April 11, 2013 by jamesessj
I am a pig. I have eaten more in the last twenty-four hours than in my previous twenty-four years. Beef and pork and chicken and meats that exist only in stories told to children. I am ashamed of my gluttony. But I am also going back for sevenths.
So this is what electricity looks like!
Tell Yu-ha she has nothing to worry about, Jeong-min. The women in the South are ugly. They smear their faces with rouge and drown their bodies in perfumes of lavender and lilacs and roses. I am bringing back ten bottles so Yu-ha can smell them for herself.
The South is weak. They are decadent. And their music is atrocious. Listening to it is like enduring six months in a labor camp. Although on the whole I would rather listen to their music.
Walked through downtown Seoul, cataloging the offenses against man and nature. Everywhere the people scurry, as if running from state security. They crowd together in clumps, the more easily to be rounded up and herded off. They plot against us, let there be no doubt — their smiles are secret, their glances are knowing. Do they suspect me? Perhaps I should not stop every few meters and scribble down my observations in this human-skin notebook. But how else am I to communicate? Carrier pigeon? Smoke signal?
I have taken over four thousand photographs. If only there was film in my camera!
I have gained three kilograms since arriving. My guilt is overwhelming. How unilaterally unfair that the South lives in degenerate luxury while we in the North are forced to resort to the most desperate of measures! First we had grandmother’s soup, then we had…grandmother soup. But why did they both taste the same?
Outstanding Leader today launched a test missile. His wife said it landed short of the mark. Ha! North Korean humor! (Don’t share this one with the others, Jeong-min.)
Changed my clothing so that I will better fit in. Visited a shop in Myeong-dong. A moment of panic when the proprietor said, “Sweet Buddha, what are you wearing? The new fall line from Pyongyang?” But he was only making a joke. He sold me a suit, a shirt, a tie, a belt, black shoes…I am fashionable, Jeong-min! Yu-ha won’t recognize me. I will show up at the hut door and she will say, “You are not my Heeseong! You are a repulsive foreigner from the South!” and I will have to find a new girlfriend. On the other hand, I will be dressed for it.
Southerners love their cellular telephones more than they love their children. All day long, they stare down at their cellular telephones. The only time they look up is when the battery dies. We are lucky in the North, we do not have these self-indulgent distractions. What would we in the North do with a cellular telephone? Probably eat it.
My accent has almost given me away on several occasions. Plus, there are no words in the North for “hot water” or “flush toilet.” By contrast, the South does not have words for “voluntary confession” or “accidental death by exposure.”
My birthday today. Celebrated with a rice cake. A selfish extravagance, yes, but if I hadn’t done something for my birthday Ga-yeon would have started to wonder. Oh, have I not mentioned Ga-yeon? She is a woman who works at the hotel where I stay. She cleans the rooms. We have spent the last two evenings talking. She is a gold mine of intelligence on the South, Jeong-min! She also makes a delicious rice cake.
Why does the South not tremble? Outstanding Leader threatens them with nuclear obliteration and they go about their business as if they were a rhinoceros and he was a mosquito. Do they desire destruction? Do they not know that mosquitoes carry malaria, and other foul diseases?
Though it may be treason to state it, I feel I must: a daily shower is preferable to a weekly dousing. If I were any cleaner you could eat off of me. Or just eat me, ha ha! (Don’t show this one to them either, Jeong-min.)
Ga-yeon took me to see a film. It was called Three Two One Zero. It was about a man who uncovers a plot to detonate a nuclear device in a major metropolitan area. Ga-yeon was startled when I slipped and said, “No, the green wire.”
Received your forwarded letter from Yu-ha. Why is she angry with me? I did not request this assignment! I was handed a black bodysuit and pushed into a tunnel, and two days later I surfaced outside Seoul. Let her take her complaints to the Worker’s Party and see how far she gets! They listen about as well as she does. Inform her that when — if — I return, then I will clean out the gutters!
Saw Outstanding Leader on the television today. He looked terrifically well-fed.
Tensions escalate. Ga-yeon has revealed that she knows I am from the North. She says everyone knows. It’s the way I walk around with my arms and legs rigidly straight, and the way I stare at food vendors in the street. “Like a virgin in a whorehouse,” she described it. But she has also declared her love for me. She says I am unlike any man she has ever known. What am I to do, Jeong-min? I am torn between two countries and torn between two women. I must be strong. I must not give in to temptation. I must remember Yu-ha’s face…her dark brown eyes…her raven-black hair…but then we’re Korean, we all have dark brown eyes and raven-black hair. What am I to do, Min-jeong?
My dreams are troubled. I cannot remember them, but I know they are terrible, because when I wake up I am holding myself in an improper manner. I walk to the bathroom and look in the mirror and it is as if I have partaken of too much soju — for I can see a second me next to me, in the mirror. Am I still dreaming, or am I awake? This damned assignment! Why did they choose me? Because I have Southern features? Or because I have a demon twin who follows me around and can only be seen in reflective glass?
Ga-yeon has seduced me. I could not stop it. She put her hands upon me and four minutes later we were smoking a cigarette. Not two cigarettes, only one, shared between us. Jeong-min, it was the most wonderful moment of my life. I have relived those four minutes a thousand times! And, five times since, reenacted them. I beg you, do not share this with Yu-ha. Or with anyone else. I am in such big trouble!
In receipt of your communication of late last night. In response I can only say: Nuts!
Outstanding Leader has released footage of Outstanding Leader firing a pistol. Let us hope the defense of our nation never rests upon Outstanding Leader firing a pistol.
Have I changed so much in three weeks, Jeong-min? My face is fuller and my clothes are tailored, but I am still the same old Heeseong you grew up with and used to run down to the river with and throw stones at the birds. Only now I am older, and spying on our mortal enemy, and in love with a Southern girl. Have I changed so much?
Ga-yeon has said she will come with me to the North, if that is what I wish. I told her that I would need approval from my superiors. Can you forward the correct forms, care of this address?
Every day Outstanding Leader’s threats become more bellicose. The South may not be concerned, but I am. Outstanding Leader is not his father, nor his father’s father. He has not yet proven himself predictable. I was eating bibimbap today and do you know what I smelled, Jeong-min? Yes. War is in the air. But so is kimchi.