“Take me home, NOW!” I yelled from the passenger seat of his black sedan.
No? He actually told me no! The audacity! His hand pulled on my chin, forcing my lips toward his. I could smell his dirty face grease and the day’s lunch and cigarettes on his tart breath. His tongue pushed its way into my mouth, prying my teeth apart. I sat there, stunned. I had been lip raped.
Confused? No worries. I'll rewind to the beginning…
We had talked and texted for days. We were to meet up outside of the Hotel Crown Itaewon at noon for lunch. His English wasn’t great, but he seemed nice. Judging by his pictures, he was actually kind of hot, possibly a body builder or maybe even a personal trainer. There were lots of shots with his shirt off, posed and flexed, staring silkily into his smartphone camera lens. When we spoke, his exact profession was somewhat lost in translation. I figured that I’d get the details in person.
I was living in a Seoul, South Korea neighborhood called Haebangchon where I worked as a drama and English teacher. Although I had friends, life in Seoul was quite lonely. I turned to Internet dating for salvation and companionship. OK Cupid was South Korea’s most popular expatriate dating site. I had gone on an overabundance of dates with men from western countries and nothing had worked out. They had all proven themselves creeps or dorks or dull or cheap. So when this seemingly hunky Korean man showed interest, I was like, “Hell yeah!”
Dressed very sensibly, I felt, in a navy blue blazer, dark blue jeans, tan lace-up heels, and a white V-neck t-shirt, I stepped up to his car. He rolled down the tinted window and I shyly peeked in. The man in the pictures was NOT staring back at me! In fact, the only similarity was that he was Korean. Let me clarify, it was the same human, it’s just that the pictures I had seen of said human were obviously, at the very least, five years old. As I cannot remember his name and his odd behaviors reminded me of a budding serial killer, we’ll call him Jason.
Jason blinked twice and quickly jumped out of the driver’s side. He ran around his car and stood in front of me. He wasn’t unattractive; he had, obviously, just let himself go. He looked, in fact, as though he hadn’t even taken the time to shower that morning. Standing no less than six feet tall, hovering over my five foot two frame, he smiled toothily down at me…. Apparently, he hadn’t brushed his teeth either. He coolly shook my hand and opened my car door, gesturing for me to slide in. As he settled into the driver’s seat I noticed that beneath his threadbare, early 2000s, brown, velour Sean John sweat suit and shiny, gold herringbone necklace was the physique of someone who had not set foot in a gym in years. To put it mildly, Jason was super out of shape. And his unshaven face shone with the finest layer of oil. I’ve told this story before and whenever I get to his physical description I’m inevitably asked why I even got in the car with him. “Didn’t his unkempt appearance scare you off?” Well, I'm no Aphrodite, so I didn't want to judge. But, I won’t lie, I was a tad uneasy. Nevertheless, he seemed nice enough and at that moment, no alarms went off. He didn’t look homeless or anything. He just needed a shower, and a shave, and a new outfit, and a haircut, and some face wash. Okay, maybe he did look kind of homeless, but we were in Seoul and homelessness isn’t really a thing there, so no worries.
This particularly sunny day happened to be a South Korean holiday. There was no school and most restaurants were closed. Despite the fact that I had implored him over the phone to surprise me with a great place to eat, he didn't seem to know where to go. We drove around and around in circles saying, “Where do you want to eat?” “I don't know. Where do you want to eat?” After what seemed to be at least an hour of this, I suggested a section of Seoul called Hongdae. Renowned for its shopping, restaurants, and overall fun-time vibe, Hongdae was the perfect setting for a day date. He agreed and pointed his car in the direction of the urban, college neighborhood.
Jason parked and, ever the gentleman, ran around to the passenger side to open my door. He said he knew of a great nearby place and guided me up a flight of stairs to a small restaurant. We were quickly seated at a cozy table, complete with a window view of the bustling street. We looked over our menus. Written entirely in Korean, Jason charmingly helped me decipher the various options. I chose a savory seafood and tofu based stew called sundubu jjigae. Although we had, only moments before, discussed the merits of a healthy diet, Jason settled on a deep-fried pork dish, topped with an egg, sunny-side up.
