It is 2008 and Jiyoung and I have just had an adult conversion. We are being mature. We are ending it. This will be best for both of us. It is the big goodbye and I am feeling slightly regretful. I have just kissed off all hope of a future together. I am walking towards the MiniStop convenience store. A can of Coke, a bag of beef jerky and some candy. Dinner in 2008! Then back to my tiny studio in Hongdae. I’m crossing the street while vaguely wondering what the future holds. I have been apart from Jiyoung, womanless, for approximately 3 minutes. I hate these long droughts. Coming up the street in the opposite direction is a woman so astonishingly beautiful that I actually put the still-wrapped Snickers bar into my mouth and break into a jog. I dodge a taxi and walk right up to her. To this, she shows no sign of surprise. Apparently this happens all the time. Oh, to be reincarnated as a woman. And men think they have power!
She calls herself Jenn and she is 23. She is tall and thin with dark brown hair and glasses. She is a nursing student and men have been drooling after her since she was 12. Skin slightly tanned, cheerful and bubbly with a lethal figure –she is definitely not from Seoul. I’ve only been in Korea for a short time, but I already know that most of the women who look and act like Jenn are not from Seoul. They are manufactured by a benevolent God somewhere in the Korean countryside, in a place called Gyeonggi-do, or something. As we chat, men are staring at Jenn as they walk past. Men who drive by are craning their heads. I even see one guy walk past and then do a u-turn to look again! They are not stares of venomous racial hatred or jealously. They aren’t even looking at me; they are worshiping Jenn with their eyes. My fellow men and I worship the same things, we aren’t so different after all. In a way, we share the same kind of universal unspoken language.
Jenn joins me for a coffee. She spent two years in Minnesota studying English. We talk and talk. Time passes quickly. Jenn gets up to use the bathroom and I swear that the two university guys sitting across from us to the left look over and give me a thumbs up! Unreal. I input Jenn’s number into my Motorola Razr. I like my Razr, it is a big step up from the phone I got when I first arrived to Korea. The large pre-paid Samsung brick phone that I bought from a Nigerian guy in Itaewon, the same guy who forgot to tell his girlfriend that he’d gotten a new number. For six months I got calls from an angry Nigerian woman who could not be convinced that the phone no longer belonged to her ex-boyfriend!
Jenn and I watch a movie and then have dinner. I notice that Jenn’s outfit is extremely well put together. She is wearing jewelry that is quiet and subtle. Everything she is wearing is effortlessly coordinated. Her handbag is restrained and elegant. Nothing she is wearing has any visible brand name. I start to realize that Jenn is one of these rare 23 year olds who has her shit together. The traits and confidence normally found in women ten years older. The poise, the self-assured laugh. Contrasting green pastel nail polish, subdued rings on five of her ten fingers, hair tied up in a bun with hoop earrings. I’m in love and only the most minuscule shred of personal dignity prevents me from blurting out “WILL YOU MARRY ME?” For every ten minutes we spend together, I want her one hundred times more. Midnight rolls around. Should I take my chances or should I be a gentleman? I help Jenn wave down a taxi, and see her off. I get my own taxi back home. I arrive at my hovel, open the door and sit down to reconsider my day. I reach for my phone to send Jenn a text message.
Wait, where is my phone? Not in my back pocket. I practically rip my pockets looking for the phone. It must have fallen out in the taxi. SHIT-FUCK-STUPID-GOD-DAMN-RETARDED-MORON-FUCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK! I run back outside. The taxi is long gone. The phone was pre-paid so there was no way to recover the number. That was the first and last time I ever saw Jenn. Every time I see a Motorola logo, I think of Jenn. I like to think that she tried to call me in vain. By now we’d have been long married with a couple of kids running around, and a bunch of adult responsibilities. We’d have a few wrinkles, we’d fight a few times, but in the end we’d take comfort in the knowledge that we were made for each other. Instead, the taxi driver had my phone and all I was left with were the dreams of hope, and love, and happiness running through my fingers like sand.