This is the first of five essays written to summarize my first year working in Korea. I lived and worked in the most unusual environment of my entire life, and while I am grateful that I experienced a lot of uniquely difficult situations, it took a long time to conclude what it really is that I had experienced with 50 other foreigners. For those that experienced that year with me or for those who have always wondered what even happened to me that year— this is to enlighten you.
Essay I| Unrequited and Grown
I’d never seen such an outright display of adoration. Her entire body contorted into delight when he entered the room. This grown woman expressed such a grotesque level of unrequited feelings. I think I was traumatized watching it. The apple of her eye sauntered into a room with a mischievous grin, scanned the room without fraught, incandescent of boyish charm, and all to knowing of her affection would reluctantly sit next to her with a grimace. Unbeknownst to her, was a hidden menacing smile used to encroach upon a far less approaching woman. How could she let her feelings become so wildly uncontrolled? There were no games done by her—she was all heart, on the contrary, he seemed incapable of behaving with anyone without mind games. I couldn’t bear to watch, but could never unfasten my curious fascination.
I spent the first four months of my time in Korea watching these two co-workers of mine. As the year progressed I collected observations, instances, and behaviours to sum up, what to me felt otherworldly. I couldn’t fathom finding myself that susceptible to a person as she was. There was a stench of misogyny in the entire situation and that angered me. For the rest of the women, this girl was making us look bad, and she wasn’t the only one! There were several women at my very dysfunctional compound job involved with this guy. The cluster-fuck he created was notorious involving ending of girl-on-girl friendships, divisive drunken nights, ‘mistaken’ nights of passion, and it all unfolded with this guy remaining unscathed. All the while, these women were deemed as petty, dramatic, and most of all pathetic. Where were his consequences while the women were scorned, and pitted against one another!? I wasn’t much better, I was just as drawn to this guy, physically. My stubbornness kept me from revealing my attraction easily, but I still had my own secret cravings for his attention. My crush however present wasn’t enough for me to be understanding of the others especially her. Why can’t they all just suppress it? That’s what I am trying to do over here! That notion didn’t bode well with me, and later led me into my own catastrophic night with him mixed up with drinks and remorse. Even still, with his unruly hair, boyish grin, and brooding gravitas that could make any girl melt, I couldn’t connect enough to him to understand the choke-hold he seemed to have on her.
Whenever a batch of new male hires, were on arrival, I feared that there would be the one that could suddenly cause me to become as vulnerable as she was. I prayed there wouldn’t be anyone who could or would dismantle me the way this guy had done to so many others. Unfortunately, my prayers fell upon an vaporous illusion. A new hire bestowed himself, and in spite of myself, he fell into my space, attention, and heart.
It was the eleventh month of my contract with only a few weeks remaining. Dust had settled over my contract and my enticement of the job had withered away. I was weathered and a much less objective observer of my colleagues—I had a newfound ruthless candor when I wasn’t fond of someone. I was in a constant state of sullen anger till he came into a room. My body contorted into delight whenever I met his dancing eyes. He was a twist of vibrant and repulsion, and I loved every bit of it. He had a mystical mind, he perpetually spoke in soliloquy, rationalized to a fault with no conceding, and his incessant subversive behavior repelled most and drew few near. His weaknesses were what I felt strongest in; which only furthered the phantasm that the pair of us worked. He may not have had the cool boy charms, but that’s what made him all the more thrilling to me. I had become capitulated to his off and on affection, and only desired it more when it had left me. I betrayed myself into believing that the potential of this boy was plausible, and somehow, I could love him into the man I dreamed he could be. I had become the girl that I had scoffed at only 6 months ago, and my pride had stricken me unknowing to what was so plain to see to the others. A man who sought to absorb a world without me in it began to feel like my entire world. Worst of all, the closer we became, I couldn’t help but find him to be the human seemingly perfect designed for my whimsy whilst I watched as he went on chasing Korean tail. I had reached that grotesque level of unrequited feeling, and I was a grown woman.
It didn’t feel pitiable. It felt a lot more enormous and infinite. No one told me that inside insatiable love you feel as though you can breathe underwater. Facts become obsolete and feelings are viscerally ferocious. What I missed was that she loved despite the dismal outcome. She knew it was delusional yet she still loved, and I couldn’t see that till I felt it and understood. Unrequited didn’t weaken her and it hadn’t weakened me— it only taught me that my love had the capacity of immense strength and so did she.