The nongso parking garage

20181002_171122At the Nongso Parking Garage, you step off of the bus and into another dimension. It’s nestled between farmland and the red light district. I’m convinced it’s the weirdest place in Korea. You see bus drivers unwind. They take their shirts off for some reason. You witness comradery between the 1127 drivers. Almost all of them smoke cigarettes. Sometimes you can see a bus driver drive their car home after their shift. It’s like watching Mini-Mouse pull her head off backstage. Or seeing Jackie O pick a wedgie.

I’ve been spending a lot of time here lately. I wait fifteen minutes to transfer buses to get to Korean class. The class is twice a week and for free. Given the quality of the class, it’s too expensive. I eat a package of soybeans as I wait. It’s 10 grams of protein and only 100 calories. It will prevent me from binge eating later. I want to shed visceral fat so Bo doesn’t keep beating my ass in jiujitsu.

This past Tuesday, I was approached by a man. Not your dapper Busan man that manspreads on the subway and wears cool loafers.  No. He was almost a creature. His eyes were light — cataracts. He muttered something to me but I was listening to jazz. I hate jazz. But it distracts me from the feeling of wasting my dissipating youth at a fucking bus station. I stared back, not removing my headphones. I furrowed my eyebrows and popped soybeans into my mouth, one at a time. He put his hand out. The universal symbol of “give me some of that shit.” His nails were like Halloween. This is what vitamin and calcium deficiency for 70 years looks like. That’s not his fault though.

I dropped 4 soybeans into his hand, utilizing gravity so I didn’t have to touch him.  He said something again. I stared. He kept his hand torso-level and bent down tongue first to pick up a soybean. He did not break eye contact.

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“Why doesn’t he use his hand to put them into his mouth?” I thought to myself in horror.

A concerned bystander rose to his feet as backup when things started getting weird. Oh, no. He just got up to get on the departing bus. I was on my own. The creature bent down tongue first again to pick up another soybean. I regretted my generosity.

The End


Next month I will be participating in my second NaNoWriMo! I will not be blogging during that time. But I still love you. Wait for me.

Mamma mia

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Men dressed in black clogged the boarding gate. There was one woman among them. She was wearing a hijab and sunglasses indoors. They all had matching backpacks with a patch of the Indonesian flag.

I like boarding the plane first. I can put my bag in the cabin directly above my head.  I keep reading glasses on my face and my boarding pass in the cleavage of my book. I sit and read, seatbelt unbuckled. Reading while other passengers are still boarding is different from reading after takeoff. Reading after takeoff is for entertainment. But this. This is a goddamn spectacle. Look at me. Losers waddle down the aisles in confusion. They smack my sprained shoulder with their over-packed bags. Ugh, I am so efficient, stoic. I reach a little closer to nirvana when I watch people struggle with their luggage. God, my minimalist lifestyle makes travel so easy.

“Excuse me.” He shoved his bags into the cabin. Duty-free shopping is an all-encompassing Korean experience. It was a man in black. I stood up to let him pass even though his body fat was probably less than 6%. He pulled out his book. It had the word “terrorism” in the title. Checkmate.

I prayed that he wouldn’t talk to me even though I decided that he was my boyfriend for the duration of the flight. The prayer didn’t work and I was glad. His eyeballs were like chocolate and I wanted to lick them. I asked why he dressed in black and he asked why I was traveling alone.

“You are a strong person. You go out into the world and you survive.”

I took this as a compliment. I always thought of international travel as a buffet, not as eliciting danger. Maybe I’ve just been lucky.


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It’s hard finding a normal picture of my sister.

It was nice seeing my sister and Carol. They’re the type of people where it feels like time hasn’t passed even though a lot has. Carol and I had three new tattoos between the two of us since we saw each other last. We discussed dinner options after a quick round of reunited hugs. Feeling adventurous, we agreed on Italian. The food may not have been Indonesian, but the price was. Three gorgeous meals cost a mere $22. Plus I could smoke inside the restaurant.

The sidewalk had holes in it. Every couple of meters or so we would either walk across a plank of wood balanced over the manhole or jump into the street with oncoming traffic. Literal chickens crossed the road. Carol said it reminded her of El Salvador.


We were on a boat —  a voluntary castaway.

