So another unremarkable day passed under the concrete skies of Busan: the buses ran without a hitch, only a few people threw themselves (or their cats) into oncoming subways, and the beginning of the summer monsoon season was inaugurated without a single drop of rain. It marked a year of life in the city for just some guy who, one year ago, actually drank Korean instant coffee, the taste of which bears a close resemblance to overheated sinkhole slop (woe on the soul of that ancestor of mine who may have invented it!), but people nevertheless buy huge boxes of this stuff, apparently thinking that the taste of coffee is supposed to induce thoughts of suicide, and many people also buy a more sugary mixture from vending machines. “Vending machine coffee is the best coffee”, says a policeman in one of my favorite Korean movies: Attack the Gas Station.
How far have I come? A year ago I could not even read Korean: today at lunch I stopped a woman in her tracks when she started talking to her friends about the peculiar nature of my meal (just kimchi and rice because everything else was so gross I wouldn’t feed it to a starving dog): I explained the reasons for this selection to her, in English, though I could have done so in Korean (simplistically—“The food is not delicious today”), and now I believe she will think twice before she starts gossiping about the usual stupid “oh the foreigner is so silly” bullshit again.
This morning on the subway: a vibrant dress of fire beside me: hello: annyang hasseyO!: but no, she isn’t, no, she can’t be—yes, of course, one of the stupid hags, a rubbery old chicken who once fluttered her ugly way into my office and proceeded to invite everyone there present, except for me, to her wedding, surely a bacchanal the absence of which has deprived my memory of the sensual beauty it needs as water for stalks of germinating green: an attendee of that saturnalia told me she had never seen that woman (I use the term loosely) look more beautiful than at her wedding: but that is not a difficult feat to accomplish, as you must merely put a brown paper bag over this woman’s head, or dress her in a full ape suit, in order to beautify her beyond her natural endowments—what a regret to mistake her for something interesting out of the corner of my eye.
And yesterday after a swim and a walk along beautiful Gwangali Beach, perhaps the most beautiful in all Korea thanks to the angelic quality of the bridge floating over the sea, I ate sashimi with my girlfriend: downstairs in the aquarium/all-you-can-eat-buffet she selected a fish swimming along happily in its little tank; an old woman proceeded to pluck this fish out and throw it down on a wood cutting board; I watched, rapt, awed with the spectacle of live death, as the old woman pulled a giant viking axe out of nowhere; she raised it into the air and brought it down swiftly on the helpless, flopping, gasping creature; its tail kicked the wood board hard, and the darkest reddest richest blood spurted the air from its flexing gills, opening and closing like an accordion. And indeed the poor little fellow was still going strong even as we brought him upstairs to get him sliced up for our dinner: I told Eunok it how unfortunate it was for him to be so tasty, then remarked that in the evening space aliens would abduct me and say the same thing while salivating over my fish-packed entrails.