13: A Short Story

28 10 2010

He was drunk. And not the 2 a.m. hiccup drunk. It was only 12:15. This man was on a mission. He was all alone by the time he caught my eye. The work week in Korea traditionally ends with a friendly gathering of co-workers blowing off steam the only way they know how: Getting pissed drunk and than singing Karaoke until 6:00 a.m. But his night looked to be ending faster than he could say “Don’t Stop Believing.” Probably the karaoke trick this guy had up his sleeve. He had come from work. While he rested himself for a moment against a chair, I noticed his black suit pants and white buttoned down shirt; opened slightly at the top where an understated black tie had previously strangled him all day behind a desk. He was older, though people in Korea age incredibly gracefully, he was clearly wrinkled, with tan skin and frameless glasses that slid to the end of his nose. He was sweating. He was pleasantly full looking, not fat, but not as skinny as the young street hipsters in their offensively tight jeans. The table where he had sat was vacant, except for an odd number of empty Soju bottles. 13. There were four chairs.

The clutter on the table was a war-zone landscape of debauchery and feast. Splintered and stained chopsticks lay scattered like abused or injured solders. Crumpled white napkins cleared the smoke of ash tray embers; black ceramic bowls stacked, soup dripping down the edges. Scrap food like carnage waving a white flag of mercy to the few standing warriors, the only thing still standing: 13 bottles of Soju.

I watched him quietly as I nudged my friend to share witness this tragedy should it unfold. His feet didn’t lift off the tile floor; they slid forward as though heavy chains dragging cinderblocks held him back from momentum. He left through the exit. Than he came back in. Looking around I saw him grinning, and I smiled knowing that though he may not make it home this night, at least he was having a good time. He used the bar for support as he walked towards me and the kitchen. The hostess trying delicately not to stare. I was seated with my back to the kitchen. The clink-clank tin sound of silver was appropriate and lively. The two short blue curtains painted with Hangul shielded only the faces of the cooks and dish boys; fluttering open to reveal the chaos behind the curtain. The man walked towards me, I was nudging harder now. As he passed me, he paused to decide if the doorway lead to Narnia, his final destination, or the bathroom. Yep! Narnia. As he flopped into the kitchen I watched from under the curtain as he went unnoticed for a few seconds; long enough for him to face a silver platform (probably a sink,) and precede to unzip his fly. It was at this point I could no longer refrain from interrupting my entire party. The force that kept the man erect must have been as intoxicated as he was; antagonizing the fall like a marionette puppet. The sounds from the kitchen after the realization that a man was actually urinating in it’s interior were about as foreign as the situation. Swear words to be certain. They pushed and shoved him to make a display, but I noticed the care to witch they did not let him fall as he made himself decent for the crowd. He made a zig zag to the door, look backed and smiled with gratitude. The smile was so dead and empty it would not have been preset had it not been for the slightest twinkle in his eye. The hostess followed him out the door and watched him as her carefully desended the stairwell.




One response

8 11 2010


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