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One Night in the Ville

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I worked nights, so when I got a night off, I couldn’t sleep. I’d wander around the Ville, Anjeong-ri . I didn’t drink or party, so it was hard to find things to do, and friends. I’d eat at Dave’s Deaf Rest Stop and hang out with the deaf people until late. They could write notes to me in English, and I learned some sign language. I really liked their cucumber kimche, it was spicy, crunchy and chilled.

After I ate, I wandered up the street, and passed a bar called the Top Hat. I wanted to see the rowdy drunken soldiers, the prostitutes, and the bloody wriggling brawler being hauled back to post by MPs. There is something pungent, dangerous, dark and alive about the street just outside of a military post at night, but more so in Asia.

I saw two scooters come from opposite directions and hit each other head on. The old woman and the Odashe who collided, dusted themselves off and helped each other up. They yelled at each other using a mixture of Korean and American expletives, before they picked up their scooters and zoomed away.

A spring flower of a Pilipino girl, maybe thirteen, in a black dress and super high-heels clumsily walked up to the Top Hat. There were a dozen young soldiers standing by the door smoking.

“Hey GI… Me Horny… Me fuck… GI… Good time,” she called. Her voice was high and shrill. Her call was poorly memorized and clumsy. The guys laughed and shifted their weight from foot to foot. Most of these guys were very young.

A black guy walked out of the club. He took long strides and swung his arms, moving with purpose. The girl screamed. She slipped and fell as she screamed. She scampered and rose and fell over and over.

I ran and jumped in front of the man.

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” I said.

“What?” he said, backing up a step.

“Scaring that poor girl like that,” I said. Looking back on this interaction, I’ll have to admit with a blush that it was a little bit like Dorothy slapping the lion. I also hate to admit that I was almost as afraid of black men as the prostitute was.

“I'm just walking back to the gate,” he said. He had a reasonable and sober look on his face. “You should come with me.” He quickly assessed me with a stroke of his eyes. “It’s not safe here for you.”

I walked back to post with him. It was foolish for me to wander here by myself, but I enjoyed the thrill of being vulnerable, and the illusion of independence.

I’ve thought of the Pilipino girl. If I were a man, could I have bought her, and married her, to save her? Men do that. I wonder if she’s alive now? How sad is it, to pick a flower from her native land, sell her, and walk on her? Her fear. I’ve heard that Korea has cleaned up a lot, in regards to prostitution, since 1998. I hope so.

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