The seams of this boat were ripping. The poles of the roof uprooted and bounced along with the sways of the boat. My sister pointed to the side, to call attention to a hole where choppy waves took out a clean chunk of wood. Its remnants became smeared confetti easily mistaken for poo. Laura and I laughed, defenselessly.  The condition of the sea that you are imagining now is incorrect. It was not an episode of Deadliest Catch. The ocean was not God’s hands slapping down on fisherman, killing them in the processes. No. It was kind of windy. At best, a baby storm. I have dealt with worse conditions during a sailing class in college, to give you an idea. I watched, in envy, as speedboats came and went. Our boat was equipt with a crooked rudder and a car engine. Not a fast car. Something like a Toyota Celica, or maybe a Prius.

Three days on this water prison and now time was stretching as if we were traveling through a black hole. I prayed to Newton’s Second Law for a reduction of drag forces. I stared down at the stain on the cuff of my pants. It was poop — not mine. This is despair.

Though boat was crumbling around us, I knew we would not die. There was land all around us. But that didn’t mean that I will not have to swim. I put my passport into the zipper pocket of my rain jacket. I rehearsed in my mind what I will do when we capsize.  I thought of my well-connected airplane boyfriend.


His name was Captain Jai.

“Like Pirates of the Caribbean,” he said. No. Not like Pirates of the Caribbean at all.

He invited us onto his boat. He took out a rusted machete to chop up a soon-to-be-rotten-pineapple and served it on a plate alongside a heaping serving of male fragility.

“I can take you on a tour. My father died almost two months ago. I will cook for you. You can see the Komodo dragons. I don’t have a wife yet, but I can’t wait to have kids. You can snorkel with the manta rays. I don’t like [insert categorization] women. Then we can go to the karaoke bar after. No problem, no problem.”

In retrospect, he was a complete piece of shit from the getgo. But I liked that he had no wife or kids. That meant his life whole life was the sea, his wife the boat. That made me kind of trust him. Plus it was so, so cheap.

Against all three of our individual intuitions, we agreed. The next day we boarded the boat for our trip. I paid no mind to Jai’s nameless crewman. I needed coffee. Jai called him “my friend.” He had a stunning, muscular fisherman body and spoke zero English.

It was beautiful and awesome. Indonesia is the perfect backdrop for some tinder profile pictures. We swam in very blue water. Jai encouraged us to play ABBA on his speaker and to dance on the boat while I was busy reading the Diary of Anne Frank on the bow. Jai was under the very incorrect impression we were there to party. But Jai proved to be a good cook. He showed us the fruit bats that wake up at dusk to forage.

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We were exhausted by the end of the day from a combination of all the sunshine and goddamn emotional labor. A sense of relief came over us as we were made our way to the dock for the night.

“Can I have some beer?” asked Jai.

“Yeah, sure, of course. We have a bunch,” said my generous, beautiful sister.

“Yes, but I still think it’s important to always ask my guests. Once I start drinking I don’t want to stop. How about you turn on some music? I like to make the guests comfortable. I sit with the guest and talk with them.” Jai’s role as a captain began to blur. My Friend was doing all the work, enabling Jai to drink beer and ‘make his guests comfortable’ by holding one-way conversations.

I laid on the bow of the boat. You can’t really see the stars in Korea, let alone the Milky Way.

“Is it ok if I join you?” You can escape anything on a boat, except the people you are with. I told him about the starless sky. Jai didn’t give a shit. My three sentences surpassed his listening limit. He tensed and started flapping his arm, palpitating his flashlight.  The wood supporting my back vibrated as the bottom of the boat scratched to a halt. Jai hollered in Indonesian. My Friend cut the engine. The three of us were kept in the dark, literally and figuratively.  Jai jumped in the water to atone for the crash. We exchanged ghost stories as we waited.


When I opened my eyes the next morning I could see a monkey lurking on the beams of the dock. It hopped onto the boat next to us and stole some bananas before scampering away. I was charmed by this. I slept surprisingly well despite getting stuck in coral last night. Plus we made it to Rincon, one of two islands home to the Komodo dragon. This was why I came here. It was on my bucket list to see the dragons. Added bonus my sister was here. She winces at the sight of small reptiles. I could only anticipate her reaction to very, very large ones. It felt like Christmas morning.

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The tour guide had nothing but jokes. I think he exchanged his teeth for them. He shared information about the animals on the island sprinkled with wisecracks at tourists. In addition to his gifted sense of humor, he was also a decent photographer. We took turns gathering Instagram content a safe distance away from the dragons. Laura still refused to get her picture taken because it was too close. But my favorite part of our tour guide was that he was not Captain Jai. “I need a vacation from my vacation.” We dragged our feet back to the dock. My Friend was waiting at the entrance for us. We boarded the prison boat onto the next destination — Komodo Island.


We saw no Komodo dragons on Komodo Island but I met someone handsome. He told me how he had a girlfriend in California but they broke up. Well, they didn’t break up so much as he dropped his phone in the ocean five months ago and had no way to contact her. International relationships seem like such a whirlwind!