Our dishes arrived. My jjigae's pleasing aroma instantaneously sent my taste buds into frenzy. I dug in, savoring each bite. Jason tilted his plate toward him and with a chopsticked hand, proceeded to scoop, nay shovel his meal into his wide, eager mouth. He ate with the passion of one experiencing his life's final meal.
I will now attempt to describe Jason's eating sounds: Imagine a bear that exists in an infertile, desolate wasteland. The bear unsuccessfully scavenges day and night for food. He stumbles upon a pig, also hopelessly hungry. The bear and the pig size one another up. The bear decides that the pig would make a delicious meal. Despite his diminutive size, in his desperation the pig thinks the same of the bear. They attack one another, endeavoring to devour each other whole. Imagine that sound. Can you hear it? That's the sound Jason made as he consumed his fried pork dish. I sat there squeamishly looking around to see if anyone else was as upset by the sight of a grown man in a brown tracksuit making animal sounds as he ate his lunch. No one but me seemed to notice or care.
Our plates cleared, Jason sat across from me, staring. He began asking questions. “Why are you here?” “Are you studying or teaching?” “Do you like Korea?” “What would you like to do after lunch?” Now, a normal minded person would have probably considered his animalistic eating habits a sign, excused herself, and taken the subway home. I, on the other hand, held on to the fear of spending the remainder of my existence alone in the cold, dark yet electric city of Seoul. I stayed.
Jason proposed a wily list of ideas. 1: We could go to a coffee shop. 2: We could go to the movies. 3: We could just hang out in Hongdae, walk around, maybe get some dessert or ice cream. Well, having just seen him eat and never wanting to experience that again, option number three was out. I suggested that a movie sounded fun. His eyes grew wide. Jason explained that in Korea, there were two types of movie theaters: There was the normal theater with a million seats, where everyone could sit as one big happy family and enjoy a movie together. The other option was a DVD bang (pronounced like bahng).
Okay so, to explain, it's rare for a Korean offspring to move out of her or his family's home before marriage. As a means to escape their judgy parents, frisky young couples frequent DVD bangs on dates. A dark, private room, equipped with a love seat, a DVD player, and a large flat-screen TV, the DVD bang serves as a sneaky way for a horny twosome to get their freak on. Despite my naiveté when it came to all things Korean, I had heard of these tacky dens of raunch. I was shocked that Jason had the gall to propose it at all. I suggested that we keep things simple and go to the regular movie theater. As I sat across from him at our tiny table in the Hongdae restaurant, it became increasingly obvious that he really wanted to go to a DVD bang with me. In fact, that seemed to be all he wanted. I changed tactics by offering a fourth option: I would simply go home. Not a fan of my latest suggestion, Jason opted for coffee. I agreed. It seemed like neutral ground.
He paid our bill. We left the restaurant and headed for his car. I stood at the passenger door, waiting for the gentleman who, no more than ninety minutes before, had so chivalrously opened it for me. That gentleman was gone. Jason jumped into the driver's seat, leaving me to open the door for my damn self. No problem. I'm liberated. I opened the door and buckled myself in. We sped off in the direction of the nearest Starbucks.
What occurred next both haunts and confuses me to this day. Jason pulled his car into an alley adjacent to the coffee shop. He parallel parked and turned off the engine. I unbuckled my seat belt and, seeing as I was now on my own when it came to the car door, started to let myself out. Jason rested his calloused hand on top of mine. “Wait” he said. I stopped and we waited, and waited, and waited. For what, I wasn't sure. We sat in silence.
“What are we doing?” I asked, my voice laced with irritation.
“Just wait.” He turned up the radio, looked at me, and smiled. I felt like I was staring into the eyes of a hungry fox.
