There were puddles on the dirt path to the yogwan where we would spend the night. I tried to keep the mud off my shoes. Morgan could have cared less about the mud. Her eyes were on what was ahead. I felt guilty. Even though I was high, the Catholic in me inventoried the sins I’d committed and was about to commit. At the front desk, an ajumoni – hair dyed jet black as if that would hide her age, eyes deep in their sockets, having seen what the world is and judging it worthless – greeted Morgan like she was a good customer. Morgan paid in advance for one night. No questions were asked. Questions like, “What were two very young Americans doing checking into a lower class Korean inn in a provincial city?” or “Are you married?” or “Why doesn’t the boy speak?” or “You don’t look like soldiers. What are you?” Up the stairs, close the door against the cold and the world outside. Strip down and get under the covers. Night was about to embrace us in its darkness.
How did I get here? It must have been the poetry.
“On a bus, eyes prying into my soul
I guard myself against the stares
Of the other passengers. I have done
nothing to warrant your interest.
Underneath the skin, aren’t we quite
Alike, you and I?”
It could have been that nugget of bathos at the end of a self-serving piece of blank verse about my sensitivity to Koreans staring at me, calling me names: “Kojaengi ya!” “Mikuk nom!” (Big nose! Lowlife American!). Probably was when I thought about it. I’m not a chick magnet. I’m too cerebral and introverted unless I’m reading my poetry. Ergo Morgan.
I looked into Morgan’s eyes. What did I see there? Some kind of emotion I couldn’t yet identify. We didn’t know each other well enough. Yet, flesh on flesh felt so good, so real against the fantasia of daily life in Taegu, where I wandered, goldfish in a goldfish bowl. She must have been a little high. The dope the GIs got was really good. I was coming down just a bit. It was awfully cold. I burrowed further under the covers, and kissed her thighs, then her sex. Crouched over her on all fours, a dog in heat. Licked her from bottom to top. Kissed her deeply and she responded. Young limbs spread wide. I fumbled on entering and she whispered, “First time, honey?” I was quiet. Was it my first time? I hadn’t thought about it. I concentrated on pleasing her. A second time and sleep came to us both. I woke after midnight to use the toilet. It was so freezing cold in the hallway that I could barely grab myself to pee.
Morning came quickly. Morgan looked at me with her liquid brown eyes and a half smile. She rolled on top and kissed me on the lips. “Once more before we go, Tommy. Once more with feeling.” I thought to myself “What the hell had last night been if not full of feeling?” I said nothing, but rolled her off my chest and onto her back. I stroked her from the nape of her neck to her bottom. I blew hot breath down the backs of her thighs to her heels.
“Morgan, what do you think of me?”
“Honey, I’m balling you. What do you think I think?”
“So, I guess that’s good.”
“Yeah, it’s good, very good.”
We dressed and went down the stairs. I tiptoed, but Morgan didn’t care. She walked down, purposely scuffing her boots against the wooden steps, twisting her head back to talk to me as if we were casually walking down a street in the States, anywhere in the States, not in Korea. This was different. If a professor from my college saw me here in this yogwan with this girl, he would be embarrassed, maybe cast his eyes down so as not to see me, not to have to speak. What was I doing taking risks like this? But then what Korean professor would find himself in the GI vill’ outside of Camp Walker?
That part of me, the part that was concerned about propriety, was one I was trying to loosen, though its grip was strong. Love, lust, friendship, dope, Janis Joplin, guitars, and freedom, that was my new self. I had to help it grow, but the dance of two selves was not easy. Spontaneity as a life path had to be practiced. Morgan was helping me. I didn’t need to write any more poetry for her. I had punched my ticket to intimacy. She was happy. I was happy.
Every week. Then twice a week. All weekend. When she had to conduct rehearsals for her play at the women’s college in town, I became jealous. It meant we didn’t have our weekend trysts. If I couldn’t make love with her at least once a week, I started aching physically. No one knew we were together save for our GI buddies who kept us in very good dope. Marijuana was all over the peninsula. I heard it said that Korean farmers used to smoke it when tobacco wasn’t available. The fact that it was illegal only made it more attractive to me. Morgan and dope went together. I loved the combination.
When I looked at her through the eyes of love, I saw a beautiful brown haired girl with a touch of the South in her voice and her bearing.
Her body was nearly boyish in its strength and good health. There was not an ounce of fat on her. All her movements were lithe and certain. Her impulse was to touch and caress. If I’d had to draw a female body, it would’ve looked like Morgan’s body. I was smitten. Yet were I to be objective, as if I ever could be while in love, I would see a young woman, of common attractiveness, without the curves that usually put ideas into a young man’s mind, and perhaps with a too-masculine way of holding her body, always pressing forward as if to do battle with what was ahead of her.
I chose the former vision of Morgan for months and months, right until the time she left Korea and I left Taegu. She was in Seoul for a few weeks before she left the country. I had a new assignment. I asked for it.I realized that sooner or later, walking around Taegu high on marijuana was not the promise I made when I signed up for the gig I had at the college. Best to move to another place, and stay clean, I reasoned. And so I did. But by that time, both Morgan and I found we didn’t have as much to say to each other, in or out of bed. I heard that she took up with a visiting sociologist who was studying the Korean social structure; her taste for poets having waned, I guess. I missed the intimacy, the thrill of crossing lines of propriety, the touch of that warm female against my skin, the delight in nakedness and the rush of climax.
Many years later, I thought I saw Morgan in a crowd outside a New York movie theater. I was checking my pockets for roaches because I saw a cop doing body searches by the entrance – no idea why, When I looked up, she was gone, but the memory came back so vividly that I could taste her.