Why would I do that? she whispered to him.
He chuckled and said nothing.
She traced the prism patterns underneath them, triangle upon triangle, reds, plums, blues stitched together. The little flowers along the edges had faded, and there was a long rip along the top, the part she always tugged on when she was cold. Safety pins adorned it.
As she snuggled into his shoulder, a breath escaped his nostrils, landing in warmth on top of her head.
The sun’s tickling me.
I saw her sitting there, in front of the locked window, the streaming sunlight burning her hair as she carved her emotions into the well-worn frame. Her aching fingers moved with a frantic yet firm intentionality, her strong nails desperate to leave a mark in the rotting wood, her body begging to expunge its anxiety. She made intricate designs, long, curvy lines intersecting and converging in a broken corner where she’d once hammered in a hook. It used to hold her father’s old camera until the hook fell off from its weight.
She remembers her days in Paris, the men she’d known, the songs she’d sung walking unprotected in the rain. Some of her favorite lectures play out in a hazy reverie, the snippets of fierce feminist monologues, daydreams of Pushkin, talks over Fellini films. She wonders why she didn’t take more chances, but she doesn’t regret a thing. She doesn’t regret anything.
From the corner of her eye, she sees me watching her. She pretends not to notice, and I remain rooted to the floor, silent. My right ear starts ringing, and her body goes gently limp, whether from the weight of her memories or disappointment in my dishonesty, I can’t tell. The room smelled faintly of cigarettes and her, and I, in my cowardice and despair, knew not what to do but swallow my thoughts and leave.
I thought it was unfair, but he was okay with it. And although my brain was telling me this wasn’t right, he made me feel comfortable with the choices i was making. He’d always leave me with vague questions, unplaceable feelings, an incomplete experience, but never did i feel discomfort. Nor resentment.
We walked with purpose, like two heroes on a mission, although truthfully, we had nothing to do, nowhere to be. What was my greatest mission? What was his?
I had no reason to trust him, but i did. And so i kept walking. Accompanying him, the space between us reverberating, not knowing how to walk. How to keep him safe and me safe at the same time. How to be honest and not risk anything. How to risk but not lose anything.
And while i was sad to leave, i was satisfied with how that night came to a close: the sharp snap of a door, the rustle of an adjusted shoulder strap, and the glance we refused to share.
and red dots
glide through the city
and I stay
with bated breath
stroking ginkgo leaves
bells and orbs
The Dosa Man had relocated to a seedy alley with barely any foot traffic. His cart was smaller, with a tiny square of a grill and not enough counter space for his mise. I tried making dosas, failing with each attempt. Too thick, too burnt, too fragile, too thin to hold the fillings… The burner flames grew and shrunk and died of their own accord. To the left were two slabs of cooked pork, black, prickly animal hair sticking out of the skin, big globs of fat bulging out of every crevice. Dead meat, dry and tough as shrunken leather. As dead as the stiff grey rat cadavers swept into dusty corners.
I was running inside the wet stairwells, my panicked footsteps ringing in the ominous open space. I was in a boxed room, claustrophobic and defunct, dead creatures piled up in previously unknown nooks and crannies.
There was no way out of the building; its exits led to further exits which only led to growing piles of products, metal and plastic all hammered and melted into the same shape.
At the end, i was with a man, a man i had met that day. We were alone in the store; it was locked up for the night. All the red 80’s furniture looked like imprisoned toy soldiers, silenced and chained down to rest until the lights go on again in the morning, welcoming customers. The shutters came down, landing on the concrete in a jangly mess, a shudder traveling up their neat, parallel spines.
We were trespassers who felt they had every right to be there. Maybe we’re employees. Well, who’s to say we aren’t? We were two children in hiding, crouched underneath the counter, sketching a grandiose plan to pull the greatest prank ever; we were armed with a blueprint of the building. I liked him; he liked me. And we were just playing, two grown-ups having sex where they shouldn’t be. And underneath our childlike hesitation, we really didn’t give a damn about what might happen to us.
My last dream was the only one i remember being so perfectly pleasant from beginning to end. Everything was so convincingly real; from the main plot to the characters right down to their individual quirks, the story and its framework were a carefully lifted extension of real life, my life here, my life now. I was fully invested in the story; i dreamt it in the first-person, and every move i made, every feeling i felt, was analogous to my character in waking life. It was too real for me to even tell whether i was dreaming what i wished for or what truly will happen in the near future. It was everything i wished for (and still wish for, possibly, maybe subconsciously), yet there were enough flaws in the story—pitfalls in the dream life—to convince me that the dream could be real enough to be premonitory.
It was part three of a series of dreams i’ve been dreaming on the same issue. It’s amazing how much the story develops with each episode. Every development is believable; there’s a clear explanation for every story arc, logical reasons for everything that the characters do.
I regularly have premonitory dreams. This is only my second set of episodic dreams.
My dreams rarely ever make this much sense while being completely fictional.
The dreams i have the most trouble with are the ones with people i know in them. When a dream moves and haunts me as much as this one does, i feel obligated to tell the people who were in it. This time, i can’t bear to. And i lost episode 2.
