run while you can

The colour you like.

A friend visits the fruit stand. Icheon, South Korea. Summer 2011.

Yongwoo’s heavy breathing became audible in five minutes flat. Stretched out similarly (flat), his afternoon nap was not unfolding according to plan. His floor was only softened by a thin sleeping mat, quite customary in his culture. There was no need for a sheet. Heat surrounded Yongwoo; even at ease, he sweat profusely. His clothes, which he had opted not to remove, were soaked. This rest was to be brief, no longer than thirty minutes of shuteye. The sun had taken a toll on Yongwoo; his flesh was a rich tone, darker than normal. His voluminous perm bounced in sync with the oscillating fan. His eyes were closed; his mind, open.
Yongwoo attributed his mindset to travel; he was at home in the east, though an individualistic outsider. The upright wardrobe on his right stood as proof, housing an assortment of oddities, his choice clothes. ‘Where are you from?’ was a question Yongwoo heard often enough on account of his appearance . He was born and raised a Korean; his native soil, right here, under his feet. Yongwoo had lived away from home a mere year, split between Australia and the Philippines.

Yong had spent two moons creating an enterprise that, at present, had gone idle. Fresh fruit juice, that’s what he sold: several varieties, some sour, all sweet. Word got around, as it will in a small town, about Yongwoo and his juice.
“Two big-size blenders, two foreign workers in bow-ties, photographs from abroad…for real?”
In the past weeks, his fruit supply had dwindled as townspeople curiously gulped down his new commodity. His foreign friends had needed to move feverishly, spinning liquid bliss for impatient patrons. Yongwoo barely had had a moment to reveal in this snapshot of success.

But that was already the past. Today, heat and humidity collaborated in a mutual effort to keep citizens behind closed doors, under the consumptive care of air conditioning. Yongwoo had left a seemingly evacuated market to find solace in sleep. He was exhausted by inactivity. He had sold a mere thirty drinks over the course of six hours. The 60,000 won in his pocket was discouraging. He was losing money; his fruit ripened all the while, spoiling itself in the summer sun. Upon the sleeping mat, Yongwoo attempted to clear his open mind.
Thirty years old, he observed about himself, no wife, no girlfriend. His recent blind date had gone great, he thought, but that was a week ago. He had followed up, sent word, wanting a second date. There had been no reply. He sighed. Sleep wasn’t coming so easily.
His parents were after him about the fruit juice operation. Yongwoo’s older brother had fallen flat on his face after attempting to open a bakery. Clearly mom and dad feared the same for their younger son. Until now, anxiety lacked traction. Yongwoo’s juice stand had been, well, fruitful during its first weeks. His foreign friends even worked for free. His family helped cutting strawberries, pineapple and all sorts of other natural sweeties. Still, today’s slump hurt. Fighting the weather was foolish.
‘Where are you from?’ echoed in his head. Yongwoo felt a foreigner, anything but at home in his homeland. His perm was considered eccentric by the general public; his beard and mustache were construed as indicative of impoverishment. Even the colour of Yongwoo’s skin was against him. A shade darker than the majority, his flesh linked him to the laboring class. It was no wonder women kept their distance.
Yongwoo rolled over, allowing the circulating air to dry his damp back.
He didn’t want a woman concerned with status. He wanted a woman with a positive mind. He didn’t want wealth without worn hands. He wanted to work for his money. Most of all, he wanted to keep these concerns at bay. He wanted his old complacency back.
The alarm rang. Yongwoo’s thirty minutes were up. He moved to the lavatory and splashed his face with palmful after palmful of water. He raised his head and examined himself in the mirror. Yongwoo liked what he saw. The water had cleansed his cloudy mind. A smile broadened across his face. He would return to the market and continue selling juice.
One cup at a time, he told himself, blend it up.

Like lemonade. Icheon, South Korea. Summer 2011.


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