Ahead of us, a mom, a dad, a grandmother, and a baby climbed out of an expensive car. They kissed and coddled the baby as they gathered their belongings. Jason watched them like a hawk. In the span of two hours he had shape-shifted into four or five separate animals. I felt my body tense. In my bewilderment and annoyance, I thought maybe he didn't want them to see us together because I’m black. “Can we go?” I asked, my haughty tone palpable. He ignored me. The family walked away and he turned to me.
“What do you want to do?” he asked. His hand held mine. He creepily rubbed his thumb back and forth across my knuckles.
“I thought we were getting coffee.” I stared at him, growing in agitation. He laughed and leaned his face into mine. He kissed me. It was a long, hard, awkward kiss; the kind that feels more like an assault than a sweet gesture. As I pushed him away he slipped one hand into my hair, forcing my face closer to his. His other hand dragged my hand in the direction of his lap...
“Stop!” I yelled, ripping my hand and face away. He laughed.
“Okay. Okay. What do you want to do?” he repeated.
“Take me home.”
What? I looked around, taking in my surroundings. Did I even know where I was? No. I didn't. If I ran now I would find myself completely lost in the heart of Seoul. He looked at me. Ostensibly reading my mind he said, “It's okay. We'll go to the movies now.” He started up the car and drove off. I stared, forlornly, out the window. I felt like a rabbit trapped in the clutches of a keen-eyed eagle. He had metamorphosed into yet another animal and I was his prey. He had sniffed me out; a lonely expatriate in Seoul in search of love. We were a dime a dozen. I was merely his latest conquest.
Now in a different neighborhood called Apgujeong, one that I knew well, he pulled over and parked. We sat in silence. Armed with a new set of options, he turned to me: As previously offered, we could go to a DVD bang or, if I preferred, we could CHECK into a HOTEL. This guy was obviously a psychopath. I laughed in his face. “No. Neither! Take me home, now!” He flat out refused. Hell bent upon seducing me in just the right kind of way, his hands, obviously unskilled in the ways of a woman, awkwardly assailed my body. His unnatural attempts at caressing and kissing me were met with ninja-like deflections and cat-like scratches. Every time I reached for and successfully unlocked the door, he relocked it. Things had spiraled out of my control. In broad daylight, on a busy Seoul street, I was caught in a trap of my own reckless making, locked in a dark car with a madman. He smiled and laughed as I fought off his advances.
At times, the moment became so surreal that I caught myself laughing. In these moments, convinced I was into him, he'd wantonly whisper, “Let's just go to a hotel.”
“Then let's go to a movie.”
“A normal movie or a DVD bang?”
“A DVD bang.”
“Then, no. Take me home.”
“No. Let's go to a hotel.”
… And on and on it went in a vicious, endless circle. He interrupted moments of rest and silence with free flying, perverted hands and overeager lips and tongues. Enough was enough.
He swooped in for another savage assault. He pressed his face hard against mine. His teeth bit down on my lower lip. His hand-grabbed mine, pulling it toward his groin. Forming my hand into sharp talons, I became the eagle. I gripped his inflamed prick, twisting and pulling it from its tender anchor. His teeth released my lip as he threw his head back to let out a blood-curdling, girlish scream. I quickly grabbed my purse, unlocked my door, and bolted from his car. People must have thought I was crazy but I like to think that the violent curses coming from the car, screamed solely in my direction clued them in on at least a portion of the situation. I ran for the subway. At the very least, I hoped that should he choose to hunt me, there would be safety in numbers.
He didn't pursue me. I stood on the subway platform, breathing heavily, paranoid, shaken. I had learned an extremely valid lesson: OK Cupid is for pervs and the chronically lonely. Upon heavy self-scrutiny, I realized that I was neither. Real relationships happen when they're supposed to; they're never forced. Serenity is found within and does not need validation. Miserable trolls creep the Internet for lonesome victims.
I never heard from him again. I prayed that I had torn his disgusting pecker off and that he'd never have the ability to victimize another unassuming woman. A few weeks later, though, my friend received an OK Cupid DM from the predator. Fortunately for her, my story stopped her from falling prey. - Chance ( Los Angeles, CA)