“I’m staying with Captain Jai.”

“I know. He came onto the island and bragged he had three American girls with him. He seemed drunk already. You can stay with me at the fishing village. It’s no problem.”

He told me he was 28 years old. He stopped drinking with Jai 10 years ago because he was “getting too old.” This island man was winning me over and confirming my suspicions that Jai was a pile of garbage and potentially dangerous.

We stayed on Komodo for as long as possible. Laura and Carol enjoyed a couple of citrus flavored beers. I enjoyed pooping on a western toilet that flushed without me having to pour water into it. I said goodbye to my Komodo lover.

“What’s that over there?”

“That is the fishing village.” Jai seemed irritated that we were talking.

“Can we go over there?”

“No.”


We were still asleep when we took off. He woke us at dawn to watch the sunrise. It was the last day and all of us were counting down the minutes to clock out.  We were on our way to swim with the manta rays. The atmosphere felt different. The winds have changed. Then that familiar scrape. I wasn’t surprised only because my emotions were depleted at this time. They dropped the anchor.

“You can swim here. You can see the turtles.” Laura promptly jumped in the water. She had the ‘fuck it, it’s vacation’ mentality that Carol and I ran out of a day ago. “Since you are in the water, can you go and see if the propeller is attached?” Mother fuck. A contorted rudder and now, a missing propeller?! Not only that, but he asked my sister, who just had a breakfast beer to check on the anatomy of his boat. I went snorkeling just so I could bite down on something. After twenty minutes, I was over it. The sea was rough. I was cold. We were stuck. Now, I am normally on team coral. But I was hoping for a massive bleaching event so we could get the hell out of there. We sat on the boat, silenced by oppressed anger.


My last day on the island. It was already a great day because I wasn’t on a boat. We kicked things up a notch. Had breakfast that involved fresh fruits and coffee that wasn’t instant. The dude at our hostel agreed to take us to a waterfall. His name was Andres. We met up after lunch and he invited his best friend, also named Andres. He had curly hair and rasta vibes. He was the epitome of an island lover. We told the Andres’  about the little cruise and reluctantly mentioned him.

“JAI?!” The Andres’ looked at each other and laughed. After wiping away their tears, one Andres turned around to ask if we were alright. He said he doesn’t work with Jai anymore. Not after the incident involving two American girls and Jai in jail. I got goosebumps. We laughed it off and watched the sunset. The golden light really working for Rasta Andres.

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Oreo

It happened again. Where I was vulnerable for 5 seconds and I got it. That feeling where I was going to shit myself of jealousy but I knew it was physically impossible because I hadn’t eaten in over eight hours. I had to grab my bag and barge through half the crowd in Ulsan’s new premiere nightclub with no cover charge. I’m still sober, thank fuck.

I’m in the safety net of my apartment now. There is no alcohol here. No people either. What do sober people do on Saturday night? I always regret my conscious decision of taking the last bus home. Am I going to miss out and a wonderful conversation? Meet the love of my life? Last weekend some guy showed me a picture of all the stitches on his foot. That was cool. In da club, I caught a guy who almost fell down. He was too embarrassed to say thank you even though I saved his life. His shirt was synthetic and sweat-wicking. In a sense, I did get intimate with someone last night.

I am pretty sure he doesn’t read these fucking things. But if he does, he wouldn’t message me about it. I’m tapping my leg just thinking about it.

I feel unstable. I should really start going to meetings. Jealousy is cyanide. I saw basically nothing, but it was something.  My skin felt like it was on fire from the inside. I want to drink I want to drink I want to drink. I forgot what this fragility felt like. Did I learn nothing after my experience coming home from Tokyo? I asked for my phone back. It was in his pocket. Then I left.

I feel ridiculous for feeling. And stupid because I don’t really care. It’s just this immense dissatisfaction from an unsolved mystery. Why doesn’t he fucking like me. I think I check off a couple of goddamn bullet points. I have blonde hair and blue eyes, which is a phenotypic needle in the haystack of this country. I have a job and a sense of humour. Dick is on my vision board. But emotional unavailability triumphs my natural highlights. I have the thousand mile stare and am bitter.

My brain is an asshole. I spent so much time and energy these past sober months to perfect this stupid routine. Cleaning, mealing prepping and ironing my gi. It was all a distraction. Now I feel and don’t know what to do about it. I have nightmares. Kanye West’s recent album is relatable. Now, that’s scary. I wrote a joke today at least. That’s something I haven’t done in a hot minute. I don’t know if it’s funny, but I produced something. Self-loathing fuels creativity, how original.

