Sunday, July 11, 2010

Karaokee, Elton John and wandering Korean girlfriends

IT WASN'T my typical way of ending a night out: belting out Elton John's "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" with a girl I'd met hours earlier swaying along side, providing the appropriate backing vocals.

I'd met her at a club in Itaewon and she'd insisted, in patchy English, that we go find a karaokee room or "Norae-bang", which was basically a room you rented with a screen, a microphone and all the rubbish songs you could ever ask for. Her friend and a guy she'd just met came too, but had left a little earlier.

She seemed impressed with my drunken, off-key rendition and snuggled up close to me - "The Lion King" was a bloody romantic film, after all. Then she dropped the bombshell.

"I'm a bad girl," she cooed.

"Oh, why's that?"

"I have a boyfriend."

Fuck. She hadn't told me this important piece of information when I spoke to her at the club. She'd hadn't told me after we danced. She hadn't told me after we kissed. No, she had told me now. Excellent.

"Oh. . ." I said, dumbly.

She didn't seem too worried and stayed close against me. There was the ethics of all this, sure; cheating wasn't something I was particularly fond of. But there was a fairly pressing health and safety angle to consider as well. Korean men learnt Taekwondo in school. They all did compulsory military service. I did neither. Plus, I was built like a 80s-era Skoda - pretty shoddily.

What I was supposed to do? Things had been going great, and now I was potentially gearing up for firsthand experience of the Korean health service. What if it was anything like the HSE? Oh Please, God, anything but that.

But I liked her. And looking down into her deep, brown eyes wasn't helping.

"Do you want to go?" I said.

"Sure, bathroom first."

I waited outside in the hall, trying to think clearly through the fog of Elton John and watery beer. What would Elton do?

"When the heart of this star-crossed voyager beats in time with mine. . ."

What that did that even mean? What crap. Anyway, he'd probably dress up in flamboyant clothes and sing about the experience. Never mind.

She came out of the bathroom and I fell back to reality. I still liked her. Even if she wasn't the most virtuous woman who ever lived. Oh well, I wasn't looking for Jane Austen in a companion anyway. As we moved towards the exit, she said something to the owner in Korean. She saw my puzzled look.

"You know what I say?" she said to me with a smile.

"No, what's that?"

"I said to him you are my boyfriend," she said, giggling.

I frowned, and hand in hand we walked into the street and the early-morning light.