16 11 2010

I walked to the same wide intersection I always walk to at 10:00 p.m. Each corner anchored down with heavy metal carts and food stands, sending puffs of steam heat up and out into the bright evening sky. School children still in uniform were snacking, standing by the ledges extended out from performed cooking: the delicate but hearty honesty of street food in Korea. Deep fryers were spitting up sounds of trans fat; it went well against the tire heavy road smeared with buses pulling in and out the station: Juyeop. I had smelled it all before, seen it both in day and night. But tonight, at zero degrees celsius it seemed more punctuated; a bit faster or impatient. I looked at the people who had bundled, transforming fall fashion into functional winter wear. Some had failed and danced side-to-side while we waited for the green man to appear. Young girls clung close to each other, almost disappearing inside coats lined with coarse fur; coats that someday they would grow in to. Faces were covered, wrapped high with scarves while legs were bare: in gym shorts; stockings. The weather had caught many-like myself, off guard. I dug my hands deeper into a jean jacket; locked then unlocked my knees to a rhythm not playing. I was freezing, and wearing more than most who seemed, despite the cold, not to mind in the slightest.

A boy on a bicycle next to me was wearing sandals and looking straight ahead a top his bicycle seat. Home was not his destination. I thought back to home, where a night like this wold be too nostalgic for most to pass up the opportunity to stay inside, read a book, enjoy a hot drink; embracing the greatness of interior shelter. Bus number 56 pulled up, and out popped a young woman in a white pea coat, white knee-high boots and pink leggings. I was taken back by her heels, though Korean woman have a gift for walking in stilettos, was this the kind of night to tempt or antagonize a sudden rain, or worse, snow? It was so cold.

She was delightful. The way she snuggled deep into her coat like an Eskimo; the prance she exercised from the bus, paying no mind to the proximity of others. She didn’t care about anything, she was going somewhere. I looked at her for a long time studying her attention to detail: the delicate and intentional coordinated accessories, barely visible under the layer of plush fabric. She was prepared. Had she always been? I thought about winter back home; about flip-flops in rain, and a winter coat of denim. I thought about last winter; the money I had spent on Christmas. I thought about the winter before that, and the winter before that one. I thought about every winter in San Diego, and tried to remember all the details of every joy I ever knew before this young woman stepped off the bus. Where was she going? Did she always make it look so easy? Or was it just tonight; just because I am standing here  to see it? Would anyone have noticed her had I not been here, standing next to the boy on the bicycle?




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