I feel like shit now but I would feel twenty times worse if I choose to drank last night. I’m proud of myself and I am writing this even though I hate it. My stats are always better for these emo posts though. Misery is both entertaining and relatable. This is going to worry my mother. Don’t worry Ma, I won’t be going back Oreo anytime soon. My friends living on the other side of the world will tell me they love me. I’ll enjoy the attention for half a day.

But it won’t stop me from being swallowed by loneliness.

 

161 days

A note on minimalism

I went to the dentist the other day. He asked me if I spoke any Korean. I said no. He carried on the rest of the appointment in Korean. He gave me a mirror to witness how swollen the back of my gum was. It was his way of telling me it’s not a cavity. He went away and the hygienist draped this heavy, felt fabric over my entire face, except for the hole around the mouth. I didn’t know if I was about to get a tooth pulled or decapitated. Turns out neither. They gave me a salad of pills and something to gargle. It tasted like ethanol infused with cinnamon.

I sat on the floor to fold laundry. I love sitting on the floor. And at this moment, I loved folding my laundry. I could say hi to all my clothes. I KonMaried my living space again so everything has a soul. Now, I wear a button up every day to reduce decision fatigue. Button ups are androgynous and professional. I own exactly fourteen. They each have different fabrics and functions. My weekend button ups are short sleeved and patterned. They show off my tattoos and have a fun personality. The love for my button ups transpired through me and I realized I was kinda high off the extra strength acetaminophen.


20180817_163441-1.jpgThis is so much better –– minimalism. I expected an almost empty apartment would be quite. It’s noisy. I empty the contents of my lady backpack onto my coffee table/desk. Oh shit, now I am minimalist. I pick everything back up. Put it in its place. Clutter is the enemy. Some things are homeless, like my notebook. I use it so often, it’s a nomad. I put it back on my coffee table/desk. I make a bottle of soda water.  Flat water sucks ever since I have been sober. I greet the yoga mat that I initially ignored. It lives on the floor. Every day it invites me to practice and almost every day I refuse. My home buzzes with potential. I sit down, drink my soda water. I want to complain about the heat, but I hold it in. Winter is far, far worse.

My brother was always a minimalist. Now I get it. Efficiency. I just packed for my trip to Okinawa. It took me twelve minutes. I have extra time to blog.

Letting go has never been the issue for me. Once a year I would cut off my hair and rid of garbage bags full of stuff. But just like my hair would grow back, my room would accumulate more crap. Enough to where I would have to purge all over again.

Consumerism and addiction are married. It seems kind of silly to spend money on a dress that I would donate in a few months time. I shopped as a sport. To pass time, make myself feel pretty, or for the “free” centralized air conditioning. I used it to deal with boredom, as an escape. I see it. That little parasite of addiction. My definition of it is changing. It’s not getting the shakes. It’s using something to dissociate from your feelings –– whether it’s something small like internet shopping when you’re bored or getting wasted after a stressful day. Dissatisfaction runs deep and they don’t sell the antidote at Target. I’m glad I’m breaking the cycle.

Dirt on my shoulder

“It’s fake. You can tell because the shape of the aquarium is a rectangle. Real jellyfish would tear their bodies on the corners. So, real ones have to be kept in circular tanks.”

“That’s right, you studied biology.” I cut myself off and noted that I sound like a post from r/iamverysmart.

Everyone who made their way in was limping. It was my first time at the orthopaedic office despite my fair share of doctor visits the past couple of years. It was poppin’. My co-teacher and I compared divorce rates in our countries to pass the time.

“Caitulin E”

I sat there while my co talked to the doctor. I understood “jiu-jitsu” and “left.” Omg, I know Korean.

He came around behind me and put his hands on each of my shoulders. It’s true that doctors don’t have borders. They all poke you really hard where you’re swollen the most.

“Yogi?”

“Ne! Ne! Ne!!!!!” If you say the same word in a foreign language three times fast, people think you’re fluent.

The xray lived next door. I handed my co my three most favorite things: my Samsung Galaxy S9 plus, raybans, and sharktooth necklace. I felt taken care of.

The doctor allocated the appropriate joint from a collection of models on his desk. Now he was speaking my language.

I looked down at my Rx. To my surprise, I have been spelling my name in Korean wrong this whole time. Do I change my Kakoa account or am I too proud? I willed myself to believe I would get a buzz from the pain meds. Alas, the placebo failed.

