A Leftover Grotesque from Gyeongju

Leonardo was also an observer of the grotesque.

It’s true that Gyeongju supplied me with more grotesques than I know what to do with. They clutter my mind’s drawers and I often bump into them while searching out some arcane trivia in the dusty archives. Some, indeed, lurk in the my memory like gasping moray eels, waiting for my thoughts to swim by before electrifying the coral of my brain, that benignant tumor…and one just occurred to me. This one was the most attractive woman at the summit, if it can be called that (you’ll remember that a few hundred English teachers living in Korea were imprisoned for five days in a Gyeongju hotel and forced to attend sado-masochistically dull pedagogical seminars and talent shows (therefore it’s better to refer to the gathering as a nadir rather than a summit)), and although I say she was a woman, she was actually around my age, which means she looked far more like an overgrown child—I’m not sure I’ll ever be convinced of my own adulthood or the adulthood of my contemporaries, not even if I fulfill one of many dreams and find myself the Jovian patriarch, the fat, thickly-bearded, red sweater-wearing, turkey-basting, founder, of a vast dynasty of rugrats.

So what made this beauty a grotesque? Was it her only physical flaw, one of those strangely nonexistent behinds, the legs that join the back without so much as an ounce of artistic expression (referred to in the common parlance as the “no ass”)? Or was it something far more sinister? A psychological flaw? She was the proud owner of an overwhelming personality, a caffeine addict on a permanent caffeine high (also known as a “Demi-Balzac”), able to expound at length on any subject, from the quality of New Caledonia’s beaches to the lesbianism of Susan Sontag, and it was not only difficult to get a word in when conversing with her, but I had the impression that none of my words were denting her in the slightest. That’s not to say I scatter profundities like dubious candies to innocent children, but I think that if I had expressed a serious admiration for Hitler’s answer to the Jewish question, she, an obvious Jew, would have taken it in stride, and told me about playing spin-the-dreidel with her Neo-Nazi ex boyfriend from the Pampas…

Actually I had a very decent conversation with her, I just didn’t make any dents. There was no feeling of friendship. We were firing off self-centered statements about each other; she was pretty enough to inspire while I was just someone to talk to; I’ve only re-learned in Busan that it usually takes months and commitment to make real friends. We didn’t exchange numbers and I never really talked with her again, even if I jealously observed that by the end of the nadir she had attached herself to a pale, curly-haired, baggy-eyed male whose masculine comeliness didn’t hold a candle to own…

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