Korean People

Lamill Coffee, Silverlake California.

It’s late afternoon and I’ve lost track of how long I’ve been luxuriating in the Southern California sun. I’m half heartedly reading Nabokov’s Laughter In The Dark, glancing up on occasion to peer into the clear warm space over Silverlake Boulevard. The air surrounding me is still and the faint buzz of cars passing by coaxes me into a semi lucid state. My eyes glaze over as the palm trees and colorful houses perched high atop the hills meld into a vibrant, indefinable mosaic.

I hear them before I see them. Their sharp punctuations pierce the air like steel needles- at once chipper and whiny as their crescendos fall at the end of their sentences. I recognize enough of the words to be Korean as my stomach clenches and I sink back into my seat.

Two women briskly pass in front of me on the sidewalk, one in her forties and the other in her mid twenties- possibly mother and daughter. The clicking of their rhinestone encrusted heels is rhythmically synchronized and efficient, offering no sign of excess movement. The women are accompanied by a young man in his early twenties, sulkily trailing behind. All three are dawning the trademark designer sunglasses. Fendi, Gucci, and Armani- logos brazenly displayed at their temples, emblems paying homage to the godfathers of their nouveau riche standing.

They seat themselves at the table next to mine and delve into enthusiastic chatter. The conversation is dominated by the two women who speak in high pitched, hen-like tones, their sentences anxiously overlapping with each other. Something about someone’s son graduating from Harvard Law…He married a no good, uneducated girl without a career…Her parents didn’t come from much either…

I focus my eyes back onto my Nabokov, but my stream of concentration is perforated by the persistent staccato jabbing of the sound waves next to me. I insert my index finger into my left ear- an old filthy habit, in an attempt to drown out the noise.

Then, silence.

“What country do you think she’s from?“ It’s the older woman’s voice.

“I don’t know… It’s hard to tell. Chinese, maybe?”

Three beige circles to my left turn to face me. In my infallible peripheral vision, I see them greedily scanning me in that familiar, almost comically conspicuous manner I’ve grown wary of.

“No, she’s mixed with something.” The young man deduces. His voice is startlingly loud and his intonation swerves sharply as he speaks. It’s that accent which my parents haughtily ascribe to those of the less cultivated classes. Juh-lah-do. Roughly translating to “bumblefucks.”

“I can’t see her face from here.”

I wince at the sound of a metal chair scraping against the asphalt as the older woman pushes it back to get up. She lights a cigarette and walks over towards me, stopping two feet in front of my table, facing me dead on. I turn my head away from her and my long hair forms a dark curtain between us. She audibly snarls.

“Well, she sure thinks she’s something special.”

I check my instinct to shoot a death glare her way- reminding myself that I’m in California, not New York. I take in a sharp breath, attempting to suppress my utter distaste beneath my gut.

A waitress walks over to their table.

“Omm…I like a latte. A ommm…ice latte.” The older woman’s voice is gravelly and her tone hesitant.

I think of Margaret Cho’s mother.

Omm Margaret, it’s mommy. Are you gay?

“And cheesecake. You have cheesecake?” The young man barks. He’s just as loud in English.

The waitress walks away and two of the three beige circles turn back to me.

“Tsk. The way girls dress here. Look at those shorts. It’s like underwear.”

I stretch my legs languorously in front of me and thrust my feet onto the sidewalk. I’m starting to enjoy the annoyance my appearance is causing these women.

“She’s not bad, actually.” The young man laughs under his breath.

“Shut up.” The younger woman snaps.

I marvel at the petty cuntiness of the scenario.

To be continued..