Friday, May 7, 2010

Bender Season

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve befriended random strangers, stayed out all night, re-ignited my love affair with McDonald’s breakfast, traveled across town for free on more than one occasion, and even had a good old fashioned bout of passing out in public. Yep, It’s bender season again here in Korea.

Like any good bender, the specifics are foggy. It’s a series of bars, conversations, video games, subway, bus, and taxi rides, and lonely late night walks, soju in tow, around shadowy streets that are rarely, if ever, seen by white people. There’s work too, but no concept of something as pedestrian as 4 p.m. or Thursday.

I went to Itaewon on a weeknight to drink with my soon-to-be-leaving buddy Eric. I made it home on the last subway of the night and went to Metropolis bar in Nowon already trashed. I saw a rival trivia team playing darts there. I remember nothing of my conversation with them, other than the fact that I definitely talked shit on Ohio a lot since one of them is from there. I hope that I also mentioned that my trivia team cannot be defeated, but they probably already know that since they lose to us every week.

I spent Saturday afternoon with my buddy Ryan, walking around the rich part of town and surreptitiously drinking soju out of a Gatorade bottle. We later went to a bar called Monkey Beach. I last saw Monkey Beach on Don’s birthday, the famous night that featured all manners of sketchy drunken behavior. I was excited to go back. We drank buckets and things got a bit blurry. We planned to go to Itaewon, but that plan crumbled along these lines:

“Let’s go to the ‘Twon!”

“Cool,” I replied. “But I don’t want to pay for the cab back home.”

“Mine only costs 10 bucks.”

“Mine costs 20. Ryan, dude, give me 5 bucks, it’s only fair.”

“Fuck you.”

“Fuckin A, dude!.”

“I’m getting in this cab to Itaewon. You going?”

“You giving me 5 bucks?”


“Fuck off, I’m taking the train home.” I walked to the subway station, which was a longer distance than I remembered it being. While waiting for the last train home, I dozed off. Next thing I knew, a subway worker was clearing the station and I had to leave. I considered taking the bus home if it was still running, but some random dude was taking a taxi to a neighborhood just beyond mine so I shared a cab with him. Once we got to Nowon, he refused payment for my half of the fare. The lesson here? There are no repercussions for passing out in the train station.

Wednesday was a holiday, thus Tuesday was a big night out. Things were winding down at around 4, as I sat at the convenience store with my friends drinking what I assumed to be my last beer of the night. The subject of the casino came up. Martin, maybe thinking that the casino would be closed for the holiday, bet Ryan and I a hundred bucks that we wouldn’t go to the casino then and there and return to Nowon with proof of having been. Once we worked out that Martin wasn’t bullshitting, we took the bet and hopped in a cab. Martin came along to further verify that we went. The casino wasn’t closed. I’d been to this very casino on Christmas Day a couple years back, there was no way it would close for Children’s Day. Ryan and I took our cash from Martin.

I ended up dipping into my own money of course. Ryan did too. Not a lot, just a few bucks. Anyway, the lesson here? Don’t play roulette at 6 a.m.

On the way home, I got separated from Martin somehow. It was 7:30 in the morning as I walked to my apartment (by way of Egg McMuffinland,) so I decided it was a fine time for drunken dialing.

This would be a good point to bring up why this bender started. I’ve been bored at work, more socially than anything. I only have one American co-worker, and he’s cool, but we never hang out. I don’t have his phone number. He’s not even a Facebook friend. Worse, he’s better friends with the girl at work that I have a crush on than I am. Every bender has a different specific reason, but it’s always the same general thing. Malaise. Boredom. The feeling that my life got off on the wrong exit somewhere, that I should have made that left in Albuquerque. Everybody feels that way sometimes, but for me the reason is almost always the same: girls.

Technically, in a lawyer kinda way, I’ve only been dumped twice. My first girlfriend Liz and my second girlfriend Katie hold those honors.

I went out with Liz in seventh grade. Over our 9 week relationship, we spoke on the phone four times for a cumulative three minutes. Throughout the latter seven weeks, there were rumors in the hallway that she had already dumped me, but we managed to avoid speaking a single time. Finally, at a school dance, Liz resolved the issue by ignoring me and dancing with my two best friends (not at the same time) and telling them to tell me that she was breaking up with me.

I went out with Katie during the summer between 8th and 9th grades. I met her on vacation at an amusement park, and then asked her to be my girlfriend at a mall two days before I went home. For some reason, she agreed. Katie broke up with me via letter. The funny part was, she actually wrote a full page letter, chit chatty stuff about the rest of her summer and what she and her friends were doing and what have you. She didn’t actually dump me until the last paragraph.

I kinda miss break ups. I never thought I would feel this way, but break-ups are humane. Given the choice between ebola and a bullet in the temple, I’ll take the bullet. I presume you would too. This means that you, much like me, are not a Korean girl. Having been in-country for literally over 1,000 days, I’ve noticed a pattern when it come to dating Korean girls. When it’s over in their mind, it’s over. This point can happen at any given time. It’s happened to me on more than pi occasions.

Recently, I’d been dating this girl. We’d been on a few dates, and I stayed in with her a couple Fridays ago, hung out on the couch, ate pizza, watched 30 Rock, good times. Like all 28 year old Korean females, she lived at home and had an early curfew, so I took her home before one. The next evening, we went for dinner. I was delightful in conversation with her monolingual friends. I was wore a cool shirt and my hair was fine. No mistakes. She went home early again, so I walked her to a cab. We planned to meet the next afternoon.

I called her when I woke up. She didn’t pick up. Every other time I’d ever called her, she’d picked up right away. I texted her a few minutes later. No response. Ever time I’d texted her up until then, she’d responded within 5 minutes. Without warning, it was over. That’s how it works with Korean girls.

A couple of weeks later, I woke on Wednesday afternoon after the casino adventure. I did my usual phone/internet check to see what horrible things I may have done. I saw that I called that girl. Twice. 7:30 and 7:41. She gets up early, so I doubt I woke her, but I knew I didn’t talk to her. Also, because she’d made the last contact (a text saying she’d call me later a week or so ago) I’d won the breakup on on technicality. Now, I’d clearly lost. I deleted all of my texts, all my call history, and her from my phone book. I won’t make the mistake of calling her again.

Just like that, the bender had (probably) ended. Now that its (presumably) over, I once again begin the task of becoming a better person. I bought some apples and bean sprouts. The next step is to actually eat them.

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