"Boy in search of his first love" Chapter 7
"Boy in search of first Love" Chapter 7
I woke up the next morning with a splitting headache. I wiped the wax that had accumulated around my eye-lids while I was asleep. I didn’t remember how I entered the apartment or whether any of my aunt’s family was awake or not. I picked up the clothes I wore the night before, put them on and went to the bathroom. I glared at the mirror to look for any sign of dullness on my skin. I did not remember exactly how many one and a half ounces of potent whiskey shots I had the night before, but I was definitely hung over after two consecutive nights of drinking. I had drunk more liquor the last two nights than I had drunk the previous four months combined. I came out of the bathroom and went into the living room to see if any of my relatives, whom I had not seen in significant time for couple of days, were not there. I went into the kitchen and no one was there either. I opened the refrigerator and took out a bottle of water. The apartment was again empty. The silence intruded the rooms like the side streets back in Los Angeles when the day became dark. I looked for a possible note that may have been left by my aunt. I did not see any. I looked at the clock and it was already past ten in the morning. I went back to the bedroom and lay down on the bed to recall the events from the night before.
It was such an unimaginable occurrence that I was not able to make any reasonable sense of the whole thing. I did not find any amusement or any kind of satisfaction from having female strangers pour drinks in my glass even if they were exquisitely beautiful. I searched for the thoughts that would harmonize my behavior to the moral imperatives that I valued, and I could not come up with a justifiable answer to my reprehensible actions. Then again I did not willfully volunteer to patronize the bar but instead was invited without my knowing the type of establishment. I should have accepted my ignorance and moved on to another type of experience. I wanted to go back to sleep to forget the thoughts that were lingering in my mind. However, my phone rang just as I was just about to doze off into the illumination of my fantastical dreams.
“ Hey Al, how are you? This is Christine, from two nights before. “
I was extremely surprised by her call. I wanted to reach her first because I thought maybe she would bring me relief from my agitation.
“Oh course, I remember you! How could I not recall the time we spent together at the bar? So what’s up?”
“ Well actually, it’s not anything in particular but if you are free today, I wanted to see whether you wanted to hang out at the art museum. I purchased a couple of tickets for us to study and admire artists’ imaginations. There is some kind of special exhibition at the museum.”
I was not able to respond to Christine’s invitation with a clear mind. I suppose I was dumbfounded from her unexpected call and then her request for a date. I wanted to give her a quick answer, but I wound up fumbling my words that were undecipherable even to me. I calmed myself after a quick drink of water and gave her a resounding affirmation to her invitation.
She provided me the directions to the museum via text. I tried to go back to sleep after I hung up the phone with Christine. However, my efforts were to no avail. The only thing that I could accomplish was to rotate my body into a position that I did not know my body was flexible enough to twist into. I still had five hours before my date with Christine, and I was in no physical condition to meet her. My head was still spinning elliptically. My stomach felt like it was being punctured with a sharp object that I couldn’t even describe. I got up from bed and went to the kitchen to look in the refrigerator for milk. After drinking the glass of milk, I again tried to go back to sleep. After I lay on the bed, for what seemed like hours of attempting to ease into a moment of relaxation, I wound up staring at the ceiling and realized this futile effort to sleep only prolonged my anticipation.
The color of the sky was bluer than the water in the tropics. There was, as usual, the countless number of people on the streets on the main intersection. I had lunch at a Korean fast food joint where they served black bean paste with noodles. My headache was almost gone, and I was feeling energized due to my ecstatic anticipation of seeing Christine. Even though I had no romantic feelings for her, the mere possibility of interacting with her had me in an optimistic attitude. I took the subway that led me closest to the street the museum was on. I walked about a quarter mile to the place and waited at the front gate of the museum for Christine to arrive. I waited for her for about five minutes, then shortly afterwards I saw her walking up the steps from a distance. She looked the same as I remembered from two nights before. She was of average height and had a thin body. She did not consider herself gorgeous, which was true, but she did not look so hideous that she would have a pitiful social life. She walked methodically just like the way her brain worked. There was exactness to the way she presented herself to the public. Her clothes were well pressed. She wore a light jacket with loose fitting slacks. She had a demeanor that revealed her satisfaction with her own volition, no matter how uncertain circumstances may turn out. Even the way she held her pocket book was in an orderly manner. However, as I analyzed her as she walked close to me, her persona may have been just a self-constructed mirage, just a front to the unassuming public eye and that she was not what she seemed to be.
