Subway

Hi everyone! I know you’re all eagerly awaiting the recaps of The Musical Episode 7 and A Thousand Kisses Episodes 17 and 18. Unfortunately, I’m actually in the middle of writing up two midterm exams–work before pleasure, right?–and thought I’d take a quick break to update you on the recap schedule this week.

I’m probably going to be working on  recaps A Thousand Kisses first and then get to The Musical recap. I’ll definitely try to recap the teaser to Episode 19 before I leave for work on Monday, so if you don’t like reading things out of sequence, I would suggest you avoid that particular post. Personally, I tend to like finding out what happens in future episodes even though I haven’t seen the previous episodes–yes, this means I haven’t seen episodes 17 or 18 but I will be viewing the teaser to episode 19…I’m a bit odd that way. LOL.

Until then, I thought I’d leave you with something to read. It’s just a little something I wrote a while back…I’m curious to hear thoughts on the piece. I was initially planning on turning this into a novel but it may work independently as a short story. Anyhow, enjoy! Recaps will be coming shortly. 🙂

“Subway”

Making sure she was still on time, Samantha descended the long flight of stairs down to the subway station. She had only twenty minutes in which to arrive at Samsung Station. The letter had asked her to be prompt.

If only she had familiarized herself with Seoul more before she made her various reservations, she thought for the tenth time since her arrival. From all accounts, so much of the city had changed since she had last visited five years ago. She had vague recollections of the city, and due to recent financial considerations, she hadn’t been able to book her lodgings in Gang Nam, which was popular and notoriously expensive. Instead she had chosen a hotel which she hoped would be close enough for daily commuting until she finished her business here.

Fortunately, she had been able to find accommodations twenty minutes away from Samsung Station, which was where the attorney’s office was located. However, traveling today in the middle of rush hour, she realized those twenty minutes could easily stretch to forty.

She sighed inwardly. She had forgotten how bad the rush hour traffic could be here. She should have left the hotel earlier. She so hated to be late for anything. At least she had thought ahead to pack her navy blue suit for the meeting. If nothing else, she would be properly attired.

Once on the first level of the Seoul National University of Education Station, Samantha looked around for the ticket booth only to discover that there was no one inside. Walking toward the only official looking person in the area, she learned that tickets were no longer purchased in the booths but rather through the vending machines lined up against the far wall.

With the clock running, she thanked the person and walked swiftly to the long line of people in front of several machines. After what seemed like a few interminable minutes, she found herself faced with the task of learning how to use the machine. Thank goodness she had exchanged some currency at the airport last night since the machine only accepted cash.

Touching the screen for the English language as she didn’t trust her Korean to be proficient enough, especially right now in her rush, Sam finally purchased a one-way ticket, scanned it through the toll stall, and hurriedly descended another flight of stairs to the subway train. It was only then that she realized why her friend in Korea had vehemently warned her to avoid taking the subway during rush hour.

The waiting area for the train was packed.

Glancing down at her watch, she mentally braced herself for what she anticipated would be a challenge. Whatever happened, she reminded herself, she had to get on the next train, or she would be late for the meeting. Assessing the crowd before her, she told herself that she had nothing to worry about. She had braved crowds larger than this during her stay in Boston and New York. The wave of black heads swimming before her would be manageable. No matter how many people stood between her and the subway train, she could do it. Any delay could weaken her position at that meeting.

Of course, this was easier said than done. By the time the train pulled up, the crowd had increased, firmly sandwiching her between those who had been waiting before her and those who arrived after her. She was pressed against what felt like a wall of human bodies, all compacted against her in the hopes of making it onto the train.

What she didn’t account for, though, was the mass of people…already on the train.

Granted there was always a number of people who would get off at the station, but there was no way the current train could accommodate the massive number of people waiting with her. Knowing she had only seconds to inch as close to the door as possible, Samantha squirmed her way past a handful of people by the time the doors slid open and spat out a paltry five passengers. The exiting passengers were given just enough space to squeeze out as the wave of waiting passengers rushed forward. Using the momentum of the crowd behind her, Sam wormed her way on board and found herself sandwiched between a middle-aged woman and a tall man.

She exhaled in relief. She would be able to make it there on time.

Finally able to breathe comfortably now that she was safely on her way, she took some time to survey her fellow passengers. She had been too focused that morning to pay any attention to the Koreans around her. For the most part, they all looked very much like her: black-haired, pale complexioned, and huddled up in winter clothes to ward off the cold.

Although she knew that physically, she blended in with the other passengers—no one would suspect that she was visiting from overseas just from her physical appearance—she felt oddly out of place. Perhaps it was because she had been raised most of her life in the states that made her feel like a foreigner in what should have felt like a return to her motherland. She noted that the sense of being an outsider was more apparent this time than the last time she had visited.

