Short Story Rec: “The Perseverance of Angela’s Past Life” by Zen Cho

“The Perseverance of Angela’s Past Life” by Zen Cho is included in her collection of short fiction, Spirits Abroad.

But she needed to have a surface that could catch on things. She needed to be capable of friction.

This is not a perfect story, but it left me with an indelible image and metaphor of what it feels like to finally, finally come out to yourself and have it stick. And for that, it’s worth a read.

Angela has an excess of magic in her blood, because her best friend has been hanging out with a dragon a whole lot (that’s quite literally another story – see “Prudence and the Dragon”*). As a result, Angela’s teenage self has manifested and started hanging around her. So, she goes on vacation to bring down her blood magic levels in the hope that her past self will disappear. But of course, it’s more complicated than that.

Angela’s literal discussions with herself are gentle and prodding, but what struck me most is the integration of Angela’s two selves, and how that is portrayed. Angela’s past self, who essentially more comfortable with her queerness, is described as imperfect. The adult repressed Angela is perfect, but insubstantial. And this rings true to me, because when you’re in the closet, you’re covering for yourself. You’re spending so much emotional and mental energy making sure you’re not giving yourself away that your self-presentation is locked down, but your interior is emptied out. The imagery of the two unifying, of Angela letting herself become her imperfect but substantial self, was superbly resonant.

*That story precedes this one in Spirits Abroad and was also published in Crossed Genres in February 2011. RIP, Crossed Genres.