“Hello Al, have you been waiting for a long time?”
“No I haven’t. I just got here recently. How was the traffic? Oh wait, I don’t remember but did you said you own a car? Or did you take the bus or the subway?”
“No, I took the bus. I only live fifteen minutes from here. Yes the traffic was congested as usual. But it wasn’t too bad considering right now it’s middle of rush hour. Let’s go in.”
I followed Christine to the ticket window. She handed the cashier two tickets she had been holding in her left hand. The cashier gave her a slight smile and gave us two receipts to present to the guard who was standing near the entrance. I followed Christine up the stairs leading to the main hall. The décor inside the museum was expressively beautiful. It was a visual stimulant to anyone who walked into the place. The architecture of the building was not particularly distinguishable from the outside. The shape of the building was oval and had smaller oval shaped structures attached to both sides of the building. However, the inside of the building was glowing with artifacts and paintings. The lights that supported the paintings added to the visual articulation. Not only that, the place was so sparkling clean that I was able to see people’s reflections on the floor as clearly as on a bright clean lake.
We walked to the map of the museum’s layout. We had not said a word to each other since we came into the building. I looked at Christine if she wanted to me to say something to her, but I did not sense any vibe from her that she wanted me to instigate any form of interaction. We both looked at the map simultaneously. I did not know what area of the exhibition she was trying to locate, but I just followed her lead and waited for her to say something.
“Hey Al, do you like paintings done by the natives? There is supposed to be a special exhibition done by Korean painters who lived during the Japanese occupation. The works were a very powerful representative of what those people went through when Korea was conquered by Japan. The hardships and the sorrows that were prevalent during those tumultuous times were expressed in visually captivating art works. I saw some of them in photos. You are able to feel the agony of these people who were victims of human tragedies. It is hard to describe the context of the paintings without actually seeing them first, but I wanted to see them in person so that I can grasp in detail what those painters were envisioning. “
“ I was not aware that those kinds of paintings existed. As you probably had already conceived in your predetermined notion, I am pretty much ignorant with the history of the arts in different cultures. I never had any fondness for the art world.”
Christine thought about many topics and had a variety of interests that made her the unique person that she was. Her aptitude was greatly accelerated by her curiosity in many facets of life. Her intelligence was stupendously insightful to a degree that she was able to see through many obstacles that most people were hindered by. I wanted to respond to her assessment of early 20th century Korean artists, but I did not have a clue how to sound somewhat knowledgeable in the art world.
“I see, most men do not. Hey, today will be your initiation to expanding your horizons. There is always time to learn new things in life. Oh, here we go, just what I figured. The exhibition is very small, and the museum had the nerve to charge the public an extra 30% for the event. It does not matter now. Let’s go, Al. Follow me upstairs. I have been here one other time, and I kind of know the place pretty well. If you want, you can grab a museum map just in case we get lost.”
I grabbed a paper map that was on the wall near the floor plan. I followed her to the elevator. We got off on the second floor and walked toward the hall where the paintings were. The décor of the second floor was also exquisitely alluring. The floor was made of marble, the walls were colored white and the lights were fluorescent. The structure of the floor was the most amazing feature of the museum. Certain sections of the walls came out a few inches from the others. The pathways were designed as a maze. Initially I was confused, but after walking along on the pathway, there was a logical sequence to the layout. As I followed Christine to the appointed area, my eyes caught a painting that captured me in a way unlike the others. It was a painting of a girl sitting alone in a crouching position hammering a tool on dry beans. Her face had no significant expression other than indicating that she was in an uncomfortable position. But the painting gave a sense of honesty in human endeavors. I thought of the simplicity of life when time was not hurrying, when people took their time to do a simple chore. Now even our conversations with friends are in a hurry. Who has the time to meet people in person instead of merely electronically? One of the reasons for my break up with Rachel was because we were so distracted with other things and other people. We were not able to focus on our relationship and were hindered so often by other interests and opportunities that were before us.