With nothing better to do than to people watch, she indulged herself in perusing the features of the Korean inhabitants before her, especially that of the woman next to her, who was about 5’2” in height, sported tight curly hair that screamed her ahjuma (married woman) status, and carried a blatantly flashy designer handbag that broadcasted her wealth. Smiling slightly at her judgmental observations of the woman, Sam reminded herself to think more positively about people and not to make snap judgments.

However, her resolution lasted about a second. The train lurched slightly, causing her to collide into the woman and forget her commitment as she was assailed with the most noxious smell she had encountered in quite some time.

The woman hadn’t washed her hair in what smelled like days!

Sam quickly righted herself and put as much distance between her nose and the woman’s offending hair. How could someone who appeared so well dressed neglect to wash her hair?

Even as she tried to back away, Sam found herself stuck. Sardined in the train the way she was, there was no space to maneuver. If she backed away any further, she would crush the man behind her, one whose face she couldn’t even see despite their proximity because of his height.

Breathing as shallowly as possible so as not to inhale any more air than she needed, Sam waited for the next station stop. Perhaps, she thought hopefully, the woman would get off there since Sam was stuck on the train for the next four stops.

However, the next stop proved to be no better as more people boarded the train than left. And the same thing continued to happen at the next stop and the next. Wondering if she was going to survive what was supposed to have been a short twenty-minute subway ride, Sam was unprepared for what happened at the third stop.

Already compressed into the train as she had never imagined possible, Sam stood in numbed disbelief as another wave of passengers pushed their way into the compartment. What had been a cramped ride before took on more profound dimensions as Sam found herself not only mere inches away from the ahjuma with the smelly hair but now embarrassingly pressed against the man directly behind her. The only thing she could think of at the time was how thankful she was that she was facing away from him instead of toward him.

Mortified as the seconds ticked away, Sam silently suffered the onslaught of the woman’s pungent odor and the deep impression of the man’s body against her back and legs. Never in her life had she endured such close proximity to anyone.

Then as the seconds ticked away to minutes, Sam’s embarrassment started to give way to irritation and irritation to downright outrage. Did these people have no common sense? Couldn’t they see that the compartment was already full to capacity? How did they expect the people already on board to breath?

The more these questions swirled around in her head, the angrier she became. And then the rhetorical questions inevitably gave way to condemnation: This would never happen in the states! Even New Yorkers would never pact themselves this way! Some American would have already cursed a blue streak at these newcomers and told them off!

And on and on these exclamations echoed in her head until her thoughts ran their natural course and demanded to be uttered. Drawing in a quick breath, Sam opened her mouth, prepared to utter the most profane diatribe available to her expansive vocabulary. However, before she could verbalize her bitterness, she sensed more than heard the one phrase that shamed her and deflated her self-righteous anger.

“Ah,” the voice quietly sighed from behind her, “I know they’re just as busy, but I wish they could have waited for the next train.”

In that moment, the voice, gentle in its wish and observation, expressed an understanding of the situation that had eluded her. Rushed for time, anxious about the upcoming meeting, and reeling from the beginnings of jetlag, Sam had forgotten that she was no better than these Koreans around her. They, too, were pressed for time and had places to reach at a designated time. They, too, were highly uncomfortable in this situation. They, too, wanted to vent and rant like her.

With that small epiphany, her caustic assessment of the woman in front of her shifted. Perhaps the woman understood better than Sam that her hair gave off an interesting smell. Perhaps she was hoping that no one else would notice in this cramped car. Perhaps she pretended to have clean hair in order to project a well-coiffed impression.

As the subway train door smoothly slid open at Samsung Station, Sam stepped out of the train with a better understanding of these Koreans with whom she shared a common lineage, of the upcoming meeting with the attorney who had unexpectedly called her from her life in Los Angeles to Korea, and most importantly, of herself as she began to assess her mental and emotional state at this point in her life.

Squinting as she surfaced from the underground subway station into broad daylight, Sam braced herself for what was to come in the next few hours. Whatever was said in that office—no matter how outlandish—she would listen with an open and objective mind.

And with that determination, she stepped more confidently than she had just twenty minutes ago onto the sidewalk, ready for whatever was to come next.

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Snoopy's Twinkie

Created Musings back in 2010 when viewers were frantically searching for SungKyunKwan Scandal recaps. She currently blogs and comments from the US. You can also find her on FB (@SnoopysTwinkie), twitter (@twinkiedramas), and YouTube (Twinkiedramas).

3 thoughts on “Subway”

  1. Fantastic writing. Hope to see more from you in the coming months. Work definitely comes first so good luck with the mid-terms and a big hug to Bentley 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed reading it and wants to find out more. Awesome beginning to a great novel or short story. You’re very talented! Good luck with Mid-Term!

  3. Your story is well written and interesting. I hope you will not be offended but several things appear to warrant correction.
    Use of the word ‘states” as a contraction of that country’s title would surely require a capital S. Did Sam become Bea? Pact should be spelled packed in the context of usage.

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