Scoliosis settles into my spine in the wilted gaming chair, each thread stifled with the essence of Shin Ramyun and second hand smoke. Sometimes I wonder if spending any and all of my remaining hours away from school of hagwon or home in these types of places will result in lung damage. For roughly one thousand Korean won ($1.10 CAD) an hour you can smoke, drink, and binge eat cuttlefish chips in the comfort of a PC Room lit by the plasma television screens and gaming consoles. I’d bet everyone in here is near-sighted and that they were long before coming here, like I was. I squint at natural sunlight, and this is the only place I feel like a real person. I once saw a pro gamer have a more domineering man switch a catheter out during a League Championship he won after a nearly thirty hour match. I wonder if his transcendent focus is comparable to those who fast like Siddartha and most K pop stars.
Three boys who look to be around middle school age yell obscenities and slurp steaming ramen into their mouths. One of them spews an undercooked green onion flake onto my elbow. I flick it off and consider asking to join their game, look over and realize they’re taking turns playing Grand Theft Auto V which I finished a week ago in the States visiting my parents. The middle aged man at the snack bar hocks a loogie into the trash bin by his foot as he gives me change for a can of shiikae. The Alpha from the pack of young boys goes to buy an energy drink and brushes past my shoulder as I shuffle back to my spot, sucking my stomach in while chewing on the sweet rice grains. No more than thirty-seven minutes of resuming my Fifa World Cup tournament, a series of whoops and hollering preceded by a barrage of ageist slurs travel throughout the confined floorspace. The victory horn is met with disdainful looks from the more quiet and reserved gamers, most of which are without company this January night. I watch them walk out to return only moments later with Burger King delivery and other takeout boxes.
YOU ARE ONE MANY GUN ARMY appears in dark gold letters across the screen with several women standing beside the soldier. Triumphant orchestral music blares from the speakers and the boys stand by the screen to take a selfie while the high school and university crowd around them deepen the furrows of their brows.
Ji-Hyun, get your fat ass arm out of the way, it’s blocking the whole point of this photo!
Yeah you look like a descendent from the Kim Jung family!
Holy shit, Yoon he does.
The pixelated women repeatedly bend forward and raise their arms and cheer in celebration. Camouflage lingerie seems like an oxymoron. I give the man at the snack bar forty five thousand two hundred twelve won for their game and decide to perfect it so I might have a chance of making an impression on them or on anyone else tomorrow night.