Pinnacle of the Gyeongju Grotesque

I met her in the hallway when I was moving into my hotel room, a woman so fat that she was squeezing and not walking down this hallway when I met her; over the course of my internment in Gyeongju I saw her get stuck in doorways and elevators on many occasions; a team of ajumas wielding crowbars and buckets of grease was following her everywhere by the last day, working her free from numerous tight spots, where she could often be seen screaming and kicking in the air and waving her little tyrannosaur arms helplessly. But when I first met her she was furious over the sleeping arrangements, flushed red, her heart—that sack of blood and butter!—palpitating somewhere inside a labyrinth of rolling flesh. She looked in through the door to her ondol room, to the bare wood floor where she would be sleeping, looked back to me, and retched—I can’t call her speech speaking, it was much closer to retching—she retched that she could not sleep there because she had a bad back. I answered her with wide eyes and raised eyebrows, I couldn’t find any words, she looked back inside the room, I ran away.

In my memory, which is now poisoned by her presence there, I see her twisting around in her chair and complaining about the heat with various varicose veins bulging on her shoulders, as she had long since sacrificed her neck, like her dignity, to her appetite. Overuse of hairspray somehow made her hair into a plated armor of very crisp and very flammable potato chips, and I caught a nice whiff of antiseptic perfume when she began sighing and wheezing and fanning herself in the heat of the classroom. Then she revolves, revoltingly, fixes me with her bloodshot eyes, asks if it’s hot, turns away in dismay…

Somehow she has managed to stand up, she is somehow standing, she makes a joke about her bad back, no one hears her, or everyone ignores her, she swivels back and forth with a triangular grin breaking open over her clenched teeth, checking to see if we’re laughing, we aren’t, she makes the joke again, checks again, her arms sway somehow like slinkies as she pivots from side to side, Korea is a very repetitive place.

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One thought on “Pinnacle of the Gyeongju Grotesque

  1. Annie says:

    Aww that’s mean! Not everyone can have a fabulous face.

    “My story is much too sad to be told, ‘cuz practically everything, leaves me totally cold. The only exception I know is the case, when I’m out on a quiet spree, fighting vainly the old ennui, when I suddenly turn and see … your fabulous face.”

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