What if it is a premonition? What if it’s the kind of premonition where it’s best for everyone to know about it? But even if i did tell them, how could they possibly understand exactly what i felt, what i saw, what i knew so certainly in the dream? It was something i could never believe in real life.
Or what if it’s the kind that doesn’t come true unless you do something about it? Like a whisper in your ear urging you to go after what you were always too afraid to pursue? Because you could never do that in real life?
I’m gonna write a mid-day diary entry today, because i have all my second graders write journals, and i feel like writing one, too. I can’t even remember the last time i wrote a diary entry just describing what i did for the day.
Is it possible to black out without having consumed any alcohol? Because i think i did last night, and it was my first “blackout” ever. I woke up at 1:30am, with the lights on and the window open. I couldn’t remember how i ended up in bed, asleep. I couldn’t remember what i did before i fell asleep. All i remembered was being on Facebook around 1am. After taking a minute to re-orient myself, i got out of bed and checked to see if i’d set an alarm, and i hadn’t. I tried to finish correcting essays, but i was so tired i closed my eyes to rest a little bit. It was my first time falling asleep in a chair. I woke up again at 2:30 with the worst stomachache. I think i ate spoiled yogurt. You see, my local grocery store started stocking my favorite yogurt, but they don’t refrigerate it; they just stack it in front of the fridge case. I didn’t think i should buy it, but i took the risk anyway because i really wanted that yogurt. I’ll have to complain the next time i go.
So anyway, after a half-hour of torture, i took some Pepto Bismol, set my alarm for 4am, and passed out once again. I slept through the alarm but somehow woke up in a panic at 6:47, with just enough time to get ready for school. I had time to input Class 6’s journal grades, but there was no way i was going to finish correcting Class 3’s 2nd set of essays (i have Class 3 1st period and Class 6 2nd period on Fridays). They submitted these essays a week ago, so i really wanted to give them back today. Luckily, this class is somehow way ahead of the other classes (most classes wrote their 2nd essay in class today), so this doesn’t set them back in any way. Besides, if i’d returned them today, they would have had to do rewrites over break. So we had a relaxing lesson today writing and talking about Chuseok. The girls had a good time, i wasn’t ordering them to shut up like i always am during timed writings, and their faces absolutely lit up when i gave them all letters as a Chuseok present. My head co-teacher, who teaches that class with me, was pleased with the letter, too. She later came to me, smiling and thanking me for it. The letter was an excuse to have students learn my handwriting (i gave them each a handwritten copy and a typed copy), but it contained all the things that i’ve been wanting to tell them since starting teaching here. I explained why i was so strict, stricter than probably any other teacher in this school, and i really hope they read it, because it was sincere. Until now, i think my head co-t hated me a little bit for being so hard on them, but she told me today that she understands now why i teach this way. So i’m glad that’s settled.
Tonight, i walked from Seoul Station to my hill barefoot in the pouring rain. It was the greatest walk of my life. For the first time since arriving here, i felt one with the city and yet comfortably alone, with only my thoughts and my music and the rain washing over my feet. There’s something about cities: no matter where in the world you might be, a city has this way of being welcoming and impenetrable at once, and you have to meet it head-on at its most vulnerable moments—when there are very few people on the streets masking its true qualities—to break open its shell.
That’s what i missed when i left New York. I missed making love to the city, taking long walks in the rain and at night, ignoring everything around me but the ground below my feet and the vague pulsation of life continuing in my temporary absence. I loved everything about New York: the people, the food, the culture, the beat it moved to. There’s nothing quite like the no bullshit attitude that New York breeds and takes pride in.
I hate most things about Seoul, especially the people, but as long as i can take barefoot, solitary walks in the rain, returning home to my quiet hill of friendly people, i think i’ll be okay. Navigating the city isn’t a concern; i just need to learn how to navigate the people.
. . . I like familiarity. As much as i try to fool myself into thinking that i like the new, the unexplored, the unknown, i’m just a scaredy-cat with my own share of insecurities.
When i start to get familiar with something, and something else threatens to take it from me, i panic. I don’t wanna lose the chance of disclosing it. I don’t wanna have to surrender it to the world out there. I don’t wanna have to start from scratch, only to lose again.
There’s something about late night heart-to-heart’s in New York. The hustle and bustle of everyday life in the city makes you yearn so much for human connection that even sustained eye contact becomes something to be cherished, and soul-satisfying conversations crawl their way into secret repositories, like this one.
While the city was celebrating 420, my friend and i sat in bed, Guinness draughts in hand. We shared our individual pasts, reminisced over our high school years, and revealed our hopes and dreams. Maybe it was the Guinness talking, but maybe it was also our hearts connecting.
For the first time in a long time, i had what i call a “committed conversation.” We each had the other’s undivided attention for once, undistracted by the city’s beauties and failings. The tension of NYC in daylight fell away as we drank, leaned back, and indulged in the silence of my room and the authority—the sweet audibility—of our voices.
Last night replenished my soul, and i’m finally unafraid to plow through the three weeks i have left here.