Korea



The rain brings out the smell of kimchi as I stand with my umbrella and stare at my feet. I'm waiting to go home. I hear the bus before I see it, groaning around the corner. I stick my hand out, palm down, wave my fingers toward my wrist. The rain jumps off my beckoning hand.

 The bus stops for me and I smile at the driver while trying to close my umbrella and swipe my T-card against the reader. “Kamsahamnida” the meter says in a female voice as it deducts my fare. I search for a seat but the bus jolts forward and I lose my balance. My soaking umbrella brushes against an old man’s knee and he recoils, except for his blank stare which stays fixed on me.  I stutter my apology and the Korean words fall clumsily out of my mouth. My shoes squeak as I sit down.

Already we are going downhill, soon I will need to get off. Shops, bars, restaurants, salons, cafes, pet stores, all built on top of each other. All whizzing by. The windows are speckled with raindrops and as if the buildings weren’t close enough they start to blur together in a kaleidoscope of color and shapes. I remind myself I can’t read the signs even when they aren’t blurry, and rest my forehead on the cool window.

A minute later and my ride is over. I smile and nod at the driver as I swipe my T-card at the meter once more. He is smiling too. I can see him clearly in the reflection of his wide rear-view mirror. “See you tomorrow” he says in perfect English. I'm startled that he addressed me, and he can tell. He laughs.

I really am the only foreigner who takes this bus.

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