Busan is a morning without words. It’s 11:44AM on Sunday and I haven’t spoken a single word, though I’ve written many words. Busan is textual communication—I worship the internet, the link to the home I see when I shut my eyes. Busan is complaining, whining, doubt, and weakness; shirts that smell of sweat, white shirts spotted with ineradicable mold, salt stains, grease gleaming on cheeks, a life-stealing humidity.
Busan is the rich joy of chocolate milk, almost a chocolate milkshake, thanks to the creaminess of the milk here; sidewalks are also paths for beeping scooters, subways of vanity, black windows serving as surrogate mirrors where high-heeled women may pet their black bangs; conversations with a former professor of women’s studies, a bastion of kindness who now owns the nicest coffee shop in the city, though it’s empty on a saturday night because everyone is out getting drunk; Busan is a library studding the peak of an inaccessible mountain, a mouthful of cold wet noodles soaked in spiced crimson; Busan is a Cyclopean memorial that nobody visits, an unending dream to return home, an apartment that is not decorated because its lodger is not here to stay; the building’s water pump whines like a kicked puppy dog; Busan is the random throbbing of techno music from somewhere, for some reason. I fight to dream, I fight to sleep, because when I am dreaming I am not here.
Busan is a refuge for lumpy foreigners, a blue harbor towering with cranes, tots in high heels; a repeating pattern of bars, restaurants, clothing stores, electronic stores, supermarkets, corners sprout from corners of this complicated polygon, this snarling hydra (one head is all heads); a breezy mountain refuge above a hundred ankle-breaking stone steps, where village elders hula-hoop to the songs of deafening cicadas; Busan is plenty of time to read and write, though without the presence of old friends my engine runs on fumes; Busan, from a mountaintop at night, is an octopus of light; haze that’s thick as a foul custard, gobs of phlegm on subway steps, cheerleaders dancing to pop music, barbaric commercialized choreography, small faces, suicides caused by fans, stares, glares; a book street tucked away as though in another dimension; most occupations involve a great deal of standing around—in a word, despair. Busan should be just a few hours, not a few weeks, not a few months, where is the golden path of retreat?