Dodging drunken 20 somethings leaving a local drinking room I make my way down the surprisingly inhabited, cold evening streets of Seoul. To say I am inspired by their drunken swagger is an understatement and I make a path towards the nearest liquor shop. Nothing warms you up like a stiff drink or three.
When they pass they say words loud enough for me to hear but not in a language I can understand. Are they talking about me? Feeling exposed, I pull my hood over my head.
13 million points of light lead the way down the street. Fluorescent lights crowd the night sky. There are no stars.
A cigarette typically, when smoked, is held between the index and middle finger. It pulls the cigarette from the mouth to exhale smoke and give the lungs a momentary reprieve from the onslaught of smoke. A cloud briefly hovers over my head and then vanishes.
My hood gives my face a short respite from a whipping breeze the same way my index and middle fingers give my lungs a respite from smoke inhalation.
Groups of children pass on the opposite side of the street and look my way. I pull my hood tightly across my face to avoid being seen. As the only foreigner living in the neighborhood I am a lightning rod for the curiosity of children and I am not in the mood to entertain. I am invisible man.
Supermarkets and shops battle bottles and wrappers for the description “littering the sides of the street.”
The city moves and shakes. It does not walk in a straight line. It bumps into me when I try to stand still. It pushes me inside its walls and it coaxes me to buy a single bottle of Soju and a single plastic bottle of beer. What do we do on nights when there’s nobody around?
The plastic strings on the bag are cutting into the circulation of my fingers. I remove the single bottle of soju and single plastic bottle beer from the bag and thrust them into my oversized jacket pockets. The plastic bag joins the battle against supermarkets and shops.
Amidst the glow of the city lights a dimmer light briefly travels through space and time, past a room of flowers and into my eye. A flower shop, closed now for a few hours and in the back room the type of illumination caused only by a television set outlines the silhouette of an elderly woman eating by herself. The corner of her bed cot and stove are briefly visible.
Having noticed this type of thing regularly, I have wondered how boring it must be to live in the same place that you work. I suppose though that it is better than having nothing. But then a piece of me says that I’d rather have nothing than something so monotonous. But then another piece of me calls myself an idiot and I keep on walking.
13 million points of light. All turning on and off at precisely the same moment. For the city here does sleep. The only thing that does not in fact sleep tonight is me. 12,999,999 million quiet points of light, my key board my cigarettes and my bottle of Soju.