I talked this guy after class the night I got injured. His English name is Turtle. I hadn’t seen him in a while, I thought he quit. He was out for over a month because he cracked a couple of ribs. Maybe. He stopped speaking in English to me after that one time I didn’t understand him. I think it tramatized him.

My BJJ community on the internet say that injuries are not a matter of if but when. Unfortunatly, it happened a couple of days before I was supposed to go scuba diving.

I am lucky that it’s not serious though. And I’m lucky that I have found something else to be addicted to. I mean… I’ve gotten sprains from drinking too much and falling down.

I didn’t even realize shoulder sprains existed until I got one. That’s the amazing thing about sobriety. I am achieving things that I didn’t know were possible.

118 days.

29 Days

There is a huge bee flying around in my apartment now. I have bug spray but it’s bad for the environment to kill bees. More importantly, I have been chain smoking in here and I don’t want there to be an explosion. I like to think of myself as environmentally conscious, but at the end of the day, I’m all about self-preservation.


He slept with someone else. It’s not that he did it, it’s that he told me. I see “we’re just friends,” as a challenge — a challenge I accept and will always lose. Nights like this I just write. It makes me feel better, but it would be nice to cum for once.

The worst part about all this is I was in fucking Tokyo this morning. That is so cool! And I am sitting here listening to Lorde festering over an imagined rejection. That sucks!!!!

I’m 29 days sober. And so far, not drinking has done nothing to fix my life. I feel unworthy and damaged. In Japan, I felt awesome. I felt strong, independent, and that I could do whatever I  wanted. It was a vacation high. I want to blame my misery on my location. It’d be so easy to just say that I don’t like Korea. But that’s not the truth. I am insecure and I’m not getting the validation in the particular way that I want. Which today is from a boy. It’s going to take a lot of work to find self-realized validation and I am so tired. I thought I went through this as a teenager, but substance abuse is a thin veil over self-doubt that I just ripped off.

I like the way he makes me feel. I opened up and it felt right. I make him laugh but now I am not laughing. I feel like my impulse to crack jokes hinders me sometimes. I deflect all forms of seriousness. People love to be around that, but don’t want it as their everything.

Now, I feel isolated. I should be open and honest,  but why have a conversation when you know how it’s going end.  I want to ignore this, but feelings are like radiation. They dissipate but never fully go away.

 

March madness – sobriety edition

I stopped drinking in March. Although I’ve been dancing with the idea since November, I’ve always had one great reason not to quit: I didn’t want to.

I must have given a different reason to each person that asked why I stopped drinking. I needed to quit smoking and it was too hard with a drink in my hand, I wanted to lose weight, save money, I wanted to NOT text people to choke me, I wanted to adhere to my intermittent fasting schedule, I wanted to get up earlier and actually feel ok in the mornings, I wanted to focus on writing, I wanted to focus on comedy and performing (which I hate to admit I’m better at sober), I want to reduce the cripiling anxiety I get from not knowing what I did the night before, I want to be able to drink water in the morning without throwing it up, I want to wake up in the morning knowing exactly where I am and how I got there, I want to know where every charge on my ATM card came from, I want to make genuine connections with people that are not sloppy, I don’t want people to describe me as loud, I don’t want people to think I can’t handle my alcohol, and I don’t want to drop my phone in the toilet. Again.

You get the idea.

“I drank too much” is an understatement for me. I drink until I can’t walk. I wonder if binge drinking is an accident or not. It’s not like I’m thinking “I need to get fucked up tonight.” It’s that one drink becomes twelve.  I’m lucky I live in a safe place.

Alcoholism is romanticized in my head. Hovering an inch or two above rock bottom, an alcoholic’s life could crash any second. My life was never that fucked up. I didn’t betray anybody, I never got fired. Surely, I didn’t I have a problem. What a fool.

So, I was sober for March. This was the longest I have been sober for nine years. I anticipated being uncomfortable at bars. I didn’t expect to be clenching my teeth walking past the soju aisle during bouts of loneliness. Since alcohol is my only vice here, my addiction bubbled up in weird ways. Mostly in the form of anger and compulsively buying similar shades of red lipstick.

On March 31st at 11:50 PM I was counting down the minutes, let me tell you. I wanted to drink so bad. And I did. I drank a shot of whisky and two beers faster then Cinderella could run back to her carriage. It was the best feeling to have a beer with a good friend.

But honestly, I’m scared.

Stopping drinking, even for a month, made me think deeply about why I do the things I do. It made me stare into the eyes of my addictive tendencies and acknowledge things that I never have. I am not perfect and I’m pretty sure I am not swearing off alcohol entirely. But now I know that there is something within me that takes control over my conscious decisions.

The first step is admitting, right?