I’ve been riding what feels like the edge of a cold for a week now: fatigue, sore throat, gritty eyes. Obsessively I take my temperature but with no fever and no cough, there is no indication I have the virus. I suspect it’s another cold or sinus infection that is taking its sweet time to develop. Just come at me already!
I’m not sure where I could even get sick: I’ve left my house four times in the last week and only two of those involved meeting someone else. Part of me suspects that my apartment is making me sick— Korean flats are known for mold and terrible plumbing. Coupled with inescapable pollution I wonder if it might be hay fever.
Until whatever it is makes itself fully known, I plan to keep to the routine.
Yesterday I went to the gym where one tattooed trainer and I shared what I like to think was intense eye contact (he disappeared before I could get the nerve to wink at him). Then I blow dried my hair, put on orange Tony Moly eye shadow, and met a friend in an old 1970s district famous for secret bars and eclectic restaurants.
She had found “the best bbq” restaurant from a BBC article but when we hesitantly entered the restaurant on the second floor, the place was disturbingly empty.
Laughing nervously I asked the single masked waiter in Korean why there were so few people.
“Because of the coronavirus,” he said, tapping his mask.
The restaurant looked different than the restaurant featured in my friend’s article so we had an awkward several minutes where we confirmed with the waiter that we were at the right restaurant and I even checked the restaurant downstairs to see if the prices were different or if we had really gotten lost.
We were the right place but the lack of people is unlike what would be considered a good restaurant. Nevertheless, the food was quite good, expensive which is a fact the article did not mention, but we enjoyed tender marinated beef ribs and an array of vegetable side dishes in golden bowls.
The restaurant was in a famous alley where during the day many people have workshops open. It smelled exactly like my dad’s shop and I even recognized the equipment: drill press, vice, mill…
As it was night, it looked more like a movie set and if this were America, I would’ve worried about getting mugged. As it was not America, I just assumed there would be a little adventure around the corner.
My friend actually reminded me that it was White Day, Korea’s Valentine’s Day, and we headed over to a bar called… After Jerk Off. We wondered if this was intentional, as often “trendy” English titles usually come from misunderstood grammar (see: She’s Closet).
We found the bar behind a fancy set of double white doors with little man engravings. On the fourth floor, after passing post modern Art and several nude portraits, we came to the conclusion that the bar name knew exactly what it meant.
The bar was incredibly trendy to the point I wondered if I was even cool enough to be there. We split a bottle of local rice wine and I had a vegan brownie while generic Southeast Asian adjacent EDM remixes played above us. There were Buddha statues and live white koi under the bar with an interesting set of young people. From out the window I could see condemned buildings and further, hotels and apartments.
If I can date myself, this is exactly a place the Sex and the City gals would attend.
The streets remained distressingly empty even on couple’s day but I guess that’s a result of proper social distancing. I suppose now is the time to try out all the normal crowded places I want to go. Like a haughty Kdrama chaebol son who rents out an entire restaurant, just at a fraction of the cost.
The service industry is suffering and I’m sure Chinese restaurants even more: on my way home, after a literal midnight run to the Chinese market to buy cereal and breakfast items, the Lamb Skewer Street on which I live was a far cry quieter than it had been on Saturdays before the virus. I hope I can be a patron there this week.
I wish I could say I slept in after my White Day but the screaming alley cats had other ideas: I awoke to what has been to date the loudest and screechiest feline noises yet.
When I said I missed wildlife noises, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind.
Aside from the cats, it’s still a strange virus limbo here and I can’t say when things will return to normal.