I Got No Idea, Man.
Her pink hair is a mess of braids and tangles.
Pavement slick with grease and mud lurches suddenly beneath my once white converse high tops, throwing my balance. Instinctually, I know that it’s really me that’s moving. Gravity’s unforgiving grip yanks me down face first, but I throw out my hands to brace for impact.
My bones bark like wounded dogs, and my palms bloom open as red, thorny roses upon reaching my destination.
‘You’ve arrived at: West Nanjing Road. Doors open on your left.’ The canned voice echoes in between my ears and I roll over in the sodden street.
I can tell it finally stopped raining, but I yearn for the roar of thunder to rock me awake all the same.I miss the crooked smiles of lightning and the thrill that made my hair stand on end.
Once at summer camp outside Charleston, South Carolina, they taught us if we thought we were about to get struck by lightning, to squat to the ground and have only our heels touch, that way if the lightning hit us, it’d only course through our feet and back down to Earth. Completing a circuit.
I get to my knees, my jeans and my skydiving hoodie soaked through from a grimy mix of mud, blood, and gasoline.
If lightning were to strike me now, it’d charge through my body like an F1 racer around a tight chicane.
“Are you alright, man?” A voice asks chiming through a heavy beat of base music.
Suddenly I’m on my feet, out of the street, in a dark hallway, lit by flickering fluorescent lights and the walls slathered in an awful chartreuse paint that’s already curling and peeling away from the wall as if it wants to float away into ash.
A cigarette is in my left hand, and a cheap lighter in my right. I glance to where the voice came from, and it's someone I’ve known from lifetimes ago.
The first time I met him, he was standing waist deep in the Gulf of Mexico, overweight, sunburnt and probably the happiest man alive holding a boogie board.
Now…I’m just confused because Wesley isn’t supposed to be here. I take a drag off the cigarette. Menthols. I don’t smoke these.
I don’t even smoke anymore. At least, not that I can remember.
“Hell if I know man.” I answer back as the smoke in my lungs burns me, warms me, tempts me to buy an entire pack and chain smoke them. I want to turn my entire thought pattern into morse code smoke signals.
Three long exhales, three short exhales, three long exhales. S.O.S. S.OS. S.O.S.
I want to curl, peel and float away from gravity’s grip with this ugly paint and the bass booming like thunder.
“You’ve got NO IDEA MAN.” Wesley just leans back against the wall with the peeling pant, and soon he peels away too, pedaling backwards into the gaping maw of the hallway.
“You’ve arrived at Itaewon station. Doors open on the left.”
Gravity grips me again, and this time it’s back first into the gray linoleum of the back hallway of Celia.
Wait, how did I get to the afterhours club, Celia?
I plunge through and submerge into an uproar of cheering and screaming. All mottled colors, soft fabrics, and sweaty skin. Twisting around so I can see where gravity has dragged me, my mouth opens and a deluge of milky sweetness kicks my teeth in.
I’m holding an almost dry glass of Makkoli in my left hand, and a girl’s fingers are laced through my right.
My eyes roll around and I finally sit up to see myself surrounded by figures jumping, thrashing, and smiling with all their teeth. They jeer, they scream, they wail with so many vowel sounds.
I don’t speak this language, but I know the body language of winners.
They’re chanting and the calendar behind the bar with the rotary phone on it shows 2018. My heart flattens like a squashed slug in my chest and my blood slows to a viscous slime.
I was here, in Seoul, in Itaewon in 2018. South Korea beat Germany in the world cup.
“Hey are you alright, man?” A slim girl next to me asks, and I know her now.
Her pink hair is a mess of braids and tangles. Her name is Skittles, she spun hoops with my roommate back in Bethesda.
“How is it all still here?” I ask her, and her freckled face scrunches up.
“How is what still here, silly?” She asks, removing her fingers from mine to adjust her tank top. People jump in unison and the floor rumbles like thunder.
“You arrived at Akiharbara Station. Doors open on your left.”
Power in Numbers