Stepping off the train in Busan, the void from such an expansion began to fold in on itself. I was that lone grocery bag blowing across the alley, hustled by the wind, used up and deflated. It was such a full on first week, this should’ve been expected; in fact, it was.
The thing about it though, riding these incredibly dramatic ups, they have a habit of abruptly slouching back to reality. That nice fuzzy high on life, the novelty I’ve seemed to chase endlessly can be found in just about anything you do. Getting really up doesn’t have to be chemically induced. That isn’t to say I haven’t smoked my lungs charcoal red trying to achieve that everlasting bliss, but flipping over the right stone on the path can get you there; it’s a matter of perspective.
Conversely, our brains are diligently on watch, the guardian of our balance. It’s the reverse of a mechanical bull. It doesn’t wanna buck you, it just wants to mellow out; if only we’d take to time to unwind the ego and let it.
For those who’ve stuck their toes over the edge of their reality, you get it: whether through meditation, unbearably long bouts of depression, or mindscapes brought about by drugs, you’re always trying to keep that bull a fuckin’ rockin’. It becomes your normal, life’s abrasions, your mana; instability, the truest form of entertainment.
But...there’s no way around that gooey caramel aftermath of a low, it’s an impassable reality. Life can’t always be the romantic novella we make it out to be through filtered Instagram stories and interconnectedness. There’s a level of boredom necessary in cultivating the next dive off life’s cliff. Our futures are birthed in death and these mental cascades washed over me at this beautifully numbing pinnacle.
Moving abroad had been a dream of mine for something a little short of a decade. Postpartum depression is expected and the birth of a dream isn’t exempt.
Rationally, I knew going into this that I’d be the same Alex; the social recluse, the overly intense thinker, but I’d be lying to your face if there wasn’t a piece of me, however small, which dearly wished that weren’t the case. I’ve always wanted to be different, my life’s constant.
As I wove in and out of crowds of people, like an out of place salmon swimming upstream in opposition to a river full of trout swimming down, I thought to myself that I should be exhilarated. How many people step so brilliantly into an updated version of their avatar, but all I really wanted to do was curl into a little ball and sleep the week away.
Instead, I did my best to decipher all the different arrows pointing to the exit. Stuffing my hands into their appropriate jacket pockets, I made my way to the information desk. At least there I could call the phone number that’d been etched onto the back of my train ticket. The same ticket that’d been crumpled into a near illegible mess from sitting in my pocket during that hell of a time getting situated on the train.
My intuition didn’t lead me astray. I’d followed the yellow brick road, something that actually does exist in all metro stations here, to its logical conclusion; my version of the man behind the curtain. He was dressed in a sportcoat, a gold leaf name badge pinned to his breast.
Next to him sat one of those sweet sweet Korean landline phones. This was next step in this living puzzle I found myself.
I couldn’t read his name, but that smile on the other hand said very clearly, “don’t you fucking stop at my booth dude, this’ll be awkward for the both of us, so let’s spare each other the formalities.”
Never being the type to shy away from testing my social anxiety, or neuroplasticity as they call it, I stepped up and pointed to the number on the back of my crumpled ticket. Luckily, this was a task he could handle, so long as he didn’t have to watch me speeeaaak Eeennglisshh reaaally slowllllllyyyyy, as if it’d make a difference. It doesn’t much matter when you don’t understand the fucking language to begin with.
He called the number and held out five fingers, which I interpreted to be minutes, but for all I know it could’ve been hours. So I just waited there, as if I was about to pick up the drop from some sort of international espionage mission. It does sound a hell of a lot sexier than what I actually did, which was try to avoid eye contact with as many people as I possibly could.
Five minutes on the nose, a man, with a streak of gray hair, came shuffling up to me. I wasn’t sure if this was my ride, or someone standing uncomfortably close to me as he was texting. I came to realize that he was typing into a translation app, which he held up to me.
It read “you Chungdahm teacher?”
I nodded, and with the motion of his hand beckoning me, he said “follow”