“You don’t know how sexy you are . . . That mole below your eye? It looks like a teardrop.”
I roll my eyes and take another sip of soju kettle, which tastes awfully sweet and lemony. It’s my fourth glass, and the only reason why I let these stringy foreigners practice their pick-up lines and come-hither looks on me.
This particular guy is the third. Canadian, aspiring artist who dreams of teaching in Latin America. Has a Korean girlfriend who he claims would just love me. Decided the best approach was a “Random Questions” game. I give in because a) I’m tired of pretending I don’t know English and b) it’s better than slapping hands off my ass.
Question number one: “What’s your ancestry?” Every guy asks me this within the first few minutes. “Really, Filipino? You’re mixed, right?” Gee, haven’t heard that one before. Why do people think this question is soooooo flattering?
Question number two: “What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve done?” From the look in his eyes, I can tell he’s hoping it starts with an A and ends with an L. “I ate dog,” I reply. “Twice.” I smile as he cringes a bit.
Question number three: “What do you want to do after Korea?”
“I want to be a teacher,” I answer, surprised at my response, because it’s the first time I really, really mean it.
Another Nigerian locks eyes with me and takes me by the hands. “One dance, pretty girl,” he says. I don’t mind the Nigerians so much, because when you shy away they just step back and laugh at you, whereas other Prince Charmings call you a stuck-up bitch, push more drinks on you and glare at you for the rest of the night.
This one maintains a respectable distance, so I indulge him with two or three more songs. “California Love” comes on, and I whoop with delight, because here in Itaewon, this is my jam. They can play it six more times tonight, and I’ll throw myself on the dance floor every time.
When 2Pac spits “So you know the row won’t bow down to no man,” I just shake harder, faster, because that dead black man speaks to me.
Then that KC and Jojo song, “Crazy,” comes on and I begin to back off, because I can’t stand this song. The Nigerian pulls me close and wraps my arms around my neck, and I’m okay with it because the Canadian is still watching us, and I hate myself for shielding myself from one bastard with another.
My dance partner is trying to catch my eyes, and I look away, past the swinging neon lights, and I see him. The Frenchman. Dancing on the speakers. His eyes shut tight, his arms in the air, mouthing along to the words, his legs spread apart. His hair is as glossy and black as I remembered; his beard hasn’t grown an inch.
For a fleeting moment, I feel a grin spread across my face, and I begin to tear myself away. You found me, I want to weep, you came for me. Just like you promised.
He opens his eyes and looks me over, smirking. I shrivel up and lower my eyes. Just another Muslim.
The resemblance is strong, but he would never stare at me like a piece of meat. That’s what I admired about him, that it just wasn’t about my looks or my innocence or whatever fucked up image men inflicted on me–He saw me for what I really was, for what I could be.
I wake up, stretched across several metal chairs. The girls are laughing. “You passed out for two hours,” M says, wrapping her arms around me and pulling me to her chest.
“I did not just fall asleep at a club in Itaewon,” I groan, holding my head.
“Don’t worry. We looked over you. We took pictures, but we took care of you.”
I lean into her side, safe and warm and full of so much love for her. I fall back asleep.
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