Halima’s Instagram-famous cat.

“I gave him his breakfast five minutes late this morning, so it’s been a rather trying day

for Gubbins. Come play, luvs! We’ve just started another round!”

Mel pried a block from the very bottom of the stack, and the game was on. With each move, the tower leaned more and more precariously. Halima removed a block from the already-unstable left side of the column–a gutsy move. The group gasped as the tower wobbled, then steadied. Anne took her sweet time choosing her next move. Finally, she settled on a tricky extraction from the left side of the tower. At first it looked as though she was going to make it, but at the last moment, her fingers twitched. On purpose? Mel wondered. Blocks tumbled down and skittered under the table, eliciting cries of defeat from the rest of the group.

“Come on, Mel,” said Anne. “Let’s go dance.”

Anne took her hand and led her to the other side of the hall, where Harry Styles was blasting from a pair of speakers. People bustled shoulder to shoulder, one boy nearly elbowed Mel in the face, and she asked herself for what must have been the millionth time why she’d asked Anne to the dance. This was simply not her scene. She hated crowds and socializing, and she wasn’t a particularly graceful dancer. She felt like everyone was side-eyeing her, judging her enormous gown and trying to suss out her relationship with Anne.

“Do you feel like everyone’s looking at us?” she whispered.

“Why, because we’re the best-dressed couple here? They’re having too much fun to bother thinking about us.”

She’d called them a couple. Mel could have screamed.

It was hard to worry about anyone else when her date had moves. Anne flowed and simmered like lava, exploded like a breaking wave. Mel clumsily imitated her movements, making both of them laugh.

“I didn’t know you could dance!” she said.

“Everyone can dance,” said Anne. “But it doesn’t hurt that I took hip hop classes back in Australia.”

Invisible String came on. Around them, couples began migrating toward one another as if pulled by magnets. Mel and Anne met each other’s eyes, then looked away, giggling. Mel took Anne’s hands and spun her awkwardly in a circle.

“Do you want to learn a dance my mum taught me? It’s really quite simple,” said Anne.

“Time, curious time, gave me no compasses, gave me no signs”, Taylor Swift crooned over the speakers.

Anne led the way. Their arms made a circle that opened and closed as they rotated slowly. One step together. One step apart. One step together. One step apart. Mel felt like a pearl spinning inside an oyster.

“What exactly is our relationship, Anne?” she nearly asked, but she stopped herself. Anne

seemed to be lost in a daydream, her eyes starry in the glow of the fairy lights. When she spoke, her voice was someplace far away and nearby all at once: “Mel, I think you are the best dance partner I’ve ever had.”

“And isn’t it just so pretty to think, that all along there was some invisible string tying you to me?”, sang Taylor Swift.

Mel and Anne floated together to the end of the song, which deposited them gently back into reality.

“I think I need a break from dancing,” said Anne.

They wandered back to Halima’s table, where their friends were playing a lively game of spoons. Anne took a seat and rummaged around in her purse for her phone.

“Oh no,” she breathed. “The oil spill is going to hit South Shields.”

Read on:

About the author: Ella Shively is a writer and wildlife technician in northern Florida. You can find her online at

About this chapter's featured poet: Choe Nam-Seon was a prominent Korean poet born in Seoul in 1890. After studying at Waseda University in Japan, he returned to Korea and became a publisher. He published "From the Sea to a Boy" at the age of eighteen, creating a new form of Korean poetry that challenged older and more conservative poetic styles.

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