You got your best threads on. Suit jacket, cut with high arm holes and thin lapel just the way you like it. Dress shirt, collar crisp holding a perfect half-Windsor under its wings. No shoes on, never any shoes in the bathroom. Your insa is rehearsed to a perfect 90 degrees, the subtle intonations of the most honorific greeting are as good as they are going to get for four weeks into language class, your combed hair mimes the curve of satisfied smile—life folded neatly into the vertical crease of a pair of kakis.
As you stare into the bathroom mirror, you remember how dense this country is: 1,288 people per square mile (U.S.A. 84 people per square mile). No room for bathtubs, no shower walls, only a sink, and a toilet and a drain in the middle of the room. Here, shower heads, wind up from the sink-faucet, waiting in the top corner of the bathroom like a dystopian-minimalist gargoyle from the future. Although you have never tried it, you often fantasize about showering while on the toilet.
But you are trying to live in the moment. And the moment is telling you to wash your hands. This is when the moment, becomes the past betraying the present.
Maybe it was your roommate—always blame the roommate. But a part of your memory, the part still kicking and splashing through a bottle of cheap spirits, knows that it was your drunk-ass that choose to shower last night. It was you who thought only of falling into the rigid dorm mattress that holds you after drinking like a frat boy man-hugging his favorite bro—a firm, stiff, way of touching that never commits to anything vulnerable. It was you who forgot to switch the sink from “shower” mode to “faucet” mode.
But you are present. Soju nights in the rearview and your hands need washing. You turn the water on—something is wrong, is it a delay in the pipes, some metal not ready to part ways with its water? The answer comes in a melody of water rising, it should not be rising. The tubing to the shower head stiffens like a startled viper, and suddenly your world becomes the inevitability of moisture. This problem is the world, your world.
Enlightenment happens when a moment stretches across space to touch two realities that have never known each other.
Far away, the streets of Seoul fill and fill and fill with water like a clogged drain.