After downing some CU beverage pretending to be coffee that tasted like chemical warfare, I’ve decided life without proper coffee is a life of suffering. I queue behind the black haired armada separating the Starbucks counter from myself. Surrounding me, the collective sleepless frazzled humanity of Incheon Airport. Everyone is on a mission. With no family here to pledge allegiance to, I’ve opted to flee for the full 12 days on a whirlwind trip to Taiwan.
Between the smog of data on the monolithic digital timetables and the aural puree of meesayohhs and imneedas – between the cartoonish droning aegyo of some k-girl in front of me and her nodding British NET boyfriend with platinum blond hair and a school shooter cut – I find myself excited to exit the country. In a slip of consciousness at the counter I blurt out my drink order in Korean, knowing full well one mispronounced syllable will be the difference between a soy milk latte and saying I want to have sex with animals. Duyulatte juhseyoh?
Blank stares. Like every time, I find myself gesticulating wildly in attempt to make my point. Probably we should all learn sign language.
Chuseok is the cherished family tradition where Koreans, if possible, escape from their family in far off places, as evidenced by the forever-unsmiling hoards who have today descended upon the Incheon departure hall. Endless human logjams are waterfalling down escalators, whirlpooling in coffee plazas, multiplying like bacteria as flights take off through great walls of glass. The only available movement is a slight shuffle through the crowd. The natural passage of time drags, stretching itself out across the length of early October.
Thousands of years taking pages from the Analects of Confucious has left people wondering: what better way to celebrate the annual thankgiving holiday than PEACEing to Cebu or Phuket or Denpasar? K-logistics have practically tripled the price of my flight to Taiwan, but it’s better than hanging around a ghost town Seoul for two weeks. Available ferries cruise from Incheon to Tianjin or Busan to Fukuoka – not sure why the imperialists get the good deals… I bit the bullet and paid $700 for a two hour flight, one of those trans-Asian-Pacific voyages with hardly enough time for the drink cart to make its strait line from the front to the back of the fuselage.
We board the flight, stow bags overhead and take off our time. Passengers slump back and slough off our jobs like dead skin, shedding frustrations, limitations, daily routines. Every new life you could slip into like an old consignment shirt. I no longer know what time it is. I forget the date, inhaling the adjacent woman’s gas station perfume. Those things don’t matter anymore.
Waiting leaves the spirit on edge.
I’ve been fantasizing about these places so long they’ve taken on a mystical echo. Names like Jakarta and Taipei have adopted the same dreamy ring as Hyrule or Narnia. Windows are closed. At the hands of the pilot the cabin goes black. It’s ?ten a.m. and they’ve turned off the world.
Now we’re accelerating through the cloudscape, sailing towards freedom. Above the Pacific, past the body of the Yellow Sea, its water tinted warm by the sands of the Gobi Desert. Once again I’m sitting at the edge of myself, wondering what awaits, staring at a crumpled boarding pass as if contemplating the landscape of another planet.
Photo: Wang Xi