SINK BUT SWIM
Three weeks in Korea, and I’m picking up an existential crisis. Remember, I don’t mind having a little body, but I have to admit that Seoul’s matchstick girls are giving me a run for my money.
What’s traumatizing is I recognize that for most Korean girls, the S line physique is natural, and right now, I’m a double D line.
Rebecca’s gaze on my hands when I crave to take a second helping puts quite a lot of pressure on me, and there’s Mona who is hot.
I’m not envious, but I dislike resembling a roll-bag beside her. It must be so awkward for her to carry me around and presenting me to her selfie-perfect acquaintances. Mona made new friends while I was abroad, Kpop trainees and other models.
It’s no surprise; she is going for a bachelor’s degree in fine arts despite her mother’s disapprobation who wants her to sit and wait for a husband. Aunt Salomé is old fashioned; her image of a woman’s place in society is biased. I want to say it’s not her fault, but aunty has seen the world, and it’s not like she married a macho.
I mean, uncle Robert even considered making Mona enroll in the army if that’s not sex equality for you; I don’t know what is.
I’m glad Mona chose her future regardless of both her parents.
Anyway, all this to say, I need to level up somehow.
In my self-pitying stance, I’ve taken the bull by the horns, and I’ve decided to do something with myself. Before the semester starts, I have to mirror the living at least enough to blend in with everyone else.
So I run, at night, sprinting in broad daylight, and facing the stares is beyond me. Fitness clubs where everyone contemplates their neighbor’s body are a big no-no.
I’m 20, and I’ve got the insecurities weighing on me like a teen with braces wearing milk bottle bottoms lensed glasses.
Nighttime is best for me, Seoul is safe, and it’s without an ounce of fear I advance.
Running is my passion, and the sensation of freedom it procures me gives temporary peace. My mind becomes serene, and I appreciate the wind. I pick up speed, and I feel as though I’m flying.
It’s a beautiful emotion that I wish wouldn’t leave me, but its departure is brutal, as though someone pulls a plug or turns off the lights. At that instant, I plunge into the darkness of my reality, the one where people burn alive.
All the doctors and psychiatrists I’ve consulted told me physical activities are excellent, but like most things in life, one must enjoy them without falling into excess.
Unfortunately, I’m excessive in everything I do, and everything I do is wrong.
My actions pass before my eyes one by one as I run. These last four years have been hell, but I made them that way by punishing myself, but it isn’t enough. Still, I would like some rest from the agony, but I can’t.
Contradictory thoughts race through my mind like:
Why are you running?
For whom or what do I want to be in shape?
Why do you wish a break from the suffering when it’s all you deserve?
Yes, I am my worst enemy. No one mistreats and bullies me more than myself.
No one can imagine how it is to live with these thoughts and body invaded by anxiety at every instant, pretending to fit society’s norms when aware of being a default.
The overflow of reflections forces me to pause and recuperate my breath; I see the ridicule of my actions once again.
If only I could beat the shit out of me, I hate myself to the bone.
“Jane Austen is a bitch, bitch,” I say before going on.
From Itaewon I reach Banpo Bridge, how did I make it this far?
I got carried away with Major Lazer and Naughty Boy banging in my ears. Music, too, is a temporary escape from my purgatory, which is open 24/7.
I’m halfway through the traverse when I notice him, tall and slender he’s standing on the edge all dressed.
Seoul is renowned for many things, and what I’m about to witness is like the 108 mysterious of Seoul.
Nah, Jane, perhaps he’s just skinny dipping. Even so, it’s illegal.
“No-no-no, don’t do it.”
Why is this happening? Can’t he stick around till another passer comes by to resolve to jump?
My arrival in Seoul isn’t even a month old, and drama has decided to strike me down; I don’t need this.
I can’t witness this; I can’t register another trauma; it will be the death of me. It’s egoistic, but I am my only preoccupation as I run to where the man is standing. My sanity at this moment is hanging on to this stranger’s motions. I am three meters away when he jumps—my breath leaps with him.
Jane, I know it’s a lot to ask of you, but think fast. If there’s one thing, I am a hundred percent sure about my persona is that I was not born to be a hero. This body is composed of flesh, bone, and a full coating of cowardness.
My first reflex is to search for CCTV; I start to jump as soon as I see the camera and point at the water. As if someone is sitting behind their desk watching the bridge.
Oh, my God, what can I do?
I pace and look at the water; gosh, it seems profound. Damn, the waves are rocking with the wind; it’s rough down there. “Oh, God, what should I do? Jane, do something, come on.” I am well aware that while I try to encourage myself to accomplish some heroic action, my lack of assistance to the jumper is killing him softly.
I pace along the edge and look down again.
There’s no sign of him; perhaps he’s already dead.
Before I realize what I’m doing, I leap off the edge. Now I wasn’t prepared, and I don’t dive headfirst, no, I start with a cannonball, in midway I’m doing a jumping jack, and I finish by landing in a belly flop position.
Guess what, it’s when the cold water slaps my face I remember I can’t swim and that I’m drowning, Adios, cruel world.
Bubbles come out as I gasp for air, and the water invades me.
No one can imagine how I regret skipping swimming lessons because I didn’t want other kids to laugh at my skin full of eczema. I hated looking like dry fish and having my hair curl up like sheepskin. As a result, I can’t even float.
You know that girl with the expensive bikini you see around the pool and never in it, you’ve spotted me.
Now, I’m going to die because I tried to save a stranger, and I was too foolish to learn one of life’s necessary survival tool, which is to swim.
No, I’m going to drown because it’s what Jane Austen the murderer deserves; it seems more logical.
At this instant, I stop struggling. All becomes clear; my time has come.
I didn’t know what I was searching for when I came back to Seoul, but now I understand it was because it’s my final resting place. Cold invades my body, and it becomes numb, letting me sink further.
A scene of Meet Joe Black, the film with Brad Pitt, comes to mind.
He tells the story of a man who the Grim Reaper was astonished to meet a man in city A.
The man flees thinking he can escape death, and then he meets the Reaper, where he sought refuge in city B, so the Reaper says I’m glad I found you here. I was surprised to see you earlier in city A.
Why is that? Asks the man because you are supposed to die here, in city B, the reaper replies.
Isn’t ironic, the man only accomplished what he was destined to do, and right now, that’s how I feel as I fall into unconsciousness.
It’s crazy; the last image of my life is a scene from Meet Joe Black when I should be pleading for absolution. Nor my family or the crash victims come to mind, I’m dying, and I’m reflecting on Meet Joe Black. I’m thinking about Brad friggin’ Pitt!
I’m so screwed up, an authentic dumbass idiot, just let me die.