A Bowl of Naengmyeon

I walked in an hour before closing time. The technicolor linoleum floor and the disco-appropriate nylon drapes suggested that I was not only entering a different room, but a different time. There was no one else in the room except for the new Dear Leader on the flat screen television above the bar. Ironically, he was shouting for modern, cutting-edge change. The country could start with this room, I thought.

I waited for a few minutes before finally calling out, “여기요! (Over here!)” A waitress in a traditional hanbok promptly shot out from the kitchen in the back.

She was taken aback when I made my order in Korean. She remarked that though my face was clearly Korean, my attire and height (194cm) suggested otherwise. She barked out my order of naengmyeon to the kitchen staff and then took a seat at the counter next to my table.

She was absolutely stunning.

What began as awkward eye contact soon developed into a series of flirtatious glances between the both of us. I’m embarrassed to say now, but I quoted that classic Korean adage, that Northern girls are the most beautiful in the entire peninsula.

She began to blush, noticeable even through her immaculately done make-up. She playfully quipped back, “Are all Koreans from the South smooth talkers like you?” She had a feistiness that did not match the demeanor of her delicate figure.

I finished dinner and promptly paid my bill. She opened the door for me to exit. But before I could leave the room, she grabbed my wrist and told me to come again soon to see her.

I returned the next day and found a middle-aged woman drying glasses behind the counter. I asked her if the girl from the other day was here.

She said that the young woman didn’t work there anymore. She was assigned to a new job.

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