Walking up to the sliding glass doors of The Wa Hotel, I made sure to duck my head, but instead I nearly walked through the glass panels. I wish I could say that’s the only time this had happened, but that’d be a lie. It’s taken me a month, but the glowing blue button on the sliding doors, the magical technology that opens them, is much easier to spot. It’s still a crap shoot though. Some doors are automatic, while others aren’t, and the placement of said “magic button” is really up to the electrician’s fancy. The real issue is that all these doors look identical, of course.
In my humble opinion, this defeats the purpose of automatic doors. By flip flopping which ones open automatically and which ones don’t, it undercuts their convenience. It forces me to think, I don’t wanna do that. I already do that enough. Automation is the futuristic refuge of decision making, so open fuckin’ sesame; here comes daddy.
Stepping through the doorway, which was adjacent to the hotel parking garage, a man dressed in a sharp red hoodie looked up. He was sitting behind a small glass panel thumbing through a magazine. It’s something that you only see in the sketchy parts of town, the glass panel, not the magazine. I couldn’t help but think, “what kind of clientele stays at this place?”
With an awkward smirk that creased his lips, he asked me what room I was staying in. All of this, mind you, was in Korean; surprising, I know. As Americans, we’re so conditioned, in part to our country’s diversity, to expect that every race will undoubtedly speak English. In my defense, I’d only been here for all of a week at this point. It really does take some time to readjust to.
I didn’t even try to fumble through a Korean hello, which to this day I still confuse with their goodbye, so I just smiled back. Slipping him the printed reservation, I waited impatiently. I still wasn’t sure if this was the correct hotel. With the way shit had gone so far I wasn’t going to assume, even though Kevin, that parking lot attendant, had assured me this was the place.
As the concierge processed my information, it felt as though I shouldn’t be here, at The Wa Hotel. The sequin walls, the tacky sign outside, the set of vanity mirrors that hung from the garage walls; it just didn’t feel right. Mind you, I’ve stayed in some shady spots, but they were honest about it. You knew what you were getting into. For instance, some Motel 8 in Methville USA. You know it won’t be the Ritz, but you’re cool with it, it only cost you forty bucks and some hand sanitizer.
This was different. The Wa seemed scuzzy, but it was putting it on; a thin facade.
Even for a back alley hotel, this place was undoubtedly trying way too hard. It’s something of a cultural norm. All of Korea is about the show, so before you walk out the door, don’t forget to lace up those knock-off Gucci kicks. I just couldn’t let it go. My ability to size things up continues to haunt me, plus that knot in my gut wasn’t going away.
I really began to notice those cosmic taps on the shoulder after clearing the fog of physically crippling depression. When you come out of such a mental state, you develop a hyper sensitivity to the energies around you. You become a lightning rod.
Then one day, if the life stressor doesn’t break you, you wake up to a frequency that was previously unavailable; there’s no turning back. At times, i truly feel as though I’m slipping into psychosis, it gets all too much. So, when I get sucked into the current of intuition, I do my best to see the gift as it is; it’s a tool, my little snowflake that navigates, and nothing more.
Despite the tingling spidey senses that screamed to heel turn out of this joint, all I really cared about was that I’d finally have a room. In that room would be a bed, a shower, and if I was lucky, a full sized ‘Murican towel. Not one of those miniature Korean towels. I’ve honestly used tissues bigger than the standard sized Korean towel.
After glossing over the paperwork, for what seemed like an eternity, the man handed back a key and an envelope of complimentary toiletries. He held up five fingers and pointed up. Juggling the oversized chain to read the room number, I slipped the key into my back pocket and hitched a ride up the elevator.
When the doors dinged open for the fifth floor, thankfully these were automatic, a dimly lit hallway tinted a deep glossy purple greeted me. As my heels clacked against the waxed tile, I began putting it together. My gut wasn’t wrong, my school had actually put me up in a sex motel. Not for a night, but the coming work week, but I didn’t care. I was just happy to be among the stars, on the Universe Floor. With quotes like “love is as eternal as the stars” embossed on the walls, which were actually blown up images of the Milky Way, it’s pretty difficult to confuse the place you’re at with a Double Tree by Hilton.
I finally understood why the concierge was smirking at me. Not only had I showed up to a sex motel alone, but I had a five night reservation; all of which’d been made by a man named Min, my school’s office clerk, who I obviously wasn’t. I really have to hand it to him, the concierge that is, he kept it very professional despite the scene that had been set. I, the strapping American, had travelled across land and sea to meet my star crossed gay lover, Min.
Later that night, as I laid sprawled out on the bed, laughing my way to exhaustion, I tore open the toiletries bag. Out fell three condoms. The sparsely clothed Madonna that’d been watching me lay there the past hour didn’t even blink an eye. The temptress was entirely unfazed, she was also printed on the side of tissue box that’d been placed on the nightstand. It was advertising Thai massages, which you could order up like a pizza at any hour of the night.
I’m not even a little ashamed to admit that calling her up had crossed my mind, especially when the neighbors upstairs started to fuck. Instead, I just laid there counting the number of times the light above my bed flicked on and off, curiously in-sync with my neighbors passionate hip smashing.
Fast forwarding three days, I was grabbing a bite with a cute bleach blonde Korean girl. I’d met her a few nights after arriving at The WA Hotel and was really glad I did, there’s no point in staying a sex motel alone. Between bites of Kimchi, she asked if I knew why there were so many hotels in the area. By the way, I forgot to mention that hotels fill every block of Haeundae Beach. Everywhere you look there’s at least five sandwiched atop one another.
With confidence, I replied “well ya, we’re on Haeundae Beach, this place gets slammed with tourists in the summer.”
She covered her mouth from laughing, which is pretty standard here, and said “No Alex, didn’t you know that Hooker Alley is right behind where you’re staying?”
My mouth dropped open.
She didn’t say there were a lot of prostitutes, or that this was the red light district of Busan, she verbatim said “Hooker Alley.” For those of you that didn’t know, like I didn’t, prostitution had been legal in Korea up until a few years ago. Honestly, I have no issue with it at all, but I like to pretend that it doesn’t happen. Now, I had to go back to my hooker room, lay on my hooker bed, and take a hooker shower with full knowledge of what was going on in the rooms next to me. Not to mention what had probably gone on in my room the night before I checked in, so goodbye sweet willful ignorance. Hello Alex’s second fall from grace.