After spending the first 15 minutes on the bullet train adjusting, and readjusting, my bags to fit onto the 10 inch wide overhead space, my shirt was now soaked through. Mind you, it was still winter outside, but doing overhead swings with 100 pounds of luggage will do some kinda thing to you. Luckily for me, a kind soul sitting across the alley realized my struggle. He motioned to the front of the train car with the nod of his head and half a smile.
Behind the glass window of the sliding door, I saw a space for oversized luggage. Thanking the man, I stepped to the front of the car very awkwardly. There really isn’t a suave way to walk when you have to pull your pants up for the slightest movement. I really think the Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy should have reminded all of us to not only bring your towel, but a fucking belt too.
Instead, my pants were proudly sporting the crack of my ass to a crowd of Koreans. Where was my belt you ask? Back in Ohio, taking a paid sabbatical somewhere in the guest room of my parent’s home.
Now, back in my seat, luggage situated in the appropriate spot, I sat down and thought about how not to sweat on the man dressed in his pinstripe suit next to me. Sitting there with eyes nearly closed, I saw a pair of black shoes walk up the alley. Through the small opening still left between my lids, I saw the shoes had stopped and turned...right to where I’d finally made my peace. I opened my eyes to a grandma, finger outstretched at me, with a demanding look; I was not only in the wrong seat, but the fucking wrong car entirely.
All I could do was let out a laugh, smile, get up and figure out where the hell my seat was…
I was just happy to have made it to the train on time...
You may as well appreciate where you’re at, who you’re with, the pain you’re feeling now, or the joy. It’s all going to change on you anyway. It’s all there is, there’s no sense in chasing down the change, it comes to you freely; the juice of living.
I always imagined this trip would be like a documentary, one that only shows the intense beauty of the place. In reality, I wanted to be removed from it all, not a part of it. When you sit at home, watching the BBC, the pain gets edited out; it isn’t much good for ratings. In a way, you keep yourself from seeing the world for what it is. You rob yourself of perspective and everything is digestible. It all comes prepackaged, the Disney Vault sticker slapped on the box, so you take it for what you believe it to be; the truth.
I’d made it, this trip was becoming a reality, and I had no idea what I was going to do there. Beyond watching a few tavelogs on YouTube, I didn’t know anything about the city: where my hostel was, the exchange rate, if the water was safe to drink. The chatter of a nervous mind is an endless well, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a trust, which drives my very prepared mother crazy.
Am I looking at God? How long have I been staring at the tiles now? Has it been an hour, or three?
My eyes rolled, I wasn’t going to waste my breath explaining to this woman how hair works, so instead I simply muttered to myself “you have to be fucking kidding me.”
Scribbling down illegible lines in my notebook, my ears perked. In broken English, I heard one of those squealing women timidly speak up and ask “can I have a picture with you?”
I was half tempted to open the door immediately, but I’ve developed the habit of getting completely naked before cooking with oil. I like the thrill of it, it’s the most dangerous game and it keeps my nights interesting without anyone to talk to.
It’s such a trip, reverting back to those primal modes of communication: pointing, grunting, nodding. I’ve dubbed this experience speaking in gesture, it’s a very direct way of connecting, one that’s wildly ineffective. Nearly all of what I do is left to interpretation, more so than spilling thought through words, or so I feel; I’m raw and defenseless in a codified world.
In my opinion, there’s just as much pressure put on young men to save face, as there is on young women; it’s just different.
As he stood next to me, grinning with a mouth full of polished metal, not a single tooth remaining, I fully regretted uttering “I felt quite normal here.” I will not, no matter how long I stay, be a part of the club. I will always be an oddity, even if I forget that I am, because someone will be sure to remind me. I’m not mad about it, it isn’t their fault. It’s a country made up of 98% Koreans. Cultural diversity, or ethnic, isn’t comprehensible and in some sense it’s rejected. It doesn’t exist, I doubt it will, and it sure as hell makes me appreciate calling The United States my true home; the world’s hub of multiculturalism, where we don’t embrace the weird, we just don’t care.