Tuesday, October 29, 2019

gone forever

Imagine you met a woman last year, gorgeous as a flower, but because you were stupid and clueless, you failed to ask her out or even to get her name. You know where she works—the Gangnam District Office—so you rack your brains thinking of reasons to go back just to see her again and ask all the questions you'd failed to ask when you first met her. Your first encounter with this lovely creature was in July, and during the July-to-November period, you try going back to the district office three separate times to find her again. Each time you go, though (and each visit is at a different time of day), she isn't at her post. Pretty soon, you despair of ever seeing her again, and you've run out of reasons to visit that office.

Fast-forward to this year. About a month ago, you get a bill from that office—some sort of "local" or "neighborhood" tax. You notice that the office has messed up your address: the last two digits of your apartment number are "18," but the bill says "1B." Aha—a real reason to go back and find that woman! Unfortunately, the bill has arrived right before you were planning to walk across the country, so you resolve to visit the office—and the lady—once you've done your walk (thus making yourself a bit more svelte, or at least a bit less fat) and have come back looking rugged and outdoorsy. It sounds like a good plan.

Like an idiot, however, you manage to leave the tax bill inside your pants pocket when you do your laundry, so the bill is now a crumpled, sopping, easily torn mess. Instead of panicking, though, you take the bill to work with you, let it dry out on your desk, and begin the painstaking process of slowly unfolding the bill, flap by flap, without tearing the whole thing to bits. You manage to do this, and you tape the torn pieces of the bill together to produce a single rectangular whole. Somehow, this works, and the bill is still legible. Just before you depart for your cross-country walk, you hang the bill—which now looks as if it's just escaped from Dr. Frankenstein's lab—on the inside of your apartment's door, along with a note reminding you to go visit that cute lady at the Gangnam District Office.

A month goes by as you re-experience the Korean riverlands on foot. Meanwhile, a gift sits at home: you had prepped a little gift box to give this lady the previous year, back when you first met her. The box contains artsy trinkets: a ceramic rose and a goofy, smiling tiger—items she can place next to her computer's monitor if she wants. There's a card in there with a nice, slightly flirtatious note, plus your contact information. There's also some candy in there, but that's now a year old, so, now that you're back home, you switch it out with some new candy: Japanese jellybeans (surprisingly delicious) and Lindor black-label chocolate truffles (unsurprisingly delicious: you've loved Lindt chocolate for decades).

This morning, still fresh from your walk and not having regained any weight yet, you head out to the Gangnam District Office with your gift box and your torn-and-repaired bill. You've looked at your F4 visa ID card, where your lovely rose had written your new, updated address the previous year. Sure enough, the "18" in your address number is ambiguously written: that last character might be an "8," or it might be a "B." You've rehearsed the conversation in your mind—in Korean, no less, because you both spoke English and Korean to each other last time, even though the lady worked at the section of the district office devoted to helping foreigners. You mentally stress that you're not there to blame the woman for having written the address number incorrectly; if anything, the whole thing might be your fault because it's possible you had written the address number strangely on the original address-update form. You hope the conversation will just flow easily from there; you recall how friendly the woman was, and how she had radiated warm, fuzzy "like" rays in your direction.

While you're in the cab, you review worst-case scenarios. The only thing worse than the woman's not being there at all would be for her to (1) not remember you, and (2) treat you this time with cold, brisk indifference. But it's too late to back out now: you're in the cab and committed to your mission.

You arrive at the district office, thank and pay the cabbie, and lumber across the street to the edifice where your hopefully-future-girlfriend works. You stride through the atrium and past several stations before you spy the foreigners' corner. To your disappointment, your lady isn't visible. Maybe she's at another desk; maybe she's on break. You pick a number; it's 517. 517 dings immediately, the numbers lighting up over one particular work station. You walk over to the station and are greeted by an unfamiliar face. Since you are there for a legitimate reason, you present your address-number conundrum to the clerk. While explaining the whole story of the possible mixup and how this might all be your own fault, you attract the attention of a couple other clerks, and soon enough, you've got three pretty women looking through files, trying to find the address-update form you had filled out the previous year. You apologize for having roped in three people; the women laugh daintily and say it's nothing. You slyly ask about the previous clerk who had helped you last year: what was her name? Where did she move to if she's no longer here? No one knows anything. Apparently, the clerk's employee number isn't in any way associated with your file. With a sinking feeling, you realize you'll never even find out this lovely woman's name, and all you can do is kick yourself for your stupidity and passivity (which, in this case, amounts to the same thing as stupidity).

Ultimately, the clerk you meet today goes into your file and electronically updates your address so that the apartment number reads "...18" and not "...1B." She prints out a data-update voucher, which she shows you and then sticks inside your dossier. This will now be filed away again like the Ark of the Covenant being tucked inside that Area 51 warehouse.

And that's that. You're done. No one knows how to find your woman. Numbly, you stand up, thank everyone who helped you, and limp back out of the building and into the sunlight. You've thought about this woman for a whole year, and now, it's all come to nothing. She's gone. Gone forever. And that sucks. There are other fish in the sea, your inner cliché-generator says. But those are empty words. At least for now.


Daniel said...

Sublime and absolutely painful. No other leads?

Kevin Kim said...

I wish, man. I wish. I'm a fucking idiot.

Remember that scene in "Starship Troopers" where Lieutenant Rasczak tells Johnny Rico: "Never pass up a good thing"? I've got that ringing in my ears.

John Mac said...

Ouch. A sad turn of events to be sure. Nothing I can say other than been there, done that, and have lived in regret ever since.

Next time, and there WILL be a next, seize the moment. What you are experiencing now is worse than any form of potential rejection I'd wager.

Easy for me to say of course. It's not like I follow my own advice.