It went like this: Last week, sitting in a tiny bar in Bupyeong with Mags and Small Town, and this Korean guy comes in by himself. If I had to put money on it, right away I would have tagged him for a boxer -- he's just got that look about him. He sits at the bar, orders a beer, which he stares at inbetween glances at the football on the tv overhead.
He's got a really serious face, and something about it seems kind of sad to me. I mention this to the boys. They give him a good once-over and turn back to inform me that they're afraid of him -- Small Town says he looks as though he could and would snap him in half for looking at him the wrong way, or something to that effect. Nah, he seems alright, I say. Just a bit serious.
It ended there.
Last night, I went there again, after bidding Mags and Tasha a good evening, to meet Small Town and two totally random people he picked up somewhere for a drink or two. The order is still a bit confused in my mind, not because I had too much to drink, but because, for some reason, people seemed to be quite social last night. And I shifted between groups multiple times. Anyway, the long and the short of it is, eventually some beautiful, extremely drunk 38 year old Korean woman ended up with her arm around me speaking a mix of Korean and English I was somehow able to understand and respond to, mostly in ridiculously broken Korean (Alcohol Korean). I glanced over my shoulder at one point, and there he was again. Same serious face. Alone with the same kind of beer.
"Seulpeun," I said, and pointed. "Uh.... uh.... na.... igae.... na... seulpeungae hada...." I put my hand over my heart.
She glanced over. "Oh.... he is sad? You want talk? Okay I go." She scooted off her stool.
I grabbed her arm. "Ahniyo! Ahniyo.... uh... maybe he wants to be alone?"
She wasn't listening. The next thing I know, she's pointing to me from across the room and giving him what appears to be a motherly lecture. He's smiling and laughing. She waves me over.
"I say to him he make her sad!"
"Chwesonghamnida." He apologizes.
"Ahniyo... uh... I just... kwenchanayo?"
"Yes. I am okay. Don't worry."
"Okay. I just... just checking." I did a little bow and went scurrying back to Small Town's side for protection. Something about this guy made me feel both very small and very young.
At that point, the Korean woman decided she needed to go home. The Korean man Small Town had come with offered to walk her to a cab. Small Town and I began a debate.
"They're going home together," I said, matter-of-factly.
"Nah. Look there. Yer man left his umbrella. He has to come back...."
"A man doesn't just walk a woman to a cab anymore, unless they're going to have that conversation, [Small Town]. That only happens in old movies. No one is that gentlemanly, not even in Korea."
"Nah, yer wrong. He'll be back in a minute, and then we're going to his bar."
Two seconds later the man came in, and said something about how he would see us at his bar sometime soon, as he grabbed his umbrella and shook our hands. Small Town was confused until I subtly motioned toward the porch, where the Korean woman was standing, impatiently.
"Told you so." We gave them an appropriate toast, as we watched them stumble down the street together toward a cab. Good for them.
Not two seconds later, the elusive Scottish Korean expat wandered into the bar, threefold, and they knew Small Town. What are the odds? They seemed nice enough, but a bit too fucking Scottish and drunk for the mellow kind of mood I was in, so excused myself outside for a smoke. Through the window, I saw the serious man move to the seat beside my empty one.
I came back in and took my seat between Small Town and the man. Small Town leaned over and muttered into my ear: "I reckon there's something going on with that there."
"Yer man there. When you was away, he was sizing me up like, as if to see if he could take me in a fight if it came to it. He's the same one you was watching last time we were in here. There's definitely something going on with that there. Male intuition, like. Don't question it. Go on and give him a shout."
"No. I already talked to him. If he wants to talk to me, then...."
"Oh, come on now. He's sitting there just as awkward as you like. Give the man a break."
"You talk to him if you're so worried about it."
"Nah, not me girl. I'm not the one who's going to ride him."
"[Small Town]! Fucking... !" I swatted him so hard he nearly fell of the stool and felt my face turn burning hot with red.
The Scots were out on the porch shouting at women as they passed by in the street. "I'm out to join them now, so you've got yer chance, like."
I didn't dare look up from my drink. Sat in silence burning a hole in the bar top with my eyes. One of the Scots stumbled in and grabbed my arm. What he said to me then, I'm not sure. All I heard was, "Blah blah blah blah blah!"
He turned away to blah to one of his buddies for a minute. I leaned toward the serious man and whispered in his ear, "Babo."
"Who? Who is babo?"
I nodded toward the Scots.
The serious man laughed to himself. The Scot grabbed my arm again. "Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah."
He got the point and stumbled away off somewhere else.
The serious man leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Do you know what babo means?"
"Idiot. Fool. Moron. Imbecile."
He laughed. "You don't like them. Why?"
"I don't know. I just don't. They're too loud, too drunk.... look at them. Out there screaming at women. Disrespectful."
"I think... you are very innocent."
My face flashed hot with red again. I'm not even sure why.
At some point, all the others, including Small Town disappeared. I'm not sure when, or where to, or if they even said goodbye. I sat there with that very serious man and had one of the best, most genuine conversations I've had my entire time in Korea. His English isn't quite fluent, yet he found a way to take my thoughts right out of my head and put them in front of me, in English, better than I could.
At two a.m., we both finished our drinks at the same time. He walked me to a cab. I came home alone.