Gray

25 09 2010

I had been up for almost seven hours, the hotel room was beginning to feel like a holding cell. The blue rope lights strung under the bed and up along the perimeter of the ceiling made a scene which resembled the makings of a home pornographic film; complete with mini bar, and free Korean porn on the last few cable channels: weird. Around 11:30 a.m. after fidgeting with my hair and make up for over two hours, I heard the phone ring? No, that wasn’t it. But there was defiantly two distinct rings made from inside the room. I didn’t respond because it didn’t sound like a door bell; it must have been the phone. I wasn’t expecting phone calls. Besides, what hotel room needs a door bell? I missed my ride to work because it was in fact the door bell.

The city looked different in the light,  previous than it had the night before decorated in neon lights: no doubt for my arrival. Today it was gray. The imperfections in the buildings beat down by seasonal changes chipped away at the mental image I had anticipated, night after night before my arrival. I felt safe next to May, the young woman who had picked me up; twice. On our walk to the school she delighted in showing me particular points of interest: an eight-story mall, the metro stop, good places to eat, the whole time dragging my suitcases behind her which she insisted she carry. It was awkward because she looked far less capable, I had an easy 30 pounds on her; she wore stilettos.

She took me to lunch at a traditional Korean restaurant. It was here, and so suddenly, that my vegetarian lifestyle was challenged as I knew it inevitably would be. May could not speak English much passed a polite greeting; the barrier in speech left the meal to her discretion, and I was not about to rationalize my beliefs today in this eatery while my belly sat empty and anxious. While she spoke to the waitress, I was busy recollecting proper table etiquette. I had read books, browsed a few websites and even spent time in Seattle, practicing the social order of Korean dining. One such rule insists that when someone is pouring you a drink you use both hands and present the glass to them off the table as an expression of gratitude. In very few words… I blew it. Well, I spilled it actually, and startled May as the glass clinked against the other and eventually the table. I would have been more embarrassed, but I was so happy to be out of the holding cell that I didn’t care if it meant  making a scene. The raw beef and noodles were cooked at the table served along side several side dishes I knew well: kim chi, pickled radish, deef fried squash: delicious. I did my best to avoid the meat, but she watched me from time to time as I ate to ensure that I was getting my fill. We laughed a few times while we ate; she asked me if I was married: I definitely laughed. But for the most part we ate in silence, May looking at her cell phone as I eagerly looked out the window taking it all in.

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