Gyeongju. Daylight, the week of Lunar New Year, with the traffic grumbling along the five-lane highway for over an hour now. Break in the endless haze of January, with so much fog in the air you’d just as soon expect an army of flower knights to heave themselves up from their great grass barrows, to come charging, on their horses, over the wide sallow fields, beside all the old palaces reconstituting their molecules from the aether, pillars rising, gables curving into Eastern grins.

So much fog the drivers can scarcely see the traffic lights switching from red to yellow to green again. Blasting horns, the gigantic engines of tractor trailers switching gears, speeding up to the top, stopping, speeding up again more slowly but with more power this time. Clacking over the segments in the road. Pouring through fog thick as water, fog mixing with car exhaust, fog seeping through the windows, whirling through clouds of blue cigarette smoke, pulsing through bare webs of tree branches, the stacks of grass curled up into bucolic rolls out in the harvested rice fields, with stains of thick damp blossoming on all the gaudy fliers choking the streets and alleys.

No foot traffic yet. Students all gone for vacation, the crosswalk out the window mere meaningless white stripes on the fog-grayed tar. At this intersection the bridge to the hospital and the university floats in the bath of fog, vanishing into the invisible river, where, unusually, not a single white heron can be seen banking, not one duck waddling along the thin ice.

In our apartment the baby splits the dim regular morning roar with a shriek, regular as a cockcrow, to let the world know that he is awake, and my time is up, so I’ve got to stop this poor imitation of the opening of Bleak House.

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