Slant News: Enduring A Cold, Miserable Night Of Korean Military Training
North By Northwestern: A Lonesome Battle
I wake up around 3 o’clock in the morning only to find out my feet are icy cold. No one can help me. No one can deliver a eulogy for my lower body. Here I am sitting in a deep darkness. I can form no conjecture of what is in front of me. Just like every other night, all of sudden, the single light is out; amidst snores and stinginess, I fall asleep. It’s only five past three, but my guard shift does not begin until broad daylight. I do not know what I ought to do for the next three hours, but it seems clear to me that my bedtime has marked its end.
As I gently move my hand across the top of my head, I can barely notice the overall length of my hair. Feels like uncooked tips of gathered spaghetti noodles. My triangular head is over-emphasized, and I feel the ugliest I’ve ever been in my life. I don’t require a mirrored image to prove it. I just want to believe that I have more hair, so my pride, which has been gone for a long time, can be re-secured. Maybe I can use some hair gel? Wait. I don’t have any.
Where are my gloves? I swear I put them in my beret. Wait, where did I put my beret? Fuck it. I don’t need ‘em. I have my kevlar. I slowly rise out of the tent, teeth chattering and keeping my hands in my pocket hoping no one notices. My hands are supposed to be hanging outside just like the army regulation says, and I don’t want any drill sergeant to smoke me for doing otherwise.
I frankly thought camping was fun until this point. I never went camping during the winter, and I can be certain no foolish human being would attempt it. During the winter I stayed indoors, sipping and smoking in a usual way of relaxation. Wait, I haven’t smoked for four weeks, the longest I have survived without cigarette in years. They call this part of military training, where soldiers learn to endure harsh weather and hunger. Sure, I do feel cold, and I may be hungry, too, but I’m just not able to tell since my frozen stomach won’t tell me anything. My lips are cracked, so it will probably be painful to shove food in my mouth. Yet I’m looking for some garlic bread I hid earlier. As I remove the wrap, intense pleasure fills my brain, and my mouth is singing hallelujah. I take a bite. I feel a universal manifestation of disgust when the dryness of flour meets the tip of my tongue. I can’t do it. I spit it out.
My bladder sends an emergency note to my consciousness. Latrine is a five-minute walk down the woods, and, honestly, I can’t handle hundreds of spooky footsteps for thirty seconds of relief. I slowly walk around, looking for any form of container. My instinct-driven eyes locate a bucket of leftover water. I should not explain the process; let the imagination do its part.
I return to my ice-covered tent and bury myself under a blanket. Only 20 minutes have passed, and I have nothing to entertain myself. I give a quick look inside the tent, and I find a moon pie wrapper. I teach myself the nutrition facts of a single moon pie. Five grams of fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, and four grams of protein. I am not a reader, but when it comes to boredom, nothing can stop me. Even a single wrapper can enlighten me, and I can probably devise a novel out of this nutrition facts.
I wish I had a family photo to glance at. That’s what Tom Hanks did in Saving Private Ryan. Reminding me of the good old times I got to spend with my family may kill some time. It looks kind of cool to examine a family photo just like Hollywood stars do in movies, but at the same time I do sincerely miss them. Most of the friends I made in high school and college don’t necessarily form a section in my brain, and when I was given a chance to call them for shooting a bullseye at the range, they weren’t any of my options; however, my parents and my siblings always have their spot. Did I call my parents for that special prize? Yes, I tried, but I guess they were too busy to mind my call, or they were just suspicious of an unknown number, so I missed my chance.
There are moments of little-bitty happiness I experience during the training. A cheaply-assembled burger with a chicken patty and canned salad presents me with an orchestrated gastronomical sensation. Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” oddly brings me back to my days in Chicago. A hot shower after a long day of sweat and shame allows me to rejoice, murmuring the songs that I can barely remember the lyrics to. I thank the modern day technological advances for introducing me to the most ordinary desire of every human being. Yet no matter how much I laugh, my family sneaks into imagination, wishing me good luck. What still lingers in my brain, biting my eyes for tears, is the pictured memory of my parents and grandmother giving me warm hugs at the boot camp entrance.
Do they miss me? Not a single letter has been delivered to me while my room back in Seoul is empty, forgotten to be dusted. My mother unnoticingly picks up five pairs of silverware and puts a pair back in place, realizing her eldest son cannot join for delicious meat loafs. My father texts me if I want to drink with him, constantly waiting for my answer while puffing out thick smokes from Dunhill Frost cigarettes into the air, later realizing that his son is at the state of social dormancy. Dad, let me have a smoke. Slowly burning tobacco may comfort me as I exhale my hardship into the air, soon letting the wind carry it away. Misery and sorrow traumatizes me, but I’m just a trainee sitting on a cold, plastic chair, often falling asleep in the midst of darkness.
My feet are frozen again.