Sunday, December 16, 2007

Long Walk

It's the long walk.

I feel crushed and overwhelmed, and this is how it always seems sometimes. I miss the solid comfort of the long walk in safe places.

Korea is nothing but a safe place and sometimes it terrifies me.

Middle of the summer I walk for miles and miles and miles under the pounding heat of a merciless desert sun. When I had finished my walk I was covered in caked sweat, road dirt, sunburn, blistered feet, and dust, dust, dust.

And I felt pure.

I walk in the cold streets of Korea as it thinks about precipitation. Rain or snow? Neither, we get drops of cold wet something and they fall in my hair and cling to my eyelashes and I hold out hope for a moment, brief shining moment for snow. It has not snowed in my part of Korea in five years. I miss the snow. I walk in the cold until my hands are bitten and red with frost, I walk and I walk and I walk, and when it's finished I feel nothing but the chill and the desperate wish for something other.

I need a vacation I think.

Everything is a vacation I think.

I take a short break from my reality and sit on a bar stool with the friends who braved the winter and the night. An odd assortment of things from Korean Joe to Monolycus, Simon the Brit bar fly, Ramon the Kiwi muse, Patrick the owner decked in a thin leather jacket that won't keep him warm. A few GI's pass through and the order grape soju and take a seat in the back corner sloshing about in their glass. I sit with the regulars and we play pool, relaxing and taking in our varied drinks.

"Take a sip" says Joe as he hands me his glass. "I made it myself."

He has concocted his own version of a Long Island Ice Tea with Patrick's permission. Two of them, one for himself and one for a friend. I take a sip because it would be rude not to.

"That's downright undrinkable." I take another sip and hand the glass back over.

Pool ball clink in the gloom and I think about walking, about hot summer days lazing about in the desert, about cool winter nights surrounded by blankets of snow. I sink into my own space and am nothing but my own thought until I'm called for my game.

I play trick shots well enough but get down to real pool and I suffer for it. I win a game, lose a game, win a game, lose to the sharks. Some days I feel like I'm being fed to the sharks.

I ask for more drinks, because I don't want to go home. I'd rather be surrounded by the small group of comrades then alone with my varied demons. It seems easier.

The chill takes me though, followed me in from the street, and I start to shiver. I have to go, I have to go.

I walk through lonely black alleys at one a.m. The cold has chased everyone indoors to home or to a bar that is a second home. I think of walking to the Lonely Hearts Club but I've had enough for one evening.

I want music.

I want walking.

I walk down the streets and wish for heat, and purity, and calmness. And I have nothing but a puff of smoke from the steaming grates. Lights twinkle above my head neon red, pink, green, blue in a foreign language unlike any other. Here and there some dazzling English words. Giant screen project smiling Asian faces at me in the gloom.

And I think of walks in a desert and days of peace.

I need a vacation, I think as I walk.

It's all a vacation.

It's all a long walk.

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