We arrived at the section that had the paintings done during the Japanese occupation. Initially, I did not have any sympathetic feelings by looking at the paintings themselves, I did not quite grasp what the painters were trying to convey to the admirers. Christine tried to explain to me some of the details that were being communicated through the style and the method of brushing. But because of my ignorance with the art world, I was not able to decipher the artists’ intents.
“Sorry Christine, it seems I am not able to see through the minds of these painters. According to my perception, the people’s sorrows are not being relayed with concrete facial expressions.”
“Yes, I do understand the trouble in your understanding. A lot of people have told me that before they studied art for a period of time. There is no right or wrong way to analyze paintings, but everyone has his or her own way of describing how the artwork is transformed into the individual’s liking. For instance, I like this one”
Christine pointed her index finger to the painting that was to her right.
“As you can see there is a mother walking with her child. If you just look at it quickly, you would not think much of it, but look at the details, the movement of the mother’s walk, how she is holding her child, how many degrees she is holding her head down and her worn-out clothing. If you take time to analyze the painting, you will be able to see the agony of what she is going through.”
Christine gave me an elaborate description of how the paintings should be perceived. This was a surprising invitation. I would have had no inclination to experience this had I not had been invited by this person who wanted to rekindle the spirit of my humanity. I looked at the painting with a focused stare. I tried to discover those details that might bring me a glimpse of history. As I wandered around the other paintings, I concluded that the meaning was not intrinsic in the painting but was only what the person wanted to see. I did not feel or see human tragedy in these paintings any more than in other works done by disturbed artists. Why would Christine feel so much pain by the painting of a mother and a child? Did she go through the some personal tragedy with her mother? I realized that many of Christine’s opinions were merely reflections of her own demons. She saw what she saw because that’s what she wanted to see.
I followed Christine to the stairway that led to the other side of museum. I followed her closely while uttering some words that did not have much meaning besides making our companionship float with a curiosity. The staircase was painted in a bright color. I had my hand on the handrail while I was walking down. She turned around and looked at me with a satisfactory smile. She seemed pleased to have me around for her amusement. She was not a condescending type of a person who would mock someone if that person were not enthralled with the same interests as hers. She still walked with vigor and with her shoulders high. The movement of her body was still very attractive. It was possessed with much assurance in her ability to meet the demands of society. However, when she spoke about topics that brought her ill feelings, she was in need of approval from a person whom she treasured. I didn’t know the person whom she was longing for, but I had some possible people in my mind.
We went on to the other side of the museum. The décor was the same as the main hall. It was not ostentatiously glimmering with colors. The lights on the ceiling and on the walls were not so bright that you could see every imperfection of the paintings. There was kind of a mystique to the place that I have a difficult time explaining in an exact manner. It seemed like the whole place was representing the frailty of the human mind, as though the artists had given away some of their secrets to the world to share. I asked Christine for any other pointers that I should be aware of when observing these works of creative individuals. She only replied that there were hidden treasures in these works, and if I so desired, then I will be able to find them. I did not comprehend her statement, but I figured I should at least show some interest before she became dissatisfied with my presence.
There were some small statues and ancient artifacts from the 13th and the 14th centuries. I had no desire to examine these works of ancestors in a studious manner. We had been in the museum for a half hour and I was already bored out of my mind. I had been to art museums in Los Angeles and in San Francisco, but I did not remember my visits to those museums as being as excruciating an experience as this one in the lower region of Seoul. I asked Christine whether she was hungry, and she replied with an unsatisfactory response. Her face expressed both guilt and disappointment. I did not know how to take her response exactly, but it was a definite sign that she was not pleased. She had instigated the date. This was the moment when she could show her interest in me. She must have chosen to come to the museum because she felt comfortable with the surroundings. She was familiar with the works and knew how to interpret those works with both emotional and analytical perspectives, but I had made the date into a teacher and pupil excursion.